From Berbice to Parika: My heart is broken into tiny pieces
On Wednesday evening, I travelled up to Berbice at the request of the People’s United and General Workers’ Union along with Lincoln Lewis of the TUC, Fitz Ralph of the People’s Parliament and Gerhard Ramsaroop of the AFC, to listen to the grievances of workers in the employ of expatriate firm, Oldendorff, which does transshipment of bauxite for Rusal.
What I heard from those workers has convinced me this country is nearing the return to slavery and only a national government can stop it.
The next night, I travelled with the same gentlemen and Tyrone Talbot of the People’s Parliament, to listen to crying market vendors at Parika. Take the use of the word crying literally, because vendors shed tears in front of us.
The tragedy unfolding in Parika has two dimensions. One is what happened last Sunday at Railroad Street. Scores of police, under the direction of the infamous Watts, swooped down on dozens of vendors. The police barricaded the street from the south and north.
Then apartheid violence was unleashed. You wonder if white policemen were so harsh to native vendors during the reign of apartheid in South Africa.
Whenever you think of the white man’s rule in the Third World and the non-white king that replaced him, think of what Joshua Nkomo said about Robert Mugabe after Ian Smith was kicked out of Rhodesia and the country became known as Zimbabwe, with Mugabe as its President. Nkomo said that he was never prosecuted under white rule as what he endured at the hands of his own Zimbabwean leaders.
It is historian Clem Seecharran in his book, “Sweetening Bitter Sugar,” who described for us the fear Cheddi Jagan had of the Booker Chief Executive Officer, Sir Jock Campbell. Sir Jock was well liked on the sugar estates and that was causing a problem for Jagan’s success in organizing the workers. To the workers, Campbell was a socialist just as Jagan was. Seecharran made the point that Jagan undermined Campbell in order to use the workers for his own political purposes.
Well Jagan succeeded and the sugar workers treated him like a god, but long after the PPP came to power in 1992, the statement of Peter D’Aguiar still rings out. Alarmed at how workers voted for their own self-destruction, D’Aguiar exclaimed, “The masses are asses?”
Are they? Is there some truth to that? If you see what happened at Parika last Sunday then you wonder why Africans and Indians in Guyana continue to vote for their own self-destruction.
So what did the police, the Parika NDC and the Ministry of Works do last Saturday at Parika?
They imprisoned the vendors with the barricades, preventing shoppers from entering Railroad Street. You would have thought that was the end of it. If shoppers can’t go in, then no one will buy your stuff. But the bullies moved in for the kill.
All of the items, every single item from the vendors, were confiscated and their parasols, stands and benches removed.
Canter trucks rolled up, collected the stuff, and burnt everything on the Bushy Park seashore.
We went to take a look at the burnt-out stuff. If homeless people are reading this then go to Bushy Park right now, because we saw cartons of canned drinks and canned foodstuff that are still good. The fire barely touched those that we saw. It was a horrible sight to see.
Maybe after taking Chris Brown to his swimming pool in Leonora, Minister Irfaan Ally can pass Brown by Bushy Park and show him that in a country in the Caribbean, apartheid has moved over from South Africa to Guyana.
We saw people who cried to us over what they had lost. One Amerindian mother said to me with tears running down her cheeks, “Mister Kissoon, I have children to feed and send to school. Ow, Mr. Kissoon, is only one day we sell here. Why they did this to us?” A Canter truck owner had his children in the vehicle, but he was crying, because he told us all the vegetables and greens had to be thrown away.
The second dimension is that the NDC has given a select set of vendors a few days to move after they would have occupied that spot near the stelling for over fifty years.
One vendor showed us her son who is twenty-six and was in his mother’s lap as a baby everyday while she plied her trade right there.
One vendor yelled out so loudly that the Parika police station could have heard. She said she will die fighting before accepting eviction. Excuse me! Where is APNU?