Beneath the Colwyn Harding tragedy

There will always be moments in our history when silence will say more about us than any tongue or pen. For those who have remained silent on the reported baton rape of 23-year-old Colwyn Anthony Harding, history will preserve you as that side which either lacked humanity, was too stifled by fear or simply as not having enough courage to stand and demand that the system produces what it should for every man, woman and child in our country.

Many pens and tongues have condemned the alleged torture of Harding by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) rank. But still this many has not been nearly enough. I have long added my voice to these and now my pen will address those things which have been leaping to life beneath the surface of the Harding tragedy.

There have been those among you who have come to me in outrage. But your outrage has not been because of your young brother’s suffering. It has been a product of what I can only imagine is your blindness; your inability to see how you have allowed a political system to rob you of humanity and enslave you.

Where is the need to create so much trouble over this? This is what you have asked me. If I did not answer you then, it is because I did not trust myself to deal with you gently. But here is my answer now: when we fight our fear, when we break the silence, when we speak for Colwyn Harding, when we demand that the Ministry of Home Affairs and the GPF act efficiently, when we note the lack of and demand proper health care, we do not only speak for one man. We speak for our children, our people, and our country. In speaking for Harding, we speak less for him and more for ourselves.

When allegations that Harding had been attacked in his bed at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) began circulating, some of you came to me in disbelief. There is no way that such a thing could have happened, you said. Some of you even suggested that Dr. Melissa Ifill and others who have been working tirelessly to help Harding and his mother had “made it up”.

Why would you believe such a thing? Perhaps, it is because you have not seen the things in our country that some of us have seen, have lived, and have wished we did not ever see or experience. When I began my career in journalism at 18, I became intimately acquainted with the GPHC. Although the place has had a face lift since then it will forever remain in my memory as a prime example of the human’s disregard for his fellow being.

If in your mind you think the GPHC is a well secured institution then I advise you to rid yourself of that notion. From my own experience, I can tell you that it is one of the easiest places to walk in and out of at will. So when Dr. Ifill and others make these reports they know what they are saying. It is impossible to make up such atrocities.

Besides, I am well acquainted with Dr. Ifill as a lecturer at the University of Guyana. I salute women like her, women like Sharon Harding, who have stood against the silence. These are women once you have looked into their eyes you see the burning passion for truth and people and country. It is a rare thing to find courage in a man or woman among us.

And finally, there have been questions about whether the GPF rank who reportedly abused Harding may have been moved to do so by racist sentiment. Even now, I cannot begin to comprehend what moves a man to do such a vile thing to another being like himself. If racism makes up the sum of why Harding became a victim then I can only hope that our people can rise from this abyss.

Our history is a long and bitter one full of racial tension. It is easy for us to begin to hate each other. Sometimes it is hard to remember that one man’s actions is not a reflection of what lies in the hearts of those who look like him. I have felt for Colwyn Anthony Harding, there are many like me who feel for him. There are many of us who look at him and see a son, a brother, a friend. I am certain that despite the face of her son’s tormentor, Sharon Harding will still look at me and see a daughter of her country, nothing less. These things give me hope.

Last Friday I was late for the peaceful picket which took place outside the Commissioner’s office at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary. Only a handful of Guyanese were there huddled under umbrellas but still my heart felt hope. About one third of those present looked like me and because of that too my heart felt hope. But my heart faltered for a second because I did not see anyone else close to my age but then I remembered those beautiful young women who picketed near parliament a few days ago and I felt hope.

At least there are some who history will remember as having had courage, as conquering fear, as souls who stood for what was right. And this is what it means to stand for Colwyn Anthony Harding. It means doing what is right. Some of us have understood this. Still, we are not nearly enough but at least there is hope.

To Roger F. Luncheon – On Democracy, Trust and Tragedy

Dear Roger F. Luncheon:

I had a bone to pick with you about that USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project. However, bone picking is exactly why we are the way we are. I have been many things, I am many things, I will be many things but I will never become the bone-picking-Bharrat. Truth is the currency I deal in.

After you announced that Cabinet would not have the democracy project I told my nani all about it. This is what she said: “Luncheon is a good man”. When people attack you personally, specifically when they say that all you are is bad, I defend you. I do not defend you because of any personal allegiance. I defend you because I know there is good in every man and woman among us.

I defend you because attacking a man personally is pointless and dishonorable. It only serves to distract us from the systems which we should be examining and questioning. Do not worry, soon our people will learn to shrug off these distractions; they will learn to see , to question, to act in the most effective manner.

I wrote about the LEAD project earlier. I do not believe that Government’s concern about the US’s alleged high-handed manner is the only reason behind refusing the project. People have no doubt read my words and recognized that I am for the project. However, there is more to the matter.

You see, there is a sad, sad story behind the fact that I would choose to believe the US over my own Government. When I made the decision I kept remembering all those appearances of the US in Caribbean history. I am well aware of the risks. When I made the decision I felt as if I were backed into a corner and left to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Why should I have to feel this way, Mr. Luncheon? Why should I have to sit in my country and feel that I cannot trust my leaders? It is the tragic story of our country. We do not trust each other.

And there is the other question too, why should the US have to come into my home and clean for me? Can I and my brothers and sisters not do it on our own? I have decided that I will clean my own house. Democracy is not a gift that someone can simply hand us. Democracy is a journey, a path of self discovery, which we must take alone and together all at once.

You know, back in 2011 when I spoke to my peers about voting many of them had the same thing to say; they said that voting did not matter because none of you (politicians) were worth it. Outside of the PPP/APNU/AFC followings another tragedy was taking place. Young people were giving up on their democratic right because, and this is my belief, our political machinery has robbed them of hope.

Why has our political system done this to us Mr. Luncheon?

Do not worry though, I have since told these young people that there is always hope. I have told them that we must become responsible for our own well being and the well being of our country. I have told them that we are the final shred of hope to which Guyana clings. I have told them that we should not give up on our country. I will keep telling them until they hear, until they see, until they act.

So Mr. Luncheon, there is something much greater than the LEAD project that is struggling to take birth; that will be born.

For my people and country

Without Wax

Sara Bharrat.

P.S: Perhaps, I shall take a walk to the post office later to ensure that a copy of this at least makes it to your office. I know how easily such things get lost in the cyber world.