Last Updated on Saturday, 14 January 2023, 9:51 by Denis Chabrol
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Aubrey Norton said his party did not respond militantly to the recent demolition of houses at Mocha, East Bank Demerara because of that idea was not floated, the layout of that village and fear that persons could have been injured by police.
“No one approached me to say we need to be more militant,” he said. Turning his attention to overseas-based Online advocates of wide-scale protests, he said the PNCR in Guyana has to consult with the affected residents of that village for their benefit. “For a lot of the commentators Online etc. many of them- we need to look at who are at home and who are abroad- because a lot of people abroad will say ‘ be militant, do this, break up the country etc.- but we have got to engage our people in Mocha and work with them to decide what is best for them,” he said.
Mr Norton said lawyers would soon be filing a case in the High Court to seek redress for those who were living on Cane View, Mocha but have since taken up government land and housing offers or remained and had their houses demolished. Government has said the occupants were squatting on a government reserve that is part of a road from Eccles to Great Diamond, but the PNCR and its affiliates have maintained that the land is owned by descendants of freed enslaved Africans who had purchased the area collectively.
He also defended the overall low-keyed opposition protests, saying that generally the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration has driven fear into its opponents. “They have driven fear into this entire society . Sometimes we miss that the PPP rule by fear,” he said.
Regarded in many circles as a key advocate and well-known organiser of massive protests in the 1990s, ordinary PNCR supporters had expected Mr Norton to embark on such political action to address concerns about the electoral system, high cost of living, demolition of houses, and the overall governance of Guyana. However, he suggested the need to be wary of a repeat of being labelled “young thugs, young turks, all kinds of description.” “Some of the people that are talking about militancy now were making the same comments
However, the PNCR Leader cited the police gunning down of three protestors in Linden during protests as an example of the risks associated with militant action. “Future struggles are informed by past struggles. We saw in Linden a few years ago the police preparedness to slaughter three citizens of Linden and a lot of people, who talk about militancy, got nowhere close to condemning the police and taking the actions that are necessary to ensure that the police understand that what they did has consequences,” Mr Norton said. The three residents of Linden were shot and killed in July 2012 when police opened fire on a large number of persons who blocked the Mackenzie-Wismar bridge as part of a massive protest against a proposed hike in electricity rates that the opposition had initially agreed to.
The PNCR Leader said he was also wary of falling into a trap of the the mainly Indo-Guyanese backed People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) provoking conflict with the largely Afro-Guyanese PNCR. “I believe that this government is seeking to do things to ensure that there is a clash between the African Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese; a clash whish they believe will serve their interest,” said Mr Norton a Political Scientist. He said militancy would be done sensibly rather than put people’s lives at risk. “While I am prepared to be militant and to lead people into protests, I think that we have to be strategic and we do not want a situation unnecessarily our people are murdered.
Dealing specifically with Mocha, he pointed out that that village is a virtually isolated community off the East Bank Demerara Public Road and “there are certain disadvantages when you are dealing with armed forces when a community is isolated.” He said while people were mobilised, that community was not one where thousands of persons could have been sent to
Despite concerns about a lack of militancy by the PNCR, Mr Norton his crediting his one-year long tenure as party leader with a number of achievements including the restoration of education and training in the party, computerised its accounts, forming party groups, increased community activism, reestablishment of the social services unit, recruitment of new and young leadership rehabilitation of the PNCR’s headquarters in Sophia, improvement of public relations, and re-engagement of the international community.
As regards his internal election campaign promise for the removal of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Retired Justice Claudette Singh and GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud, he said that “it is not an event, is a process.”
Mr Norton had also campaigned internally to block the break-up of electoral district Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) into four sub-districts, but he on Thursday said he was now satisfied that it would not amount to the creation of separate districts. “We were told that it was going to be broken up and that Region Four will not be one region. It means that what is now Region Four will become three regions. It turned out that that is not the case. What, as I understand it from the legislation, is Region Four continues to be one region…,” he said.
Previously, Mr Norton had insisted that government’s break-up of District Four was intended to create an electoral advantage for the incumbent PPPC. Government has since gone ahead and also split Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands) and Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) into sub-districts.