The protests that are taking place on the streets in Guyana, and the interest shown in the Simels case by certain media houses are not just about justice for the alleged victims of phantom squads. They are more about a political struggle with the opportunity being presented by the disclosures in a New York Court being grasped for its political value.
At the end of these protests, the same divisions that existed before will persist and the country will be none the better off, and all because the politics of Guyana is mired in hypocrisy. The very forces that are now so agitated by the revelations in a US court and who are prepared to take to the streets in protest were not as vocal in condemning the violence that was unleashed on innocent citizens of this country after the 2001 general elections, with Buxton being the epicenter of that violence.
It is not that people’s memories are short. It is rather that it is convenient. People in Guyana have not forgotten what occurred in this country during the crime wave; a wave that affected everyone but which certain sections were more targeted than others.
This was a period when Guyanese were driving on the streets with their vehicle doors so locked that it could only be opened from within, because of the fear of being carjacked. The marauding criminal gangs would carjack vehicles and then use them almost immediately in robberies.
This was the period also when police were endangered. Police stations were forced to close their gates at nights after some were shot at with machine guns. This was a period, which also saw a young traffic rank being senselessly gunned down by the Buxton gunmen while he was on duty on Regent Street.
This was also a period when many police ranks were targeted, so much so that some police officers were afraid to hang their clothes out to dry for fear that their homes would be identified as belonging to a member of the force and thus targeted.
This was a period when young businessmen were kidnapped and ransoms demanded of them. And even sadder, this was the period when a young businessman from Buxton was murdered because someone felt he might have been cooperating with the authorities. This man had a wife and a child, and to this day, not a single picket has been raised demanding an inquiry into his killing that robbed Guyana of an enterprising entrepreneur, a loving husband and a caring father.
There was also a period in this country where women were afraid of being raped by the infamous Inspector Gadget. He was one of the gunmen in Buxton with a proclivity for raping women after he would have robbed them of their material possessions. When he was shot, there were not too many concerns that he had met his demise through extra-judicial means.
This was a period that saw a great many innocent persons being gunned down. Who can forget a young school child that was killed as she peeped through her window as gunmen were raining bullets on her home?
Those were desperate times. And these are desperate times that try men’s souls and also prompt them to sell their souls just to survive. So desperate and helpless were Guyanese that even assistance from the Devil would have been accepted in those days to bring an end to the criminal violence that took so many innocent lives.
This is not to justify any unholy alliances that were forged. It is only to point out the circumstances that may have led to the wrong turns.
Just after that period of madness, it was alleged that there was a phantom gang that was responsible for eliminating the criminals and this phantom gang was connected to a minister. There was then, as there is now, a cobbling together of a political alliance protests in the streets and calls for an investigation.
Ravi Dev in one of his Sunday columns, made the point that during the discussions, the joint opposition agreed that what must be investigated was not just the possible nexus between the killings by the phantom gangs but also the violence that emanated from the epicenter in Buxton.
He noted however that in the speeches that were made at a rally, one select victim were being identified, namely those that were believed to have been killed by the phantoms, and not those who were killed by the criminal gang operating out of Buxton.
He said that he protested this selectivity since if this was not protested it would amount to ignoring the wider context of societal pain and anguish. He observed that today in the new calls for an inquiry (this time we are being told that it is another phantom group that was doing the killing), he has noticed the same type of selectivity.
He is rightly on the opinion that such an approach will only assure further decades of conflict since it ignores cause and effect.
Perhaps Dev is expecting too much from the protestations. But those who are within that alliance and are fair-minded, have an obligation to ensure that these protests are not just about select victims but about all victims; not just about Inspector Gadget but also about Christine Sukra; not just about possible links between the government and Roger Khan but also about the gunmen in Buxton and their political masterminds.