Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Tonton Macoute
(Aired 8 April 2002)

   In 1957 Francois Duvalier became the president of Haiti the only other Hipc in the Caribbean. To consolidate his power and fearful of another attempted coup [one was attempted in 1958] Duvalier began the systematic destruction of the army and the police force. He converted the most elite members of the army to be an exclusive palace guard to guard him, personally, and within a very short time thereafter, Duvalier converted this palace guard to take control of the entire Haitian military.

    But still fearful of opposition from the population, Duvalier established a unit called the Volunteers for National Security. This unit in time developed into what is now called the tonton makoutes. Now even though the tonton owed its main allegiance to Duvalier, it nevertheless terrorized the citizens of Haiti and operated above the law.

   Duvalier was unconcerned, once they protected him, then all was well in the land. I even emailed Bob Corbett expert and author of several books on the Haitian period 1957 to 1971, and he confirmed that the Tonton operated above the law, were involved in extra judicial killings, drug operations, skulduggery of every description including robbery under arms, house break ins and nearly 30,000 people were affected by their actions.

   Who was this Duvalier? How did he become capable of perpetrating such atrocities on his own people? Incredibly Francois Duvalier was a physician, a doctor, who between the years 1934 to 1946 served in hospitals and clinics all over Haiti, and became a specialist in the tropical disease Yaws, for which he gained the reputation of being a humanitarian and his patients fondly called him PAPA  DOC.  How did a humanitarian doctor called "papa doc" become the most infamous dictator in the Western Hemisphere?   

    Well your guess is as good as mine. But he maintained himself in power by controlling the army, and he terrorized the population into subservience by using the tonton Macoutes the feared national security volunteers.

    Now before you go off telling yourself that Vieira turn historian and gone off he trolley, let me put this in the context I researched it for.

    You are an Indo Guyanese government elected in a country where more than 90 percent of the police and the army are black.

     Since coming to power the you have discovered that you were totally mistaken about running the country by excluding the blacks in the decision making process, you discover that they can march, they riot and they can disrupt things every much as you did by burning sugarcane fields and by calling totally unnecessary strikes in the sugar and the rice industries. Rather than accepting, that you can go nowhere without taking your black brothers along with you, you decide to protect yourself. To do this you look around you, for options. You can't look to the normal police force or the army because they are not your racial kind and you can't bribe them all, so you do the next best thing you create a feared and elite corps of men who you arm to the teeth and who operate to all intents and purposes above the law.... Once they protect you, you turn a blind eye to the other atrocities being perpetrated by them on the rest of the population, The term FEARED black clothes attack force is born, and is used to keep all of us in fear. FEARED black clothes police, ladies and gentlemen. That is the key to this situation, and which has prompted me to make this analogy.

   I am making no claims here ladies and gentlemen, I am simply laying out similarities between our situation today and the one in Haiti in 1959. You decide if it has merit.

   It is always a problem creating these crack bodies whose only mandate is to keep the population under control, whatever the cost, to protect those who are in power, and no one is immune from it. No citizen regardless of color is immune from it. It feeds itself on fear, the SS in Germany under Hitler, the tonton macoutes in Haiti under papa doc, he even incorporated bogeyman voodoo beliefs to make the tonton more feared to guarantee his power base. Since they operate above the law, they deal in drugs, conduct robberies on individuals, are involved in extortion, are paid to carry out agenda by anyone who can pay the price. 

    What is a fact, is that the police in this country have not been discharging their stated function to "Protect and to Serve". And it has nothing to do with being understaffed, or low salaried, I have determined that the amount of police officers we have in this country are more than adequate to give us a far better level of service than they are currently doing. Their powers have however been eroded and marginalised. Our entire legal structure has fallen down, so anyone aggrieved by wrongdoing within such a system has no recourse. People take the law into their own hands in these situations, so there has to be a mechanism to control them, if my analogy is valid under these circumstances and if the feared black clothes police are performing the functions I have identified here, supported by an insecure Government whose only agenda is to protect themselves regardless of the consequences, then all state owned media must now be viewed with the gravest of suspicion, to demonstrate this point let me use the headlines from our two Sunday newspapers April 7th 2002, the Chronicle [state owned, in this country state owned means party in power owned] and the Stabroek news, telling us what transpired at Buxton on Saturday night.

   On Sunday morning the headlines of the Stabreok news tell us and I quote "police shoot Buxton man dead in home" "villagers protest ; roadblocks erected." The Chronicle headlines tell us that quote "man linked to highjackings shot dead in Buxton".. "Police disperse protesters; vehicles attacked, damaged" are we talking about the same story here, ladies and gentlemen? One tells that the man was dragged from his bed with his wife and son and was shot in his own home, the other state owned media house tells us that there was a shootout where Blair shot at the police and they had to defend themselves, a pistol is even photographed for us to see, this EVIDENCE is a six shooter, a .357 magnum, we see in the chronicle's photograph 5 live rounds and one spent one. Look at the Sunday chronicle photograph if you happen to subscribe to that rag, and see it for yourself. Whatever the circumstances of the shootout, Blair could only have fired one round, if indeed he fired any. In stating its case the state owned paper tell us that this was a vicious highjacker who with his two year old son and his wife at his side launched an attack on the police, the fact that the man is yet to be convicted of the highjacking is completely irrelevant to the chronicle, the fact that the police who were breaking down the man's door, had no search warrant and were breaking the law is also irrelevant, under the circumstances even if Blair was indeed the highjacker,, and he had shot at  these men who were breaking the law by forcibly trying to enter his premises.... Police or not, he had every right to shoot at them, the fact that the man and his wife tried to call up the vigilance police station is also conspicuously overlooked by our chronicle. The bottom line is that the black clothes police did not have a search warrant, they nevertheless broke into Blair's premises and killed him, they are therefore guilty of murder. But the most disturbing thing is that the state apparatus is supporting this feared Black clothes squad, they tell us that since the man is SUSPECTED of being a highjacker, it is OK to illegally break down his door and shoot him dead, without benefit of trial, does that sound familiar? It is what the tonton macoute would have done. Those who are going to tell me that the feared black clothes police cannot be allowed to operate in Guyana in 2002 as the Tonton did in Haiti all those years ago, because of the checks and balances we have in this country today, Us embassy, British High commission, human rights organizations, IDB, world bank etc., think again, they may not be able to perpetrate the full atrocities of the tonton, but they are close to anarchy and getting bolder.