There will always be moments in our history when silence will say more about us than any tongue or pen. For those who have remained silent on the reported baton rape of 23-year-old Colwyn Anthony Harding, history will preserve you as that side which either lacked humanity, was too stifled by fear or simply as not having enough courage to stand and demand that the system produces what it should for every man, woman and child in our country.
Many pens and tongues have condemned the alleged torture of Harding by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) rank. But still this many has not been nearly enough. I have long added my voice to these and now my pen will address those things which have been leaping to life beneath the surface of the Harding tragedy.
There have been those among you who have come to me in outrage. But your outrage has not been because of your young brother’s suffering. It has been a product of what I can only imagine is your blindness; your inability to see how you have allowed a political system to rob you of humanity and enslave you.
Where is the need to create so much trouble over this? This is what you have asked me. If I did not answer you then, it is because I did not trust myself to deal with you gently. But here is my answer now: when we fight our fear, when we break the silence, when we speak for Colwyn Harding, when we demand that the Ministry of Home Affairs and the GPF act efficiently, when we note the lack of and demand proper health care, we do not only speak for one man. We speak for our children, our people, and our country. In speaking for Harding, we speak less for him and more for ourselves.
When allegations that Harding had been attacked in his bed at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) began circulating, some of you came to me in disbelief. There is no way that such a thing could have happened, you said. Some of you even suggested that Dr. Melissa Ifill and others who have been working tirelessly to help Harding and his mother had “made it up”.
Why would you believe such a thing? Perhaps, it is because you have not seen the things in our country that some of us have seen, have lived, and have wished we did not ever see or experience. When I began my career in journalism at 18, I became intimately acquainted with the GPHC. Although the place has had a face lift since then it will forever remain in my memory as a prime example of the human’s disregard for his fellow being.
If in your mind you think the GPHC is a well secured institution then I advise you to rid yourself of that notion. From my own experience, I can tell you that it is one of the easiest places to walk in and out of at will. So when Dr. Ifill and others make these reports they know what they are saying. It is impossible to make up such atrocities.
Besides, I am well acquainted with Dr. Ifill as a lecturer at the University of Guyana. I salute women like her, women like Sharon Harding, who have stood against the silence. These are women once you have looked into their eyes you see the burning passion for truth and people and country. It is a rare thing to find courage in a man or woman among us.
And finally, there have been questions about whether the GPF rank who reportedly abused Harding may have been moved to do so by racist sentiment. Even now, I cannot begin to comprehend what moves a man to do such a vile thing to another being like himself. If racism makes up the sum of why Harding became a victim then I can only hope that our people can rise from this abyss.
Our history is a long and bitter one full of racial tension. It is easy for us to begin to hate each other. Sometimes it is hard to remember that one man’s actions is not a reflection of what lies in the hearts of those who look like him. I have felt for Colwyn Anthony Harding, there are many like me who feel for him. There are many of us who look at him and see a son, a brother, a friend. I am certain that despite the face of her son’s tormentor, Sharon Harding will still look at me and see a daughter of her country, nothing less. These things give me hope.
Last Friday I was late for the peaceful picket which took place outside the Commissioner’s office at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary. Only a handful of Guyanese were there huddled under umbrellas but still my heart felt hope. About one third of those present looked like me and because of that too my heart felt hope. But my heart faltered for a second because I did not see anyone else close to my age but then I remembered those beautiful young women who picketed near parliament a few days ago and I felt hope.
At least there are some who history will remember as having had courage, as conquering fear, as souls who stood for what was right. And this is what it means to stand for Colwyn Anthony Harding. It means doing what is right. Some of us have understood this. Still, we are not nearly enough but at least there is hope.