Was the Wismar shooting calculated?
Three men, two of them teenagers, were shot and killed by the police during a protest over the electricity hikes ordered for the mining company. The protest began earlier in the day with a rally at the bridge that spans the Demerara River. The police were there and they were allowed to work unhindered.
Later in the day armed police ranks appeared. It may be that they wanted the thoroughfare cleared and the belief was that the regular police would not have succeeded. Toward sundown the police opened fire on the crowd and killed three men. They also injured nearly two dozen people, many of them women.
The Minister of Home Affairs, citing an Act, has ordered the immediate removal of the Divisional Commander. The impression is that something is being done following the shooting but this cannot be considered serious action for a series of reasons.
There were crowd problems in the wake of the November 28, 2011 elections. The people had taken to the streets in Georgetown and they were marching around. The business community was nervous from previous experiences with the street protests and would often appeal to the police for protection.
The police were therefore on the streets to ensure
crowd control and to keep the protesters from business. In any country the police are expected to be trained in crowd control. In this day and age the Guyana Police Force is not expected to be the exception. But it must have been because without provocation it shot at a crowd and injured many, including old women.
The fall out was bitter and as can be expected the police sought to protect its image by placing some of the protesters before the courts. No policeman was made to face disciplinary action. It turned out that there was a problem with the command. It was said that the leader was not on the ground so the decision to shoot was taken by a subordinate.
The government decides to spend even more money on the police. It spends a further $36 million on a water cannon to help combat street protests. We come to Linden. The people are assembled on the streets and the police confront them. The government was aware that there would be a protest but it makes no move to get even the water cannon bought for such a purpose in place.
We now know that the water cannon is a case of wasted expenditure. It might help fight a small fire but it surely cannot get to Linden on its own and it would take an inordinately long time to reach any location away from Eve Leary.
The government has also spent sums of money on rubber bullets and tear smoke. There was evidence of tear smoke use in Linden and there was evidence of the use of rubber bullets. But the issue is more about the reason for shooting than about using live rounds although that is a major question that must be answered.
One must worry about the commander sending his men into the fields with live rounds to confront crowds. The people with the live rounds could have been there to protect their colleagues in the worst case scenario, for example, if they were being shot at. But for them to shoot into the crowd is a clear indication that they were instructed to shoot to kill before they were even deployed to confront the protesters.
The Home Affairs Minister must be asked to explain the level of training his ranks got before they were deployed. Surely, the set at Linden learnt nothing in the wake of the Georgetown shooting. There was nothing to suggest that the police were prepared to contain the crowd.
The utter disrespect for the people of the country comes when the police announce that they could not ascertain if there were casualties. They never visited the hospital and still did not more than 36 hours later. They have displayed callousness for shooting people to death that one must wonder whether the police are really to protect people.
There should be legal action against the state but the people of Linden are not being advised. Somebody must be made to pay for the wanton killing of the Linden Three. There has been no visit from any Government official and that is understandable given the divisive nature of the society. But this should not be the case. The Queen of England did visit Ulster in Ireland despite the people there hated her.