Sep 20, 2020 Letters
On January 12th 1998, more than 200 Indian-Guyanese were beaten, robbed and assaulted in the streets of Georgetown. These attacks were conducted in full view of the police, yet no arrests were made. The riots followed PNC-orchestrated protests against the PPP’s victory in the Dec 1997 elections — the first one that followed the free and fair elections of 1992 that returned the PPP to office after more than two decades of rigged elections by the PNC. The Stabroek News of the following day, carried the headline “Terror in the city.” CARICOM stepped in and brokered the “Herdmanston Accord”, which cut short the PPP’s term of office by two years. The PNC denied the attacks. The PPP did not conduct an official investigation into the event. The task of investigating and documenting the attacks fell on the shoulders of a private group of Indian businessmen, the Guyanese Indian Foundation Trust (GIFT), which compiled a report after obtaining 228 detailed testimonials from the victims. GIFT also called for a “Peace and Reconciliation Commission”. That call fell on deaf ears.
In the tragic aftermath following the brutal murders of the Henry cousins, a series of attacks on Indian Guyanese occurred in east and west Berbice, following irresponsible statements attributed to former President David Granger and Opposition leader Joseph Harmon. This resulted in the murder of another Berbician, Haresh Singh. We learn that yet another victim was killed by his own villagers after firing at protesters. Social media was lit on fire with eyewitness reports and videos showing the attacks, robbery and burning of homes. In his press statement, while condemning the brutal murder of Joel and Isaiah, President Ali also condemned “the brutality and unlawful behaviour of those who have inflicted injury, and robbed and damaged property of innocent Guyanese”. The attacks continued for four days, some in full view of the public, as well as law enforcement officials.
African Guyanese have a legitimate concern, and fear, that with the loss of political office in our divided society, they will become peripheralized. Their genuine concerns must be addressed. It is not helpful when David Hinds and others continue to encourage Africans to use their “street power” to bring pressure to bear on the “illegitimate” government, instead of engaging in deep national dialogue.
I hope justice will come for Joel and Isaiah Henry, and Haresh Singh. Kit Nascimento has called on President Ali to direct a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the attempt to steal the March 2 elections and the racial violence (SN, Sep 19). Will justice be provided for those innocent victims who endured four days of psychological and physical pain and suffering in Berbice, and who continue to live behind barred windows and padlocked doors? More importantly, how is the government going to prevent the attacks on innocent victims (Indians) during “the fire next time”?
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