A vigil organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) outside of the State House, Main Street, Georgetown for July 19, 2017 had to be abandoned after the Guyana Police Force withdrew its approval.
The decision by the Police Force is very upsetting and seems to indicate that there is a concerted attempt to silence the voices of dissent and disagreement. The FITUG-organised vigil had sought to express solidarity with the nation’s beleaguered sugar workers. It was also intended to call to attention that thousands of ordinary, hardworking Guyanese are threatened with impoverishment and misery as a result of the Administration’s plans to close and sellout a number of sugar estates. The Federation had hoped that the vigil in front of the President’s residence would highlight the difficulties that would confront the communities of Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon as we see now-a-days playing out at Wales.
The Federation by letter dated July 13, 2017 to the Commissioner of Police sought permission to conduct the activity. We next heard from the Police Force by letter of July 17, 2017 which advised “…that approval is given for you [FITUG] to hold a “VIGIL” on Wednesday 19th, July 2017”. The FITUG was then unpleasantly surprised when we received another letter from the Police Force dated July 18, 2017 saying inter alia that “…due to the present situation in the country approval cannot be given as this time for the VIGIL.”
The sudden and short reversal in positions by the Police Force for us is both perplexing and of great concern. It would not be unusual to hold, that the Police when examining our request must have taken into account the prevalent situation in the country. The Police’s explanation, in our view, seems to have provoked more questions than answers. The revocation cannot be disconnected from a somewhat similar incident which confronted the GAWU a few months back when the Police, for inexplicable reasons, denied that Union permission to conduct a march on the East Coast of Demerara. Certainly, this latest action serves to heighten our anxieties and reminds of a time in our nation when democratic expression was curtailed.
The FITUG cannot help but wonder, this time around, whether the “present situation in the country” will be used as a guise to undermine and deny Guyanese their inalienable rights and to deprive our people of their constitutional freedoms of expression and assembly. Is it that the July 09 Camp Street Prison incident be used as the pretext to heighten surveillance and to promote invasion of privacy on the ground of so-called searches.
The 180 degree turn in this matter is of grave concern and is very worrying to us in the FITUG. While we uphold and promote respect for the laws of the lands but must place on record our strongest condemnation at this revocation which, in effect, is not in keeping with established Trade Union rights and serves to deny citizens their rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The FITUG believes that this development does not augur well for our democratic future or for the touted ‘Good Life’ which is so elusive to the workers. We call on all right-thinking Guyanese to condemn this denial.