The place was the Square of the Revolution. The day was last Thursday. The event was the procession to Le Repentir cemetery in honour of the Lindo Creek massacre victims.
I arrived early, and as I came out of my car, an elderly Indigenous gentleman came up to me; “Mr. Kissoon, you have to write something about these private security companies, they are terrible man.” “Do you work at one?” “Yes, Mr. Kissoon, Kalibur is the company’s name.”
“Well, let me tell you, I have written so much about these companies that I am truly fed up, Sir, and the government employs some of them that rob their guards and the government couldn’t be bothered; my advice is just to get on with your life in this God-forsaken country.”
As I moved towards the families of the victims to talk to them, this elderly African gentleman came up to remind me that he grew up with me in Wortmanville; said he left Guyana in 1973. He told me his father was once the editor of the New Nation in the late sixties. Then he said; “Freddie, you saw this country evolve, why you write like that? Don’t you think the present government is making progress?” I said, “Sir, are you speaking as a supporter or an objective Guyanese?” I told him I see definite backward movement, and I was about to expand when Mark Benschop came up to greet me and the conversation went in another direction.
The march proceeded in heavy rain and, as I reported in my column yesterday with the church service, the attendance was small. When we reached Le Repentir, the breakdown of Guyana stared me in the face. This was the identical, ravished, rundown site during twenty-three years of PPP’s misrule. All the mourners had to walk in wet mud.
I left home for the event when it was a hot morning, so I donned a white T-shirt with white trousers (none of them were designer clothes; don’t wear such things) but by the time I reached the cemetery, it was raining heavily. My white pants became a darker shade of pale.
But I was in for a greater shock as we moved further up the cemetery. The burial ground famously known to Guyanese as Le Repentir was flooded. You couldn’t get to any tomb without walking knee high in water. I do not like jumping on tombs; it is disrespectful to the departed ones. But that was the only way to get to the tombs of the victims. I stood on one tomb and became immobilized there, because to get to the Lindo Creek miners you had to jump across about eight tombs that were separated from each other by at least fourteen feet.
A cameraman said to me; “Freddie, when you go up there, look that guy in the black T-shirt with the haversack, please give him this umbrella.” I said I was not moving from the tomb I was on because, once you skip across the other tombs, you could fall into that water where leptospirosis is waiting to kill you. At the same time, the Lindo Creek Commission’s lawyer, Patrice Henry, was skipping on tombs to get to the miners and I asked him to take the umbrella, which he did.
Then the mourners heard the police sirens – The Commissioner, Justice Donald Trotman and staff had arrived. There was no way he could get to the miners’ final resting place. He couldn’t jump from tomb to tomb as Patrice did. He settled for a tent up the road where we all gathered for the speeches. It was a sad day not only for the relatives and families of the miners, but for all Georgetowners who have to bury their loved ones there.
No country should have its national cemetery in that atrocious, abominable, horrible condition. This was the way the PPP government kept it and politics was involved. Their supporters are mostly rural people whose districts have their own cemeteries. But don’t fool yourself, even those burial grounds are in terrible condition. I wrote about the state of La Grange burial site in 2003 and went back there in 2017 and it was in an even worse state (see my column of Sunday, August 6, 2017, captioned, “Bees and jungles: My country 14 years ago”).
I left Le Repentir cemetery, and went to the GRA to drop off the property tax forms of my dead mother-in-law (you have to fill the forms even if you are dead because dead people still have property; in legal terms it is called, “estate.” Inside the GRA was another nightmare.
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