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The Missing Nigerian girls: PPP’s sham solidarity and police brutality

by Sherlena Nageer

Recently, I read a news article in which the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, when asked his opinion about the case of Alex Griffith- the 15yr old boy who was taken away from his mother and shot in the mouth by Cadet Officer Franz Paul- said that he was not aware of this issue. (Exact quote from Mr. Rohee- “I have to confess that I’m not so much up to date on that because I was out for a while and I’m still to get a briefing from Mr. Persaud.” Source-  http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2014/05/20/teen-shot-in-mouththree-weeks-later-home-affairs-minister-still-awaiting-briefing/) I was amazed then at Minister Rohee’s cluelessness. 

I was further amazed however, when I attended an event at Red House last Friday, May 23rd, at which Mr. Rohee was the keynote speaker. The event was organized by the women’s branch of the PPP- the WPO, and was advertised as a ‘Solidarity Forum’ with the Nigerian schoolgirls. There were many incredible things about this event- beginning with the fact that most of the people present were completely unaware of the issue in the first place- something that was made evident when the moderator asked for those who knew about the kidnapped girls to show their hands and only about half a dozen hands were raised. It’s amazing that so many people made the decision to spend several hours of their precious Friday afternoon engaged in showing solidarity on an issue they knew nothing about.

It was also incredible to see and hear comments about the preciousness of children and the importance of respecting their rights from religious leaders such as Rev Kwame Gilbert, Pandit Raj from the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha , and sister Zahoora from the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana. I had been hoping to hear from the extensive Guyanese religious community for quite some time now, on issues such as young Alex Griffith’s distressing experience with the police, as well as that of the young girls alleging rape and abuse at the NOC- but had been waiting in vain seemingly. So it was nice to get evidence that these individuals and organizations were alive and well, and that they did indeed care about child rights, including, incredibly, those living as far away as Nigeria.

But the most amazing thing of all was the speech by Mr. Rohee in which he covered topics ranging from the missing Malaysian aircraft, speculations about alien life forms, along with a comprehensive analysis of the problems of post-colonialism and the origins of Boko Haram. According to Mr. Rohee, who declared that he had spent much time contemplating this issue and who indeed seemed to have a great deal of insight into the matter, Boko Haram formed after some unemployed, criminally-inclined youth who had previously been working for the politicians got ‘bussed off’ and decided to retaliate by forming their own organization to terrorize their former bosses. I was amazed at Mr. Rohee’s keen understanding of this complex situation as well as his commitment to international solidarity which he expressed as “thinking locally, but acting globally.”

I was reminded then, of another famous quote which says “Charity begins at home.” It’s lovely that the WPO, religious ‘leaders’, random Guyanese people, and politicians are concerned about the missing Nigerian girls and it is indeed great to raise awareness of issues outside of Guyana and to show solidarity with other sufferers. I too hope that the Nigerian girls are soon reunited with their families. However, I must say, that it is appalling that these same individuals remain silent on issues affecting Guyanese youth. The fact is that the correct saying is “Think globally; act locally.” The fact is that we here in Guyana can do nothing about the situation in Nigeria- no matter how many petitions are signed, vigils held etc. What we can impact are the circumstances of the youth in our own communities at home here in Guyana- youth who too often suffer violence and injustice at the hands of the police and other adults who abuse their power.

Further, it is beyond appalling that Mr. Rohee can purport to be more knowledgeable about an international matter than the local Guyanese situation, especially an issue that falls under his ministerial portfolio and for which he holds ultimate responsibility. That Mr. Rohee is able to find time to acquaint himself with the case of Boko Haram but not about Alex Griffith’s situation, a young Guyanese citizen, is inexcusable and shows clearly the cockeyed priorities of the Minister. We have had enough of sham ‘solidarity’ and political grandstanding which helps absolutely no one. As the great Bob Marley said- you can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Bring back justice and accountability to Guyana now! Alex Griffith, Colwyn Harding, Dameon Belgrave, Shaquille Grant, and all the other boys and girls of Guyana who have died and suffered at the hands of state officials and authority figures deserve as much justice and attention as the Nigerian schoolgirls!