The protests which are taking place in West Coast Berbice began as an expression of outrage and pain over the killing of two teenagers. The PNC/R has affectively politicized these protests resulting in its extending to parts of the Corentyne.
The initial protests were understandable though not acceptable. Villagers were outraged by the deaths of the two teenage lads. The death of the two teenagers sent shockwaves throughout the country. The gruesome manner in which they met their deaths has stunned the nation. The hurt has been felt throughout the country.
The protests over the teenagers’ deaths, however, have been manipulated by political operatives of the PNC/R and have been turned into a political explosive. The protests have escalated and turned violent. The blocking of roads in villages which have overwhelmingly given their support to the PNCR, is evidence of an orchestrated plot to use the death of these teenagers to gain political capital.
The comments made by PNC/R officials during a meeting with the parents of the deceased boys were incendiary. Such irresponsible statements have the potential to fan the flames of further protests and to lead to grave problems in the country. There is no justification for what was done to these boys but calls for self-defence is reckless and inflammatory and so too are comments indicating to the protesters that what they are doing is right. This is not responsible leadership; it is evidence of political backwardness.
The spread of the protests suggest that political forces are at work. It is highly unlikely that the spread of the protests are spontaneous. All of the areas where persons are protesting are PNC/R strongholds. This is unnecessary and disruptive muscle flexing and perhaps a demonstration of what was meant when it was said that the party would give the PPP/C government a hard time.
The protests are an attempt to regain credibility and deflect from the goodies which the PPP/C is about to announce in its Budget. The PNC/R is using the deaths of the two teenage cousins. In order to regain political credibility after their disgraceful attempt to steal an election. The protests are part of an attempt to regain support following their disreputable conduct from March to August this year.
Other organizations, known to have sympathies with the PNC/R, have now come out with statements which infer that the killings are race-related. Not a shred of evidence has been provided to justify this premature conclusion. This is equally reprehensible and reckless.
The protests, sadly, have also been infiltrated and criminalized. As this newspaper reported, yesterday a car was attacked and vandalized. Its occupants assaulted and robbed. Three paddy trucks and their stocks were destroyed yesterday.
The politicization and criminalization of the protests are an attempt also to deflect attention from the upcoming Budget where the PPP/C has telegraphed a number of its budgetary measures. It has signalled a G$25,000 per household COVID-19 assistance relief grant, a G$15,000 per schoolchild cash grant and a doubling of the uniform allowance, the removal of VAT from water, electricity and medical supplies; free water rates for pensioners, the removal of corporate tax on private education, a two-week tax bonus for Joint Services, the removal of taxes on mining and agricultural equipment and G$150M to be allocated to frontline workers – doctors and nurses and first responders.
The protests serve as a distraction. The PNC/R is embarrassed by these measures since many of the taxes which are now removed were imposed by the PNC/R-dominated APNU+AFC Coalition. The timing of the protests just happened to coincide with the Budget presentation.
The right to protest is a protected right. But it is not a right to be manipulated in the manner in which the PNC/R is doing. They have taken the outrage and are threatening to turn it to muscle-flexing exercise.
As Desmond Hoyte learnt so bitterly, it is easy to start and stir-up protests but more difficult to bring it to an end. When the people do not get what they want, they end up turning against the very people who were egging them on to protests.
The PNC/R now claims that action should not be taken which would hinder the police investigation. They are calling also for an independent investigation. But how does spreading the protests help the police investigation when senior officers and junior ranks have to be working, virtually around the clock, to control the situation on the ground, a situation which is causing inconvenience and losses to persons who had nothing to do with what took place.
But do not tell that to the PNC/R. They may have something more sinister up their sleeve!
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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