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We will not be silenced by this administration

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | By Anupa 

- Lincoln Lewis

- protest moves to Ministry of Home Affairs

“Anytime you express an alternative opinion to that of Emperor Jagdeo and his team…they come after you with the law even if it means transgressing the rights of people.”

This was the view expressed by secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Lincoln Lewis, during a protest outside the Ministry of Home Affairs compound on Brickdam yesterday.
Lewis; General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Norris Witter; and former treason accused Mark Benschop; continued their three-man demonstration aimed at bringing about greater awareness to what they called the violation of the rights of citizens by the Bharat Jagdeo government.
Demonstrations were previously held at the opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, in front of the Office of the Commissioner of Police and outside the compound of the Ministry of Education.
And according to the trio who are calling themselves, The People’s Movement, this is just the beginning.
“What they want to do is to silence this society. We have taken the position that we will not be silenced. We are going to move on with these issues,” Lewis told media representatives who covered the protest yesterday.

General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour tells this police officer; “We are protesting peacefully”, while co-demonstrators Mark Benschop and Norris Witter look on.

He pointed to the case against co-demonstrator Mark Benschop and more recently Oliver Hinckson who according to him were victims of trumped up charges.
His sentiments were echoed by former treason accused Benschop who said that it is about time someone stood up for the rights of the people whose rights are being violated by the state.
Benschop was pardoned by President Jagdeo after spending almost five years in prison on a treason charge which many felt was wrongfully imposed.
Upon issuing the pardon, the President had stated that he hoped that Benschop had learnt his lesson.
“I never knew then that the President locked me up because he wanted to teach me a lesson. If that is the case then so be it, maybe I haven’t learnt my lesson,” Benschop said yesterday.
“It appears, though, that after serving my five years in jail, that the President and the PPP have not learnt their lessons in terms of respecting people’s rights,” Benschop added.
According to Lewis, while the state is showing the inclination to violate the rights of ordinary citizens, there appears to be no move to deal with cases of the blatant violation of the law.
He pointed to the case involving the disappearance and killing of scores of young men which has been attributed to a ‘phantom squad’ allegedly headed by confessed Guyanese drug lord Roger Khan.
“Roger Khan has done so much and he never faced the court in this country. And even today Commissioner Greene is saying that there is no evidence to incriminate this man.
“He is waiting on the United States to provide that evidence when he himself is the man who has to activate the process as it relates to the internal security of this country,” Lewis pointed out.
He said that the Ministry of Home Affairs was targeted yesterday because it is the Ministry that is responsible for the majority of violations against citizens’ rights.
Lewis said that it is about time that the Minister of Home Affairs initiates a process so that the nation could get to the bottom of the disappearances and killings that occurred during the 2002-2006 period, for which former Minister, Ronald Gajraj was initially implicated and subsequently cleared by a Commission of Enquiry.
“It is time we get to the bottom of it and know who were the people who made up that squad; who put the squad in place,” he said.
He said that the trio is not bothered at the seeming non response to their activity from the administration since their real aim, initially, is to start a three-man process that will hopefully yield results in the long run.
“We are not looking at what the government might say. We recognise that this is a long haul. It is not something that will conclude within a month. It’s to bring to the nation that these are issues that are burning in the society and more so to bring about awareness within the region and internationally as to the shenanigans of this government,” the CCL General Secretary said.
According to Benschop, it is the hope of the trio that the “armchair politicians, those who are sitting in parliament receiving money under false pretence can start joining us in this protest.”
The group also took umbrage to statements made by Minister Rohee with regards to the conditions of the various police lock-ups.
The Minister had stated that the lock-ups are not five star hotels and warned that persons who transgress the law would be subjected to the conditions of the facilities.
“Is he saying that the prisoners don’t have rights? Prisoners are human beings and he may end up there so it is best that he clean it up right now,” Lewis said.