Political tension in Guyana rose to new heights following the Nov. 28 general elections after riot police on Tuesday opened fire on opposition protesters sending nearly a dozen to hospital, as well as students and a teacher from a nearby primary school who were forced to inhale tear gas smoke that wafted into the school, as officers went on the rampage in the city.
The surprise attack by police using rubber bullets and shotgun pellets came as about 400 supporters of the opposition APNU tried to stage a peaceful protest through the city disputing the recent election results, and after conflicting signals by police as to the legality of the march.
The APNU thinks that honest computation of the results will give it several more seats to the 26 it won to the PPP’s 32 and the AFC’s 7. The latter two now control parliament for the first time in history, while the PPP has the presidency.
As protesters headed west to the city from the Square of The Revolution, 50 yards from the Presidential Secretariat, police on loud hailers deemed the march illegal and eventually let go a torrent of rubber bullets and shotgun pellets at the protesters, injuring about a dozen including immediate past Army Chief of Staff Brigadier-General Edward Collins, APNU youth leader and attorney James Bond, and 79-year-old diehard supporter Sarah Johnson.
The incident came a day after new President Donald Ramotar had sworn in his 20-person cabinet that included five ’new faces’ and the surprise disappearance of the tourism, trade and commerce ministries.
That police had ignored the presence of the well-known Collins who retired a little over two years ago and opened fire indiscriminately, lifting the stakes to a new level. Collins and Bond were also thrown into a police truck bleeding and hauled them to the central police station a mile away.
They were later allowed to get treatment at a private clinic owned by a APNU doctor and former legislator and then returned to the station where they were released without charges.
As APNU supporters and Afro-Guyanese in general expressed outrage that the Indo-led PPP had no qualms ordering a group of mostly Black cops to unload bullets on APNU supporters, its leader David Granger and Collins made it clear that the “struggle will continue” to have the results properly verified and for some form of power-sharing arrangement to cater to the more than 50 percent of the voters who cast ballots against the PPP.
“They are creating a crisis where none should exist,” said Granger, a retired army commander and fellow brigadier, flanked by campaign manager, ex-Colonel Joe Harmon and ex- Captain Fitzroy Corlette of Conyers, Georgia.
“This is a clear case of overreaction by the police as there was no threat to any building or to persons. There was no reason to use this level of force,” Granger said as a blood-soaked Collins stood behind the gates in the police compound.
Meanwhile, the clearly pro-PPP Private Sector Commission this week said it does not support opposition and other calls for power sharing, arguing that he is confident it would not work in the Caribbean trade-bloc nation whose politics are divided strictly along racial lines between Indo- and Afro-Guyanese, the two major racial groups in the country.