Death in the backdam

WHILE we have been enjoying the reprieve of cricket, dealing with covid19 and crime or pondering the upcoming budget, in Guyana young blood has been flowing.

On Sunday, the bodies of cousins Isaiah Henry, 16, and Joel Henry, 19, were found in the Cotton Tree backdam.

On Wednesday, in an apparent reprisal, Haresh Singh, 17, was found in the Number Two Village backdam.

A swift sequel came in the streets.

Amid protests, Prittipaul Hargobin, 34, was beaten to death after gunfire.

Roadways in Region Five and Region Six were blocked with machinery, wood and tyres.

The disruption reflects how the murders have fanned long-smouldering flames of anger, agitating a society already divided into two resentful camps: people of African descent and people of East Indian descent.

Such divisions, dating from the era of British rule and then later cultivated by the CIA amid fears of Marxism, maintain their hold. Guyanese politics aligns along the same lines even today.

The country’s election impasse was almost certainly a contributing factor to the current unrest.

If that unrest bears much resemblance to the nightmare of Guyana’s past – a past that led poet Martin Carter to pen his famous words, “This is the dark time, my love” – it is also a warning of what else might come.

The release of the suspects held for the murder of the Henrys – the maximum detention of 72 hours expired – poses a challenge to law enforcement authorities working to douse the flames.

We endorse the position taken by the Bar Association of Guyana, which has called for “a comprehensive, transparent, impartial and efficient investigation, followed by a timely prosecution” of these events.

At the same time, acknowledging the vulnerabilities of any police investigation to the disruptive impact of governance structures inflected with race politics, we have no hesitation in supporting the additional call by the Guyana Human Rights Association.

That group is asking for an international team of forensic experts, convened by the United Nations, to probe the murders.

Such a move might be the country’s best hope.

The joint services, however, will have to be supported by the highest levels of political leadership, including President Irfaan Ali and David Granger, who reluctantly conceded to Ali last month after an election that took on strong racial overtones.

There are concerns, however, over key officials in the political parties deliberately stoking tensions after Sunday.

In contrast to whatever those with power are doing, the father of one of the murdered boys, Gladson Henry, has been unequivocal.

“Do nothing with violence,” Mr Henry told protesters on Thursday.

He will bury his son Isaiah tomorrow, as the world nervously looks on.


"Death in the backdam"

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