Remarks at Service for Linden Martyrs

As the community and country mark the burial ceremony of three of our fellow citizens, let us remember and share the personal grief of those who are left to mourn the deaths of Shemroy Bouyea, Alan Lewis and Ron Sommerset. To their loved ones I extend sincere condolences. We remember too those who were injured on that fateful day – July 18, 2012 – as they protested for better living conditions – the right of every citizen of this country. We pray for their full and speedy recovery.

I speak today as a Guyanese of Indian descent to remind my Indian sisters and brothers of the grief and suffering they and others in Guyana still remember and commemorate at the killing in 1948 of five Indo-Guyanese protesting their working and social conditions. Where is the progress I ask, in this richly endowed country, that sixty-four years later, three African Guyanese are killed protesting high unemployment, economic stagnation and prohibitive increases in the cost of electricity?

Whether as Africans, Indians, Amerindians, Chinese, Portuguese or mixed race, what must matter to us is not the ethnicity – but the identity – of those who gave the orders and who pulled the trigger. We debase ourselves by our silence if we do not condemn unequivocally the killing of Shemroy Bouyea, Alan Lewis and Ron Sommerset not as African Guyanese or Indian Guyanese, as Amerindian Guyanese, or as Guyanese of Chinese descent – but as Guyanese. Let us ensure that whoever the perpetrators are, that they are brought to justice.

Particularly to my fellow Indians, I say Guyana has no place to go if the words “we” and “our” are seen through ethnic lens. Our country and communities are too diverse and interdependent, the national fabric too interwoven, families now too mixed, for any form of ethnic purity. We must all feel and share a national sense of disappointment, poverty and insecurity that any one community, any one region or any one village is deprived, impoverished and without hope.

Today marks Emancipation Day, the declaration of freedom from that abomination called slavery, a day that defined us as a people and a nation. Let us see today as another defining day in which we finally begin to do as our Constitution requires us to do and that is to “Forge a system of governance that promotes concerted efforts and broad-based participation in national decision-making in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law.”

When tomorrow comes – and by the grace of God it will – let us resolve to respond to the anguished cries of the Linden community for justice to prevail for our brothers who lost their lives, for those who were injured and who bear the scars of that day, for those who day in and day out struggle to make ends meet, to send their children to school, to pay the light bills and to stand up for fair and equal treatment guaranteed by our national sacred document called the Constitution.

Let us hope for a speedy and satisfactory resolution of the concerns of Lindeners – Justice, Fairness, and Economic Reconstruction, including the basic needs of all human beings. As we strive on this Emancipation Day to honour the heroes of our glorious revolutions, let us determine that henceforth we will create heroes, not martyrs. Let us shed our prejudices, not blood. Let us build Linden, Wismar, the coastal villages and the hinterland communities, not monuments to insensitivity and extravagance. And let the government, our leaders and us the people do so for a Guyana of seven, not one or two ethnic or influential voting groups.

Let us today resolve to honour Shemroy Bouyea, Alan Lewis and Ron Sommerset by doing all we can to bring about the community and country they no doubt wanted for themselves and for us all to live in. We, and I mean all Guyanese, owe them nothing less.

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