Last Wednesday, July 17th, the facebook page, ‘Live in Guyana,’ known for its Opposition’s views, published a story accusing a group of black professionals, seen leaving a popular business spot, of alleged criminal activities. The article made a quantum leap to further associate them to a “clique” that, “includes many other senior figures in the APNU+AFC coalition government.”
The story identified names and car numbers, with a promise to further list more, while associating Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, whose name was mentioned in the party as, “singing to the tune of Congress Place in regard to the coalition’s clamour for house-to-house registration.”
The article stated that “[a] source provided us with further evidence that the Chief Elections Officer is compromised.” Accompanying this story was a video taken during the night showing approximately four-five men, which adds to the suggestion of the post that black men, particularly these mentioned in the article, meeting at any hour is an indication of clandestine operations that border on planning corrupt activities and irregularities in GECOM.
The question is asked, since when is it a cause for concern when black men congregate or socialise together after a day’s work? Since when do we go around snooping and videoing black professionals enjoying an evening out? Since when do we make a story and publish the names and car numbers of black professional men leaving a place of entertainment at 9 p.m.?
The videoing of the named men emerging from the business place sends a serious message to society, and more so the black community, that black leaders are no longer free to congregate, socialise, and not be treated as suspects or accused of engaging in nefarious activities.
This is a new level society is declining to and a sign once again that black men, in particular, are being set up as targets for denigration, isolation, and who knows what else is being engineered, as part of a grandiose plan to make others the victims either of corrupt electoral processes or some plan being hatched against the people of this nation.
This is a racist act seeking to profile black people, particularly black men, linking them to corruption and attempts at electoral fraud, both accusations sufficient to create tensions and fear amongst a particular section of the electorate, even as it places these individuals and their property at risk in a potentially volatile society. This is a clear demonstration of the misuse of social media to manipulate public opinion.
This demonisation of black people has served as a political weapon for decades. It is a tool of those who seek to define others for marginalisation and has been used to various degrees of success against all black leaders associated with, and even presumably associated with the PNC, starting with Forbes Burnham. It is the fuel on which a major part of Guyanese politics runs, as it is used in various ways to drive fear and induce ethnic encampment.
It is a communication weapon that sets out to define a section of the society as evil and confer goodness only on those whom they anoint, who serve their purpose, and who disassociate with their ethnic group. The demonisation is often more intense in times of election and when black leadership is at the helm of government or perceived to be a threat to political power struggles as this nation is now witnessing.
All black men are now targets and Lowenfield – who performed the duties of Chief Elections Officer that saw the Opposition in the last two Local Government Elections securing more Neighbourhood Democratic Councils than the coalition government, and in the 2018 making inroads into the coalition’s strongholds – is now being placed on the political guillotine.
The question is asked: is it only one group that fears rigged elections? Is it only one group that has the spectre of rigged elections around its neck? Society is often told about stuffed ballot boxes under the PNC, but we ignore and stay silent about the 1997 General and Regional Elections that were vitiated in the court of law, we forget the stolen AFC seat in Linden in 2006, the attempted wrong announcement of the parliamentary elections leading to a divided government in 2011. These truths and much more are not told when we speak of electoral fraud and irregularities in Guyana.
It does not serve the interest of those who seek to suggest that the only time we can have free and fair elections in Guyana is when one group is in power, because they remain the perennial victims, the innocent and honest among us, and the only ones capable of winning elections free and fair. It is time Guyanese expose the nonsensical, reckless and harmful thinking this society thrives on. It is time to vigorously confront and debunk these historical lies that divide us and drive fear among our people.
We have borne witness to this same behaviour that saw the veneration of some and demonisation of others such as Burnham, and to a lesser extent Desmond Hoyte. Society, particularly the black community, was robbed of the opportunity to dispassionately assess their various contributions to the development of this country.
It is time that we as a people strive for truth in all quarters and denounce the myths, the lies and the information contortionists and distortionists in our midst, for this is their season to proliferate and infect the hearts and minds of the vulnerable and less critical among us.
We are reminded that this nation came out of the bruised era of the Bharrat Jagdeo presidency when hundreds of citizens died under questionable circumstances. During this period, we can recall the reckless use of language demonising, dehumanising and stereotyping young black men. Guyanese should not forget that it is this similar environment of demonisation that led to the unfortunate fate of University of Guyana student, Yohance Douglas.
Those are the darkest days of our post-independence history, when human lives had no value and an environment was created to perpetuate this for some of us to quell the fears of others. Guyana must never again experience such a period and we can only avoid this by rejecting the misrepresentations of politicians and their surrogates who seek to demonise, who seek to use social media and information disseminated to advance their power struggles.
We the people must reject this. We must hold all our politicians, on both sides, to account for their actions and for that of their surrogates. We must embrace peace and lift the bar for public accountability by those being paid with taxpayers’ dollars even as government, as guardian of the state, finds a way to address the apparent proliferation of fake news and fake sites on social media.
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