I am a Prometheus still in chains
I had a jolt to my psyche that almost destroyed my Sunday tranquility. It took some time to recover. It has been a long intermission in my research for a book I’m writing on contemporary politics in Guyana. Why I have not gone back to it has to do with my immersion in the election campaign last year and since then, I have not returned to it.
One friend asked if I am ever going to finish it. I don’t know. If I don’t, then I maybe you can put it down to one of my failings.
Last Sunday, I got back to work. I decided I needed to be optimistic. So I resumed my journey. And I saw something in my files that mentally lacerated me to the extent that I didn’t go back to the desk for another three hours. Going through the materials, I came across a newspaper photograph of the following men; Hugh Cholmondeley; UG Vice Chancellor, Dennis Irving; Jesuit priest Harold Wong; TUC General-Secretary, Joseph Pollydore; attorney Miles Fitzpatrick; attorney Llewellyn John; UG scientist, Harold Drayton; attorney Doodnauth Singh; and trade unionist George De Peana.
The date was October 11, 1971. At that time these were colossal names in the Guyanese society. In terms of intellectual and social status, these were the crème de la crème of urban Guyana. These gentlemen were photographed walking up the stairs of the Eve Leary office of the Police Commissioner. Their intention was to express their shock and alarm at the attempt to kill UG trade unionist, biologist and political activist in the Movement Against Oppression, Dr. Joshua Ramsammy.
Ramsammy was shot on October 4 outside the Guyana National Cooperative Bank on Lombard Street. The talk that pervaded Guyana at that time was that it was politically motivated. These towering figures in Guyanese society were there to ask the Commissioner to pursue the criminals that wanted to murder Dr. Ramsammy As I looked at the photograph, I became intensely agitated. There was a strange sensation in my mind. It was like if windmills were tilting out of control inside my head.
I left everything on the desk in my study and headed straight for the kitchen. My wife had just completed her cooking of ochro and salt-fish and dholl. I ate then went to bed to relax. I put on a CD by the sixties pianist, Peter Nero, and replayed and replayed Nero’s version of a popular soul classic, “A soulful strut.” I need to calm down psychologically. What happened the moment I saw that picture was the psychic longing for a Guyana that I grew up in and that was long gone. And I couldn’t face that reality.
There was this psychological torment on watching that picture that maybe me, yes me (and thousands of others) may have done President Burnham a grievous wrong in weakening his regime. I still don’t think I want to apologize for my activism against Burnham. I cling most inflexibly to the theory that he ran an egregiously authoritarian system and was an unconscionable bully in denying me and wife employment in our own country. Why bring activists’ families into your vindictive scheme.
There is a Stabroek News reporter who wants me to talk about how my wife was pushed out of her job at GO-Invest, just before the November 2011 election. I will deal with that after I get her permission to go public with the story.
Of those names that I identified, three are dead; Irving, Wong and Pollydore. Ramsammy has passed on too. I wonder what goes on in the mind of those persons in that photograph when they reflect on how they protested human rights violations in the days of Burnham’s rule but look at the monstrosity that the PPP created since 1992. Look at the frightening regime that Jagdeo unleashed on Guyana. His autocracy was more depraved than Burnham’s.
How do these men feel today? I had lunch with Christopher Ram after my libel case and I mentioned to him that it would be so good for Guyanese history if Miles Fitzpatrick can write a book. He is a walking political encyclopedia.
Ramsammy wasn’t killed but Waddell was. And no big names in the society walked up to the office of the Police Commissioner to demand answers. The Ramsammy shooting was replicated near the same scene forty years after, with Maria Van Beek being the victim. But no big names in the society walked up to the office of the Commissioner of Police to demand answers and insist on the criminals being caught.
Were we wrong to have weakened a thin dictatorship like the Burnham administration when you think of the horror show we live with today? Will many of us continue to be mentally tortured?