Guyana: Think on That — A Foundation of Lies – By Mosa Telford

I had to remind myself about what extra-judicial killings are when President Irfaan Ali rejected claims that the killing of Orin Boston indicated a return of extrajudicial killings or that Guyana has a history of such activities.         
“Extrajudicial killings or extrajudicial executions happen when someone in an official position deliberately kills a person without any legal process,” according to the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).

“You can’t return to something that never existed. If you’re starting from a foundation of lies, you can’t return to the foundation of lies,” he said.

Sometimes words or phrases are so commonplace that we lose the essence of what they mean. And I thought perhaps that my understanding of extrajudicial killings was misconstrued. After all, in an ever-changing world definitions can also change. The moral compass can be adjusted depending on the season and who sits in the seats of power. What were once deemed extrajudicial killings might now be considered sacrifices for the prosperity of the country or justice carried out by men in uniform. It could just be that only the gangs were killing the people and each other. Like the famous five prison escapees and Fineman and his gang. The ‘Phantom Squad’ could have just been a myth. What was once deemed unrighteous or wicked might suddenly be deemed sacred or good.

But my conscience will not allow me to use delusion as a coping mechanism to deal with the trauma that overshadows this country. Comforting ourselves by pretending that uncomfortable truths about our history never existed is detrimental. I cannot pretend that the Guyana Police Force has not killed people in this country without trial or conviction. Or that there was no ‘Phantom Squad’ or ‘Death Squad.’ I cannot forget the sadness I felt when I was living overseas and having to make a choice to stop looking at the news out of Guyana because the faces were too many and it was too painful to witness what was happening in my beautiful county. I cannot forget the relative of Yohance Douglas, a friend of my aunt, crying and reporting his death at the hands of the Guyana Police Force in 2003. Was that not an extrajudicial killing? It only takes one example to invalidate the claim that it never existed. But of course, there are multiple examples.

Skaka Blair was murdered in the early morning hours on April 6, 2002, by members of the Guyana Police Force. Was that not an extrajudicial killing?

I do not expect our leaders to be perfect for we all are flawed as human beings, but I do not expect them to lie, either when the truth is known and documented. Perhaps the president misspoke. I highly doubt this but let’s leave room for the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, if we are really concerned about healing this country, we must face the pleasant and ugly truths without bias and delusion. Denying that there were extrajudicial killings do not change the past. Admitting that they existed does not change the past either, but the chances for healing and reconciliation seem more achievable when we speak the truth.

Does denying that a problem exists or existed not leave room for rogue elements to think they can repeat these atrocities and not face any consequences? But did the offenders of the past face any consequences? Perhaps they did not because some believe that these killings never occurred. Lying about the past only leaves open wounds. Lying about the past puts us at risk to repeat the same. We are seeing a repeat of the same with killings within the last few months.

We continue to promote this idea of ‘One Guyana’. It may be an excellent initiative that can help our people unite, but are these just concepts on paper? Is it just feel-good activities like hosting concerts where artistes sing songs about unity and dances are performed, but there are no serious efforts to truly reach and unite the people?

All the relatives of people who lost their lives unjustifiably at the hands of the Guyana Police Force within the last two decades deserve an apology. They were wounded when their loved ones were killed and then to wound them again by saying the circumstances around their loved ones’ deaths were not what they were is cruel.

In a US State Department report in 2002 it was reported that 15 Guyanese were killed by the Guyana Police Force by September of that year compared to 13 in the year 2000. It was also stated that the police shot and killed these people while they were either committing crimes or while attempting to arrest them. Some of the names listed in the report were Donna McKinnon, Junior ‘Drakes’ Stanton, Devon ‘Buckman’ Gonsalves, Shamshudeen ‘Spoon’ Mohammed, Rocky Anthony Brunoanish, Colin ‘Sadist’ Cummerbatch, John Bruce, Steve Grant, Adisena Houston, Azaad Bacchus, Shazaad Bacchus and Fadil Ally.

It is interesting that the president spoke about a foundation of lies when saying that extrajudicial killings never existed is a blatant lie. At this point this is not a ‘he seh, she seh’ story. There are records. There are graves. There are fatherless children. There are parents who still wonder why their sons met such ends. There are restless spirits whom we cannot blame for haunting this land.

I do not think that there are any utterances from public officials that can surprise me anymore. It is sad that Guyanese can sit and expect the worse from our leaders when decency and honesty should be prerequisites before anyone is elected to office. But decency and honesty might look different depending on one’s perspective. Perhaps we would not care about decency or honesty if every Guyanese was respected, afforded equal opportunities, able to live comfortably or not in danger of being shot and killed by police. But perhaps there is a parallel Guyana – one where extrajudicial killings never occurred, where we all are free and all our lives matter.
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  • Dennis Albert  On 10/24/2021 at 6:48 pm

    They had to execute Ronald Waddell, and imprison Mark Benschop without trial because they spoke the truth.

    • theonly  On 10/25/2021 at 12:14 pm

      Who are THEY that you are talking about. Just asking, i would love to know who they are. Thanks.

      • Dennis Albert  On 10/26/2021 at 11:20 am

        Phone Mark Benschop and ask him.

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