Remembering the Ballot Box Martyrs…
Let us be united and inspired
TOMORROW, JULY 16, we will be commemorating the brutal murder of our two exemplary Comrades Bholanauth Parmanand and Jagan Ramessar. These two young men were ruthlessly and brutally gunned down as they were among their villagers who were struggling for free and fair elections in Guyana.
On that fatal day July 16, 1973, forty-one years ago, Bholanauth Permanand and Jagan Ramessar were shot and killed by a Guyana Defence Force Officer. Guyanese were fully aware of the People’s National Congress’ wicked approach to National Elections, specifically, their heinous intentions to rig the elections. Investigations by the Justice Dhanessar Jhappan Commission of Inquiry revealed the high likelihood of a PPP victory if the Elections were run in a free and fair manner. The Commission cited the massive public meetings held by the People’s Progressive Party and the overwhelming public display of support for Dr. Cheddi Jagan as evidence of this. The PNC, in order to ensure their victory by any means necessary, deployed the security forces, both army and police, to all parts of the country.
In addition to the regular strength at the Police Stations in Berbice, a battalion was deployed from the Guyana Defence Force under Captain Johnson.
Captain Johnson had his headquarters in the Compound of the Central Police Station in New Amsterdam. Captain Johnson’s men were further broken up into smaller groups and a platoon under the command of Lieutenant Henry was sent to the Upper Corentyne on the 7th June, 1973. The section consisted of two Sergeants, three Corporals, five Lance Corporals and nine Privates, that is twenty men in all, including Lieutenant Henry. The platoon pitched camp at No. 51 Backdam and remained there until the 19th June, 1973. From there they went to Plantation Skeldon, remaining there until the 27th June, 1973 when they moved on to No. 63 and bivouacked on the beach. On the 14th June, 1973, they left No. 63 Beach and set up camp in the compound of the No. 51 Police Station. They had with them self-loading rifles, submachine guns, tear smoke grenades and steel helmets.
‘Bholanauth Parmanand and 17-year-old Jagan Ramessar were shot by armed agents of the PNC dictatorship at No. 63 Village, Corentyne during the 1973 Elections while peacefully protesting the illegal removal of the ballot boxes from the place of poll at the end of voting’
Yours truly worked on that polling day in Pouderoyen, and as we were coming out at 5:30 a.m. I recalled seeing GDF soldiers crawling on the roadside with their guns.
A physical manifestation of the PNC’s heinous intention to terrorize the population was unleashed in the form of thugs, police and the Army.
It is not by chance that Private London of the Guyana Defence Force was later known to Guyanese as “Blackie”! He was one of the masterminds among the criminal gangs that terrorized the Guyanese people. “Blackie” was killed in a shootout with the police and the PNC draped his coffin with the National Flag and gave him a PNC farewell funeral.
The 16th of July 1973, with Corporal Collins, Privates Mc Kenzie, Layne and London (Blackie) of the Guyana Defence Force Sergeant Ross and Police Constable Seecharran of the Police Force, Lieutenant Henry took along with him tear smoke grenades, respirators, steel helmets, two submachine guns, rifles and bayonets. He himself was armed with one of the submachine guns. Corporal Collins had the other.
The PNC thugs with all their armed might descended on the Corentyne with the clear intention to take full control of the ballot boxes and remove the representatives of other three political parties from around the ballot boxes.
Bholanauth Parmanand was killed and his dear wife and four children had to endure the death of the breadwinner of their home as their loving husband and father was ripped from them in the most brutal manner possible.
Young Jagan Ramessar was shot and killed and the Army threw him in their vehicle and drove him around as he was kicked and stamped upon. He was paraded to send a message to the people in Berbice.
Approximately five hours later, after his corpse was unspeakably desecrated, he was taken to New Amsterdam Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Jagan Ramessar, only eighteen-years-old, was brutally murdered and his parents and other relatives are today still crying.
Parmanand’s immediate family and his comrades, forty-one years later, still vividly recall the unbelievably brutal and monstrous debacle that was the 1973 elections.
My Dear Comrade Rishi Ram Motie and his friends tearfully recounted for me what they witnessed on that day. Motie suffered a broken nose. His body was black and blue as he was cuffed and kicked. Scores of persons were badly beaten and threatened. Families were humiliated and separated. Rishi Ram Mote is still alive and he is a genuine activist with the PPP.
During the campaign before July 16th it was clear that the People’s Progressive Party meetings attracted massive support while the PNC had a sprinkling of people. Motie, as he sobbed, told me that when the election results were announced and the PNC was the winning Party, nobody accepted the results. The PNC terrorists continued to terrorize the Berbicians as hundreds of people fled their homes and went across to Suriname, while others went into hiding for weeks and months. As a result, thousands of Berbicians and other Guyanese were forced to leave Guyana.
As we celebrate and recognize that our two comrades made the supreme sacrifice in the fight for free and fair elections, Mr. Motie said that he is disappointed and worried to see some people who were on our side only recently are today sitting in the Parliament with some of those who were in the Army and are fully aware of how brutal the PNC was towards the Guyanese people.
As we are preparing to celebrate the heroic memories of Martyrs Ramessar and Bholanauth, let us call on all Berbicians and Guyanese to struggle to stop all forms of rigging of elections in Guyana.
Guyanese must never forget that many eminent persons such as Dr. Walter Rodney were assassinated and murdered during the dark days of the PNC rule. Today, we must draw strength, unite and work together for the maintenance and further development of the democracy we now enjoy.
We must ensure that the memories of Bholanauth Parmanand and Jagan Ramessar live on in us and let their sacrifice inspire us to rally with Comrade Cheddi Jagan’s People’s Progressive Party.
As we prepare for General and Regional Elections let us walk the walk, house-to-house and see that every voter’s name is on the voters list. Let us live and work for a better Guyana! Long live Bholanauth and Ramessar!
(By Neil Kumar)
We shall never forget. May their souls rest in peace!