EYEWITNESS: Looking back…

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…at Gajraj

News of the passing of former Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj came as a surprise to most. He was comparatively young – just 65 – when fellas decades older than him were being appointed to high level Government positions. To most, the GDF officer who became a lawyer will be remembered for his service to the nation during what PNC-leader David Granger has referred to as “the troubles”.

Starting in 2002, this was the frontal attack on the Guyanese state by a band of gunmen holed up in the village of Buxton – which became a “state within the state”. The more than half of Guyana’s population below 26 years old mightn’t remember what those dark days were all about. The gang – with its core of 5 prisoners who’d shot their way out of Camp Street Prison – began by targeting Policemen.

Pretty soon, cops were falling like ninepins, and in the next two years, more policemen were killed than in the entire 100+ year history of the Police Force. But the gunmen didn’t stop there, they announced on TV they were “African Freedom Fighters”. They became terrorists – those who unleash violence on civilians to bring pressure on governments — when they turned their (gun) sights on innocent Indo-Guyanese in the villages surrounding Buxton.

Dozens of the latter were killed with no mercy shown.

One more egregious instance was when a wheelchair-bound man mourning the death of his wife at her wake was doused with gasoline by the “Freedom Fighters” and set alight. The question that you may be asking, dear (young) reader, is: “What were the law enforcement personnel doing when all this mayhem was being committed?” Especially on their own ranks – Policemen!

And the answer, sadly, is that they were making much noise, but taking very little effective action. For instance, GDF soldiers stationed in Buxton refused to pursue the gang when crimes were being committed in full sight. Their answer was “not our job, man!” They insisted, when “joint operations” were being conducted (with the Police), that only the latter could make actual arrests.

It was at this time, when the very foundations of the state were being shaken, that several squads of gunmen were organised to take on these terrorists. One of these was dubbed the “Phantom Squad” by Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon, and it was alleged that Minister Gajraj was coordinating their activities. A Commission of Inquiry (CoI) set up by President Jagdeo to investigate these allegations found no such link.

Gajraj was subsequently made Ambassador to India, and later to Bangladesh. His passing will stir up a lot of memories.

And to many who were targets of the gunmen, he will be remembered as a hero.

…at Linden boosts

The promise of the Chairman of the PNC to take care of friends and members of the party is proceeding full pace in Linden. The Chronic ran two stories yesterday that Chronicled their latest efforts – “300 jobs for Lindeners” and “More funds for LEN” – Linden Enterprise Network.

The 300 jobs will be facilitated by spending $60 million to repair the former Guyana Stores building to house a call centre. More than that amount had already been spent to no effect. LEN, which is a $160 million fund to offer loans to prospective businesses, was also bumped to $218 million. Jordan, however, revealed that “house loans” would now be given from LEN.

LEN was reinstated immediately in 2015 by the new PNC Government, and succeeded the Linden Economic Advancement Fund (LEAF) which had succeeded the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) – both of which had doled out BILLIONS to Lindeners to stimulate businesses and create jobs. To no effect.

So the Government keeps throwing money at the problem, because they want to show they are “doing something” for “the boys”.

…at Masqueraders

Christmas is around the corner. How’d we know? Well, you can’t drive down any of the major streets of Georgetown or the HIGHWAYS without having to come to a stop by Masqueraders demanding payment!

It’s we culture!!

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