We as young people don’t feel safe in Guyana to express ourselves. We are aware of cases where young people have been abused and violated in this country and the public responded with chatter, speculation and no concrete action that indicates we are interested in fighting for a better future free from violence for our youth. Many cases are usually swept under the carpet. We do not feel like we are entitled to any rights, despite all the grand pronouncements.
We do not feel like government agencies and other organisations that claim a mandate to promote and protect our interests are actually doing this. If we as young people do not believe the law is there to protect us and to make us feel safe, if we do not feel safe in our own country, how can we protect it? How can we confidently identify as Guyanese? How can we be productive when we are far from feeling this is our land?
A few months ago, we sat in a youth consultation organized by the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport, UNICEF and Commonwealth Youth Programme. This consultation served to gather information for the development of Guyana’s Youth Policy. During the consultation, we listened to the facilitators as they explained how the information would benefit the youth of Guyana to secure a progressive future. We participated fully in this consultation because we actually believe this mechanism can bring about positive change for young people.
It is sad for us to say that we decided to pen this letter because we are severely affected by what has happened to our fellow young citizen – Mr. Colwyn Harding. On January 10, 2014, Kaieteur Newspaper carried an article titled ‘Man alleges police brutality, sodomy’.
A young man of 23 years – Mr. Harding – was allegedly brutalized by members of the police force. Mr. Harding was maimed for life; he is currently ‘defecating through multiple bags from the side of his abdomen as a result of his ruptured intestine, which was sustained after a policeman allegedly pushed a baton up his anus.’
There is no justification for this act. Nothing but pure sadism could have possessed this police officer to carry out this deed. That other officers knew that this monster was abusing this young man but did nothing to prevent it, is just as appalling. We can’t help but wonder if this was allowed because he was a young black man. We have these thoughts in our minds and we need answers! Guyanese need answers!
As Guyanese and young people we need to demand answers from the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police Force. Further, Mr. Harding and/or his family need support. Mr. Harding was discharged from the Georgetown Public Hospital where he was provided with colostomy bags. Now, his mother is faced with the responsibility of purchasing colostomy bags which cost $3000 each.
Is this justice? Is this fair? His Rights were trampled! Four years ago the police tortured a teenage boy, setting fire to his genitals, and look at where we are today. Guyanese, if we continue to sit silently on these issues, we are pretty sure this latest atrocity is bound to be repeated. Where are all these organisations and individuals who say that they work in the area of youth development? Where are our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters? Where are our neighbours, aunts, uncles and friends? We need to publicly speak out against this because no one should have to experience such abuse. NO ONE!
The members of the police force cannot repeatedly violate people, while we let these violations go without investigation and a fight. If we cannot find the police in question, then we find the police responsible for the police in question. Someone has to be pressured. We have laws for a reason and we must demand that no person, no matter how big or well-connected, is above the law.
It has been a couple of months since that consultation and we are beginning to see what a big joke this youth policy is or has the potential of being. We have not seen or heard of any releases from the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport or from the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security relating to this young man’s matter. We will assume, as usual, this isn’t their business. This incident only goes to show that we as young people need to demand our rights because we are entitled to them.
And other young people who feel intimidated to write because they fear the loss of their job.