MY heart reaches out to the family of Elton Wray, but as a father, I, too, have lived through the uneasiness where the worse was feared, even anticipated, even as I grieved with other parents whose children were caught up by a wrong choice, as spectators, or were at the said wrong place at the wrong time.
Our society, in a not-so-dark period of our history, was let loose to fend for itself at all levels by a failed administrative structure that thought politics, and only allowed familiar human resources to fill political echelons rather than applying what was necessary, in the interest of the people.
I doubt that his family can find the answers to what went wrong, and why? But from what I have lived and witnessed and written about in the past, places me in the position to comment on the collateral damage of a world turned upside down.
This young man was born in 1992. The testimony of a teacher on Facebook places him as a good student. His academic achievements testify to that. He was 13 years old in 2005, perhaps more conscious than his parents even realised, of the world around him that had changed too quickly for his parents, like me, to fully grasp the profound influences of the netherworld transforming all that we knew as sane and functional.
I can compare in my youth, when the items of conspicuous consumption were easily linked to skilled and academic excellence. Private cars were owned by successful businessmen, top civil servants, lawyers, doctors, customs officers and other main cogs in the machinery of society, that included progressive artisans.
Also true is that there were no reconditioned car imports, where bruised excesses of the developed nations, mainly Japan, were filtered down to us.
Even before 1992, an invasive culture had crept onto our landscape that the content of the ‘Baldeo Tapes’ with its references to international ‘backtrack’ activities, and the involvement of local top law enforcement would reveal in the early 90s.
Guyana could not escape the net of the international criminal world, as an underdeveloped nation with wide borders, mainly unmonitored, and a traditional economic position that was too pollicised.
Thus, in the 80s, the parallel economy emerged; but smuggling merchandise and food items would pale before what was yet to come. It was not grass-root operatives that air-dropped cocaine and built air strips to facilitate Guyana as a transportation route for narcotics, but persons who were custodians of State authority.
These initial indiscretions were, however, contained by the then state. A then Minister of Home Affairs, a lawyer, gave a weapons permit to a client who, because he was a career criminal, lost his job and had the licence revoked.
As a young man, these were examples that guided us away from ‘badness’ in the world that my son, Elton Wray and other youngsters like them grew up in.
LICENCE TO KILL
A former dishonourably discharged Guyana Defence Force rank fatally shot a young food seller because he asked for a $20 he owed him. But the then Minister of Home Affairs recruited him, placed an M70 in his hands, and gave him a licence to kill.
Regardless of their professional grades, there is no time in the history of this country had the lines between good and bad become so blurred.
My son would get into physical skirmishes as all males do, and when I insist that we visit the police station, he would reject this on the grounds that it was pointless. Then his friends would chide me about my cluelessness, and regale me of this ‘Big Man’ and that ‘Big Man’ in drugs with political connections that would neutralise the police, thereby making complaints and expecting old-school responses laughable. But somehow, our children always got the social information that this or that business was financed by which drug dealer. And it’s not because we’re a small country that businessmen, lawyers and their political patrons who were recipients of ‘drugs and backtrack money’ are known. So, the question is: Drom whence did our children acquire this knowledge?
And the short answere is that much of it came from a young generation of female and male thugs and ‘toys’ who were eager for the ‘cheese’ and de excitement which fell into dismal indulgences.
And some later saw themselves in living digital colour and in prison. In their need to purge themselves of their peers, as all humans do and weep at times, tales are told. When the courts, the police and the administrators become subject to the micro- management of a few, and human life trivialised, outside of a war zone, then that world is reversed.
Worse yet is when the known transgressors in the advent of a new administration seem untouched, speaking loudly though foolishly. The reality, however, is that this may be ‘not just yet’ still, but the remote press and instant-change generation is eager, and it has to be done.
Elton Wray is not the first youth with potential to be magnetised to ‘The bad-boy adventure’. And there were females, too. One such female volunteered to become a paid assassin; another desperately wanted money, was prepared to do anything, and was held as a drug mule.
The Bharrat Jagdeo years cannot be taken for granted; it constituted the worse period of human mismanagement in our modern history, and with painful tragic collateral damage.
While composing this article Sunday, I heard that the Camp Street Prison was burning, and on completing the article the following day, a couple of thoughts hit me as follows:
Years ago while teaching in that prison, I wanted to sketch the architecture of the wooden structures, but a friendly warder stopped me; it was against the rules. I lament that.
Secondly, a prison is a facility of punishment, reform and redemption, so how can judges sentence young men with more than enough criminal military field experience to life without parole when we don’t have a maximum security facility, and not expect them to move in full defence mode. This is thoughtless.
Thirdly, the management of this incident is so far handled by the Joint Services with incredible professionalism.
Enough data was not gathered on the resources available to these men. Why? How could this not have been anticipated?