Just two days after former Guyanese president Bharrat Jagdeo openly played the race card to rally Indo supporters of the governing party, unidentified gunmen on Tuesday night executed a prominent opposition activist as he campaigned in a sprawling residential suburb outside the city in what is widely being regarded as the first major election violence in the 2015 electoral season.
Courtney Crum Ewing, 40, a businessman and former military officer was shot at least five times as he was using a loud hailer urging people in the Diamond-Grove community to vote out the People’s Progressive Party in general elections set for May 11.
His death has come as no surprise to people who had been paying attention to Crum Ewing, a maverick political activist who had rattled school mate and Attorney General Anil Nandlall by staging nearly 80 days of a one-man protest outside Nandlall’s chambers to protest alleged ills of the governing administration.
His protest also had much to do with an audio recording that the daily Kaieteur News Newspaper had released late last year in which the attorney general was heard threatening violent mayhem on the paper for daring to link him and a relative to a duty free vehicle scandal that had thoroughly embarrassed the cabinet.
Crum Ewing had also beat a few breach of the peace criminal charges by police for staging the protest and had lodged formal complaints with cops about threats to his life.
It all ended in a hail of bullets as he moved around the district using his loudhailer.
News photographs sprawled across newspapers and social media showed him lying in a pool of blood on the roadway, the loud hailer just a yard away and blood flowing in various directions.
National Security Minister Clement Rohee ordered a full and immediate probe into his death but Nigel Hughes, the attorney and leading opposition figure who had stood by Crum Ewing during his criminal trials and had represented him free of cost, called for external investigators to probe his execution, fearing local sleuths would not do a good job and would take orders from politicians.
The APNU-AFC opposition alliance that is likely to defeat the PPP and has threatened to jail all corrupt officials and those with links to professional hitmen, immediately condemned the execution calling it an attempt by government to trigger reactionary protest that it would exploit to its benefit.
Some of the group’s members railed on Facebook and other outlets about a sinister PPP plan to trigger confusion to give it an excuse to postpone the elections.
And in a bizarre twist to all this, Minister Rohee said in his statement that he wondered if the murder had anything to do with the earlier Tuesday swearing in of Police Chief Seelall Persaud.
What the confirmation of a new police chief had to do with the political execution hours later left many baffled as it implied that the opposition would have killed one of its own and most fearless campaigners.
Still, the two major party groups are in full campaign mode and Tuesday night’s execution will certainly raise the stakes just as Jagdeo openly played the race card to rally the 39.5 percent Indo population, some of whom will vote for the coalition and force the PPP to reach out to other groups to win a sixth consecutive term.