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|Whilst condemning violence in all its forms, veteran trade unionist and General Secretary, Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis said what transpired yesterday during the protest on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) must be placed at the feet of President Irfaan Ali, fairly and squarely.
In an invited comment, Lewis told Village Voice the President passed up an opportunity to treat grieving relatives of Quindon Bacchus as equal citizens of Guyana and seek to empathise with their grief.
23-year-old Bacchus of Haslington, ECD, was reportedly shot and killed by police, Kristoff De Nobrega, on June 10 in an alleged police sting operation for illegal guns. The autopsy report, released by the Police, said Bacchus was shot five times to the back and once to the chest.
Lewis said for nearly three weeks, relatives and concerned citizens were protesting the death, asking that justice take its course and the accused be brought before the court. “During that period nothing has been done, and the matter is not being treated as a criminal issue but a basic administrative matter,” said Lewis.
He further opined that the President waited out the situation and hoped with the burial of Bacchus the situation would have returned to normal, but the people decided they are not going to bury their concerns with their dead, and yesterday decided they were going to march and demand justice.
The march from Golden Grove, which was said to be heading to Georgetown, soured when it reached Mon Repos. At the Mon Repos market area pandemonium broke out leading to loss and damage of property and physical injuries. President Ali turned up subsequently and met with vendors and persons in the Mon Repos area, promising the government will financially compensate them for damages. The police in efforts to disperse the crowd fired shots and tear gas, injuring protestors and non-participants of the protests.
Lewis sees the President’s response as dissimilar treatment to persons who are all Guyanese. He noted whereas the president ignored the Bacchus’ family, he was quick in reaching out to the people of Mon Repos, empathise with them, and offer compensation to those who are affected, those who perceived they are affected, and those who claim to be affected. President Ali announced whilst meeting with the people in Mon Repos that the Government will compensate them.
Suspicion was raised about the police crowd control technique. Lewis questioned the wisdom of blocking protestors west of Mon Repos market, forcing diversion into the market area, which he said, was not only a bad strategy but there was not enough security to avoid what occurred.
“The President failed to address what transpired at Mon Repos, he failed to address the issue of Bacchus, and he must be held accountable for the state of affairs. Rather than condemning people and having a group of people condemned, he needs to take a serious look into the inept manner in which he governs the nation.”
The protestors are a group of people who feel they are marginalised and they have a grievance that is not being attended to, Lewis pointed out. He bemoaned the number of young people who were on the streets during a normal working day and said this points to the socio-economic problems in society. “There are serious systemic problems in society and it cannot be business as usual. Everyone who is of this society must be made assured of their rights and opportunities to engage in productive endeavours, which [President] Ali must turn his attention to and stop stirring up ethnic tension and division amongst the people.”