THE proverbial choice of life or death will be on the Guyana elections 2020 ballot. Those who ran the state apparatus based on the Stalinist philosophy of ‘no man, no problem,’ are still around and will be able to control the levers of power if they are successful at these critical elections. This is a frightening prospect for human rights activists who fought vehemently to rid this nation of mass executions without explanations or consequences. Be that as it may, it is an opportune time to gleefully reflect on the fact that since ascension to the highest office by the APNU+AFC government, extra-legal killings have completely vanished.
The aforementioned fact should not be taken for granted, the horror stories are endless and it is the duty of those with a voice to constantly remind all and sundry about the dark days. On a placid Sunday night in 2003, ‘Brenda’ was setting up her drinks stall to serve the partying patrons who normally flock to the seawall. While packing her makeshift half refrigerator with various alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages for the small hustle, her phone rang. She happily answered, assuming it was her son calling to confirm that he had safely reached home from a hard day of work. To the deadly contrary, this was a call from a neighbour to report that ‘Mikey’ was picked by some ‘fair skin’ men and placed in an F-51 SUV. After several searches and contact with the police, she gave up and accepted her family’s fate. There was no investigation and his body was never found. Numerous mothers suffered this same trauma between 1992-2015. This was the modus vivendi throughout this period of circumstances which suggested there was the occurrence of extra-judicial killings which were carried out through various mechanisms; the Phantom Force, the Death Squads and the rogue police squads. The explicit and tacit support from the political directorate was key to these activities. When the Guyanese people expressed their will at the ballots box on May 11th, 2015, their votes literally allowed for the complete disappearance of extra-judicial killings.
How did we go from 400 killings over a period of 28 years to zero cases of extra-judicial killings? It is really not rocket science, it is very simple: a change in political leadership occurred in Guyana in May 2015. John F. Kennedy in his effortless excellence and wisdom, once opined; ‘The ignorance of one voter in a democracy, impairs the security of all.’ Though he spoke in an American context of years gone by, his words certainly resonate in the modern Guyana circumstance. The consistent voting along the lines of ethnic loyalties over the past decades undoubtedly threatened the security of other citizens of Guyana. In any normal society, any government that is proven to be complicit with the wanton execution of the people they have sworn to protect, would be out of power once you have free and fair elections. This did not happen for decades in this country and it had devastating consequences for this nation and its citizens.
Lest we forget, a status quo free of lawlessness does not fall from the sky; the character and mindsets of those who hold power determine what society we will see manifesting before our eyes. Extra-judicial killings did not vanish by a fluke or by chance, how you vote in the next elections will decide life or death.