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Equating State Violence with the Resistance it engenders is wrong

Professor David Hinds.

Professor David Hinds.

My critique of State Violence against citizens since Independence, including those who oppose the government has understandably enraged opinion on both sides of our ethno-political divide. The two opinions have one thing in common—they both contend that the state under their party’s watch was reacting to violence perpetrated against the State. That line is not new; these proponents may not realise that they are in fine company.

The Plantocracy said that the 1763 Rebellion and the 1823 Revolt wereviolence against the state. In both instances, they proceeded to execute the “bad boys” in gruesome fashion. Rodney, Koama, Waddell, Crum Ewing and others were bad boys and girls like Accabreh and Quamina and were executed in similarly gruesome fashion. The Colonial Masters referredto the 1930s Uprisings, which struck the final blows for Anglophone Caribbean Independence, as violence against the State. The Colonial State in Guyanasuspended the constitution in 1953 and accused Burnham and Jagan of, among other things, fomenting violence against the State. The French Colonials, in the wake of the Haitian Revolution, exacted over $30 billion from the Haitians for violence against the State.

People have risen up against State and Government excesses from the time “Noah was in short pants.” That human right is enshrined in some constitutions. Some call it a God-given right. Others call it Resistance. One may disagree with the method of resistance, but equating State Violence with the resistance it engenders can only be put down to political posturing and/or maybe ignorance of the nature of States.

We are in the presenceof cherry-picking which State Violence to condemn—PPP diehards condemn PNC State Violence and PNC diehards condemn PPP State Violence. Both sides deny there was State violence under their party. That’s why Guyana’s politics is so messed up. But some of us have the satisfaction of knowing that we pushed back against Government Overreach and State Violence under the PNC and the PPP and will do so again if this current government walks that road. In fact, we are not waiting for the State to strike; we are urging vigilance now. When you go through that experience of standing up to all State Violence, your conscience is clear because you know that that scourge cuts across party and ethnicity.

Up till May 15, the WPA, to which I belong, did not have any control of the State—that is, they were not part of government. They now are. And if this government engages in violence against opponents and the citizenry at large, they, the WPA, would have to bear responsibility and they will have to contend with the voice of this member.  In the meantime, I continue to appeal to government and the country as a whole to stand against State Violence.

Let me end with this. We have to critique the tactics and approaches used by opposition forces in their resistance to Government and State excesses over the years. I will have a lot to say when that time comes. But I will never excuse State Violence by making the argument that the State resorted to violence because the opposition and the people rose up against their excesses.

More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website Send comments to [email protected]

  • Emile_Mervin

    The saying, ‘One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist’ aptly describes the dilemma societies face when civil society groups agitating for change as part of their inalienable rights, move from passive resistance to civil disobedience to civil unrest or, sometimes, worse.

    Nelson Mandela epitomized that saying, as he languished in jail fighting for a right he and the world knew was right, but because of his race, the White world gave him no support. Compare that to how the West, led by America, forcibly installed the Israeli government in May 1948. I am not anti-Israel; only highlighting how the White world treated with rights through the prism of race.

    A government that denies people their rights is a lawless government, and a lawless government opens the door for lawlessness against it.

    The PNC rigged elections, which were illegal acts, and any attempt by civil society to unseat the PNC was not illegal. Walter Rodney’s fight, though poorly informed in strategy, was no worse than Burnham’s illegal occupation of power.

    The PPP was freely elected, but became criminally corrupt as it broke laws and facilitated others who also broke the laws, and any attempt to unseat it was not illegal. The so-called Freedom Fighters fight could have been dubbed reasonable in light of the PPPs racial discrimination and exceedingly criminally corrupt behavior, but the strategy of attacking innocent and unarmed Indians to get at the PPP was a bizarre strategy that earned the fighters the label of terrorists who won no right thinking supporters.

    Thankfully, free elections saw the ouster of both the PNC in 1992 and the PPP in 2015, which means that civil society had to preserve, protect and promote democracy from the ground up and not leave this process exclusively to any party or politician to make work. The power to change government lies in the hands of the people. Cherish that right, because that’s the first collective right to go before dictatorship ensues.