By Jenelle Carter
As sunrise greeted the mining town of Linden yesterday there was a somber mood, as what would have been an Emancipation celebration turned out to be the day the community buried three of their loved ones. By the end of the day it was established that a monument would be erected in their honour at the Wismar shore.
At the break of dawn, the remains of Shemroy Bouyea, Ron Somerset and Allan Lewis left the mining town for the Square of the Revolution where they were met by a large gathering for a viewing.
As the procession made its way back to Linden, the massive crowd thronged the Wismar/Mackenzie Bridge, the very site at which the men lost their lives.
While there was very little police presence throughout the area from Amelia’s Ward to Wismar, there was a relatively heavy army presence.
Persons braved intermittent rainfall as they came out in their thousands to bid farewell to what many referred to as their “fallen heroes” and “martyrs”.
Dark clouds hung over the mining town through the afternoon’s proceedings which began a little behind schedule at around 14:30 hours. Once the precession made its way to the Wismar Bridge the crowd grew rapidly, with almost everyone dressed in black, white and red in solidarity with the families of the three men who were shot dead by police on July 18 during a protest over the hike in electricity tariffs.
As an arm of the People’s National Congress made their way onto the Wismar shore they held hands singing popular hymns such as “It is well with my soul” and “Amazing grace”. Among the special invitees and dignitaries present were Leader of the PNC/R, Retired Brigadier David Granger, Party Chairman Basil Williams, Alliance For Change Member Nigel Hughes, APNU’s Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, PNC/R member Aubrey Norton, PNC/R Parliamentarian Vanessa Kissoon, Christopher Ram, Lincoln Lewis and Mayor Hamilton Green, among others.
Pastor Ander Marks was the Chairperson for the stirring occasion which was at times interrupted by rain. The funeral service commenced, with soloist, Winston Caesar, singing an appropriate rendition for the occasion ‘Redemption song’. While this was being sung, loud wailing could have been heard as the caskets bearing the men’s remains arrived. Soon after, representatives from each of the bereaved families were allowed to read a scripture reading of their choice, followed by the large gathering being invited to sing the ever popular funeral rendition ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’.
The most moving part of the sermon was at the point where the relatives of the slain men were called to eulogise them. Ivan Lewis’s two sons, Rodwell and Orlando, reflected on their years being raised by their father whom they said was a very hard working man who always taught them to stand up for what they believe in. The young men recollected their childhood days with the man they now call their hero. They encouraged their fellow Lindeners not to sit by and let their father’s death be in vain.
Ron Somerset was described by his family as a “very driven young man with a bright future ahead”. Though orphaned, it was stressed that he was raised by relatives who did their best to ensure he had a sound education. Having completed his schooling in the mining town, Somerset was said to be very enthused about computers and versed in the Information Technology field. While not much was said of Shemroy Bouyea, he was well known in the community and though physically challenged, he was described as someone who was always willing to lend a helping hand to persons he came into contact with.
The continued call for Justice
Meanwhile, continued calls for justice echoed throughout the large gathering, and in varying ways by the persons paying tribute. In his most distinct tone, prominent Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes stated emphatically, “I will make one pledge; I pledge to you that this event will not pass unnoticed and I say to you, no justice no peace”.
Working People’s Alliance Representative Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine started off by expressing his heartfelt condolences to the families.
“We came here today on Emancipation Day of all days to celebrate the life of three martyrs of the Guyana revolution, and those who celebrate indeed have something to celebrate, as July 18 was the day Lindeners were self-emancipated.”
Roopnaraine lamented that the events of that day will always be remembered for those who “fell to the guns of the sharpshooters”.
“They have not died in vain. What we know about martyrdom is that the blood of martyrs only strengthens struggles, it doesn’t weaken them. When the innocent blood fell on the ground that day it gave strength to people of Linden.”
People’s National Congress Reform Chairman Basil Williams reiterated the call for the people of Linden to stay strong and to continue the struggle.
“We will exhort all our energy to see that you get justice, and we don’t just say justice, but we will ensure it, suffice to say for now, weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Opposition Leader David Granger also made a revelation with respect to one way in which the dead would be honoured. “We, the PNC/R, will build a monument (at the Wismar shore). This will be the mark where police brutality will stop. I was here and I saw the wounds on the bodies and I knew from my own military experience that it was deliberate and murder. We will continue until you get what you get what you deserve. We will not relent; we will not give up. We are working with civil society and your leaders… those who will refine humanity and refine the dignity of Linden. The struggle of the martyrs will not be in vain.”
Christopher Ram called for Guyanese to unite and put aside race when it comes to fighting for one’s basic rights.
“I speak as a Guyanese of Indian descent to remind my fellow Indians to join in solidarity. What should matter to us is not the ethnicity, but the identity of those who give the order and those who pull the trigger. Let us not be silent.”
Ram added that “the perpetrators of the events of July 18” should be brought to justice, as Guyanese should learn to remove the ethnic lens when a community is in struggle.
“Let us see today as a another defining day in which we finally decide what our constitution permits us to do, and that is to forge a system of governance that promotes consorted efforts and broad-based participation in national decision-making in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community based on democratic values social, justice, fundamental rights and the rule of law.”
Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon also reiterated the call for the struggle to continue until their demands are met.
“My brothers and sisters, today, we the people of Linden along with other concerned Guyanese are gathered here to send three of our heroes home. In their names Shemroy Bouyea, Ron Somerset, Allan Lewis, and the names of those who have been shot or suffered pain from July 18, 2012, we are going to renew our commitment to the movement for justice.”
Solomon pointed to the fact that many tears have been shed and this was expected, since it is only human nature. “But even as we cry and feel sadness we must remember that these young promising Lindeners Shemroy, Ron and Allan, laid down their lives for each of us, and Linden must honour their martyrdom beyond tears, sadness and speeches.”
He called on Lindeners not to forget their heroes.
“The Linden 2012 Martyrs – Shemroy, Ron and Allan – must be memorialised in all that we do, their memories at the forefront of our movement. Unarmed, yet shot in their backs, chest and heart must drive us to demand justice for them and for Lindeners, we must continue to demand that this government treat Linden with respect.”
“As you grieve, do not forget that they are there to say to the Donald Ramotar administration and to the members of the Armed Forces that their violence will be met by determination to be free from oppression, marginalisation and an uncaring, brutish regime, that spawns, embraces, unleashes and protects murderers.
“We are here to send a message to all who believe that they can shoot us down like game in the forest. Know that Lindeners are prepared to turn the eyes of the world on Guyana. The blood of our brothers Shemroy, Ron and Allan and 20 others shot and injured has soaked the soil of Linden and they must be given justice.”
“We demand justice, we owe this to the memory of our Linden 2012 Martyrs, their loved ones, our children and future generations.”
The Chairman also emphasised to Lindeners to stand as one and not be divided by race, class, political persuasion or any other diversity that they have no interest in.
“We have collective pain, collective suffering, and we are responding as a collective to say that justice must be ours… Some say our movement for social, economic and political justice lacks guidance, that we have no leader.”
As the Chairman closed his address to the gathering at nightfall, the procession having said a prayer made their way from the Wismar shore to the Bamia cemetery where the final rites were administered and the slain men laid to rest. As the procession made its way through the mining town, back to Bamia, persons manning the roadblock were seen quickly removing the blockades to allow the smooth flow of traffic, but replacing them soon after.
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