EYEWITNESS: Martyrs…

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…for the people

Very few people go out there “courting martyrdom”. But those who try to do the right thing and are killed by those with power who oppress others have to be called “martyrs”. And this week, there were two occasions to reflect on martyrdom in Guyana — the anniversary of the assassination of Dr Walter Rodney, on June 13, 1980, and the killing of five sugar workers, on June 16, 1948.

Back in 1948, cane-cutters were protesting the sugar planters’ arbitrarily changing their “task” responsibility — which increased their labour but delivered more profits for the sugar planters. Changing from the “cut and drop” method to the “cut and load” method meant the same cane-cutter now also had to be a “cane-loader,” and all “cane loaders” would now be fired. The workers protested; the planters called in the police; the police read them the Riot Act, and fired into the mass of workers standing up for their rights.

When the smoke cleared, five men lay dead and fourteen wounded. They were acknowledged by both of the major political parties vying for power today — the PPP and PNC. After all, they were both birthed from the aftermath of those killings; it was the PNC that built the “Enmore Martyrs’ Monument”. The gruesome incident couldn’t be swept under the rug, even though the government was controlled by the sugar planters.

It reached all the way to Whitehall in Britain, and led to widespread reform – not only in labour reform, but also in the award of the universal franchise to all the peoples of Guyana. But while the Enmore martyrs might’ve delivered political independence to the country, it didn’t do much for them, with the present Government being busy commemorating that Independence, but throwing 10,000 sugar workers out of work. Are they trying to provoke more martydoms?

On Rodney, one sourpuss – Minette Bacchus — had the temerity to question the man’s credentials for martyrdom!! Bacchus’s real problem – not surprising – is what such a characterisation does for the party of her choice – the PNC. The CoI into Rodney’s murder, of course, pointed out: “…we conclude that Prime Minister Burnham knew of the plan and was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Walter Rodney.”

But what’s more shameful than the PNC government’s refusal to acknowledge Rodney’s martyrdom, as they did the “Enmore 5”, is the willingness of those from Rodney’s party to now become the staunchest defenders of the present atrocities of the PNC.

It’s because of their betrayal that reprobates like Minette Bacchus can wash their mouths on the great academic-activist who gave his life in the struggle against the PNC dictatorship.

Power to the people!! Rodney lives!!

…for equity

It could be that hope beats eternal and all that…but then again, it could be that the Government believes Guyanese are fools. Why does the Government — this time in the form of Finance Minister Jordan — believe it’s a good idea to borrow against “future oil revenues”? Isn’t this counting our barrels before they’re pumped and priced?? With oil stuck in the US$40s – and projected to be there for the duration — does Jordan know what borrowing cost will be? Will Exxon even be pumping at that price – when they can make more from shale oil – which they just entered with a vengeance?

Your Eyewitness had advised Trotman — when he was talking about collecting up-front from Exxon — to look at the experience of Ghana. Jordan should do the same. There’s many a slip between the find and the pumping — but if money is borrowed, then the interest will drown us.

Do PNC folks forget that most of the US$2.1B debt they left us was actually interest?!!

…to smoke?

At long last, the Government’s introducing legislation to ban smoking in public places. It’s not that your Eyewitness is afraid to become a martyr to second-hand smoke; it’s the lingering, slow death of lung cancer that balks him!

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