from the Vigil from www.waveguyana.org
Outside the President’s Office, Georgetown, Wednesday, April 23,
Since the morning of Thursday, April 17, 2003, Red Thread, supported
by other citizens, has been holding a non-stop, 24-hour a day vigil outside
the Presidential Office on Vlissengen Road, Georgetown.
As women we know that it is mothers who have invested our lives in our
children, and who hurt most when they are harmed in any way.
As women, we know that mothers are usually the ones who lead the fight
for justice for their families and communities.
Red Thread is part of the Global Women’s Strike, a global network
which campaigns for governments to invest in caring not killing. We launched
our vigil with the full support of women and men in the GWS in over 70
countries. As in war in Iraq or elsewhere, it is women and children who
are the first victims of violence.
We were pushed to begin this vigil by the kidnapping, torture, and murder
of 16 year old Joshua (Roy) Bell, and by the authorities’ do-nothingness
in the face of this atrocity. We, like the rest of the world, understand
very well how power works in international relations. We saw that when
a US diplomat was kidnapped at about the same time as Joshua Bell both
government and the main opposition party sprang into action. We are outraged
at the contrast between how the authorities dealt with the kidnapping
of the US diplomat and the kidnapping of Joshua Bell. Not by accident,
in the first case the victim was released and in the second, the victim
was tortured and then murdered, in spite of the ransom paid by his family.
All human life is priceless, not least when it is Guyanese!
In the upsurge of violence in our country, the first child we know of
who was killed was Mervyn Barran of Enterprise. In between that murder
and the murder of Joshua Bell, there have been incidents of kidnapping
and attempted kidnapping of other children, including, recently, a child
in Coldingen and one in Strathspey. The most recent murder was that of
17 year-old Su Zhi Wei of Agricola on April 22, 2003. Before that, there
was the slaying of Yohance Douglas. Other children have been wounded and
damaged, perhaps for life, by witnessing assaults on and the murders of
their parents. And countless others who have not been directly touched
live in fear, especially after the murder of Joshua Bell. When one of
our children doing the ordinary things that teenagers do can be kidnapped
in a busy area of the capital city, what mother will feel her child is
Mr. President, what Guyanese child is safe anywhere?
As an immediate step towards addressing this national crisis, we call
on the President to have a special, single-issue sitting of the National
Assembly urgently convened to hear an official statement from the Minister
of Home Affairs on the situation of violent crime in Guyana with special
reference to the killing of Joshua Bell and more generally, to the safety
of Guyana’s children, and we call on the People’s National
Congress/Reform to set aside its boycott of the National Assembly and
engage in this special sitting.
In the meantime, we will continue to work with other concerned Guyanese
who are pursuing initiatives to restore public safety, and in particular,
the safety of our children.
In that spirit, we invite other citizens to join the vigil.
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The time has come for WAVE to explore political solutions
On March 22, 2003, the women of WAVE met to discuss the way forward for
the organisation. The Saturday afternoon workshop proved a useful opportunity
for members to discuss and re-visit concerns and update members on the
valuable work that the committees have been doing.
From the beginning, one issue at that has been the focus of much lively
debate is whether the group should take “political” action.
On this occasion, when the issue arose there was very little debate -
the overwhelming consensus was that the time has come for WAVE to explore
political solutions. So while the group will remain non-partisan and inclusive
and will continue to work with as broad-based a constituency as possible
a Political Committee was formed.
The committee has met twice since and decided to focus on three areas
for the next two months:
1. Building Networks - WAVE must first organize itself as a group that
cannot be ignored. The group will organize women across race, across age,
across political party and across the country. For the next two months
the political committee will focus on building “waves” across
the country with a special emphasis on including Indo-Guyanese and Amerindian
women. Meetings have been organized in Regions 2, 3, 8, 5 and 10 so far.
Initial discussions with Regional organizers have been positive.
2. Data collection - In addition to mobilizing women around Guyana, The
political committee has approached the Social Partners and the Guyana
Human Rights Association with a view to gathering information about work
dealing with violence that has already been completed. This will be used
as the basis for developing a position and a series of recommendations
3. Action Plan - The political committee will touch base with other groups
such as Social Partners, GHRA, University of Guyana Student Society, the
Private Sector etc to discuss possible areas of collaboration. We hope
that other groups will agree to present a united front on issues of mutual
concern. Members of the committee were part of a delegation that attended
an army briefing and discussion session with the Chief of Staff and several
senior officers of the Guyana Defense Force.