There is often a thin line between genuine civil protest and a protest that earns the label of a political assault on the rights of some people. In fact, in Guyana, that line is often determined by the person making that discrimination.
There have been protests at schools, at hospitals, in the labour market and even at the political levels. Vendors have protested over the right to occupy the pavements and sidewalks, sometimes to the detriment of the pedestrians. In some cases politicians were involved because other than being politicians they were members of civil society.
However, the mere presence of anyone with a semblance of a political connection would lend the label of a political event to the slightest protest. Indeed, this is more so if the person is a male. Women often tend to fall under the radar.
We recall when the late Fazal Ally led the vendors in protest there was no accusation of the protest being political in nature because for one thing, the vendors were largely of one ethnic group and therefore members of the then political opposition, while Ally was known to be a member of the ruling party.
Back in 1999 when the trade unions took to the streets, efforts were made to label the strike political but the number of public servants involved caused that label not to stick. Resolution, however, rested in the hands of the politicians.
But there were some protests that were definitely political in nature. Those that came in the wake of elections were undoubtedly so, and to crown them, they were all led by people with political interests. The political protests involved marching through the streets, a decision that often drove fear into the hearts of the business community.
There were the criminal elements who succeeded in tainting the political protests by virtue of their activities. To this day whenever people hear of a political protest they shudder in fear. Some become so terrified that they seem to lose their sanity. And this is why Governments often place the political label to justify any action in the face of the protest.
The government, in the face of a protest that is different from any of the above mentioned, has taken a strong position to the point of threatening direct involvement in actions designed to counter the protest.
The protest in this case is economic in its objective. It targets the earning capability of some people whom the protesters have singled out for special treatment. The government is of the view that these targets are Black people who support the People’s Progressive Party Civic.
In the wake of the elections some young people were certainly opposed to the ruling party. There was a talk that they had called for a boycott of businesses operated by people of Indian ancestry. This was not true but in Guyana’s political climate accusations are easy to hurl and readily believed by the supporters of one or the other political party.
In the end it turns out that the call for the boycott has been directed at two organizations operated by people of African descent. We suspect that the call resulted from the fact that the targets flaunted their political support. This action must certainly have angered the supporters of the opposing parties.
Be that as it may, the boycott has angered the government which has vowed to protect those Black supporters of the ruling party. The Cabinet has announced that it will attend the climax of the Kashief and Shanghai football finals en masse. Will this be good enough to replace the missing crowds?
And the government has not taken kindly to plans to thwart the Old Year’s Night party planned by the group Hits and Jams. The government says that the actions represent a degeneration into gutter politics. The proponents of the boycott say that all they are doing is encouraging Black youths to conserve on the little money they have, that theirs is not the right to spend at the drop of a hat.
If the latter excuse holds true then the government has no right to be angry. But this is Guyana and there is an expectation that people will always behave in a certain way at all times. A boycott is outside the pale.
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