guyana stalinist govt bans protest outside parliament – malcolm harripaul

Dear Editor,
On the morning of Friday 30th March 2012 I encountered a traffic going into Georgetown at 7:15 hours. It turns out that it was caused by the police erecting barricades around the parliament building and cordoning off the area. Not even pedestrians were allowed to use the sidewalk. This was in preparation for the budget presentation at 14:00 Hours. Traffic was snail-like all day around Georgetown and the parliament building looked like it was under siege. One got the impression that the police expected an armed attack on parliament.
At around 13:30 hours I tried to gain entry to the sidewalk in front parliament. I was denied entry at three police check points. Only members of parliament, employees of parliament, and accredited reporters were being allowed through. Members of the public were denied entry. I ended up in the vicinity of Demico House where I met Karen D’souza, a small group of women activists, and a small group of APNU supporters. We were all behind barricades manned by a large police contingent.
It was the first time I was meeting Karen in 20 years. She and I were toddlers at La Bagatelle, Leguan in the early 1960’s and we were in Preps A and B. Later in the 1970’s we lived a mile apart in the Vreed-en-Hoop area. Karen was a WPA activist and I was a PPP/PYO activist. As teenagers we both participated in picketing exercises on the side walk in front of parliament buildings. That was in the “horrible days” of “PNC dictatorship.” The “dictator” Burnham, and later Desmond Hoyte, allowed the PPP and the WPA to protest in front parliament, and those protests were huge and persistent.
From the time I met Karen on Friday we were immediately on the same wavelength. We both started to blurt out in loud angry tones about the travesty we were witnessing. The “democratic PPP” had stopped all protest in front of parliament. We talked about the time in late 1992 when the PPP was restored to government and Karen and a group of WPA women supporters tried to picket parliament. The police tried to strip search Karen and baton charged the group forcing them to flee up Brickdam whilst some of Janet Jagan’s “intellectuals” clapped their hands in glee. Now in 2012, after 20 years of PPP democracy, members of the public are denied entry to parliament, and protestors are kept at bay by metal barricades and a huge police presence.
Karen and I reminisced about the days when Eusi Kwayana would engage in hunger strikes and fasts in front parliament, when Odai Paul Singh chained himself to the gates, and when PNC ministers and functionaries were made to walk a gauntlet of placards and taunts on the sidewalk in front parliament. Today members of the public and protestors are kept far away from that sidewalk by “PPP Democracy.”
I was extremely angry, and when Opposition Leader Brig Granger came to shake hands with the protestors I told him that this nonsense must stop. What is worse is that no other opposition MP came to meet their supporters. All the APNU and AFC MPs just walked or drove into parliament compound without even a glance at the people whose votes they were courting a mere four months ago. It was as if they now saw themselves as part of an elite on par with the PPP dictators who could not be bothered with the women trying to protest the “ CJ acquittal” of the Police Commissioner of the rape charge. No female MP came to lend solidarity with the women protestors and it was as if the poor working class APNU supporters were seen as a nuisance in the vicinity of parliament. How can opposition MPs tolerate the PPP placing barricades and police between them and their constituents? It is no wonder that the PPP can do as it pleases without fear of repercussions.
Malcolm Harripaul