Monday, December 27, 2004

Report on the March of Raizal Natives of San Andres on 19 November 2004

On Friday, November 19, the Raizal People marched the streets of San Andres Island, the capital of the Archipelago of San Andres, Providence and Kathleena. It was a Prayer-Walk, accompanied by slogans of protest related to respect toward their human rights, and specially concerning their rights to Self-determination. Claims were made against the territorial displacement the native people of the Archipelago are suffering as a result of the unending neo-colonial policies of the Colombian State, involving overpopulation, corruption, persecution, genocide, cultural assimilation, etc.

The march was successful. For the long period the native people had not made a demonstration, it was pretty good. Since the year 2002, the time tear-gas was used upon them by the Colombian Forces, affecting old folks and children, at a Sunday Afternoon Outdoor Prayer Meeting, when they protested against the suspension of their Governor Dr. Ralph Newball, they had ceased from making demonstrations

There were some 1000+ people, even though they are accustomed to have demonstrations with thousands of people participating. But the most interesting thing is certainly the standing commitment of all those who were present: men, women, youth and children.

The best of all is that, there were, at least one foreign "journalist" present. Some foreign tourists (Canadians, etc.) also joined in to ask questions and to learn more about the “existence” of the Native People of the Archipelago, and the problems they are facing by the illtreatments imposed upon them by the Colombian State. Some of them accompanied the demonstration while filming and taking photos.

There were lots of Colombian Police and Security Force (DAS) filming the Prayer Walk. It is seen that they have nothing else to do on these islands. And it is most certain that they will harass the foreigners that took photos and filmed the event, whenever they arrive at the airport on their departure.

Pastor Raymond Howard, Vice-president of AMEN-SD, was in the front line leading the crowd as it marched from the Mount Zion Baptist Church (Perry Hill) through the streets of the section of North End, in front of the many commercial stores and hotels, in front of the governmental offices, offices of justice, police station, etc. He walked around with a large walking stick, as Moses did. He was accompanied by his son, by Jairo Rodriguez, Eduardo Peterson and others. He showed faith, he showed determination, and he showed a firm belief in what he was doing. Then came near behind in a next row following, was Pastor Alberto Gordon, President of AMEN-SD, then Pastor German McNish, Professor Oakley Forbes, Professor Dulph Mitchell, Mr. Luis McNish (SAISOL Foundation), Pastor Ullis O’Neill, Pastor Stimson Pomare, Pastor Enrique Rodriguez, the Pastor of the Christian Mission Church of North End, Job Saas (INFAUNAS Foundation), Juvencio Gallardo (KETNA), Harry McNish, Leno Duffis (Hill Farmers), capitan Olige Mitchell, and a lot of other people.

The demonstration was carried out in a peaceful manner. During the walk, they stopped at four different locations to pray. There were shouts of many slogans of protest and plea for justice, and for self-determination.

There were lots of elders, some walking, and others riding in the many buses that were provided for their transport that followed right behind the crowd. Amongst the crowd, you could distinguish Mr. Rozentan “Jim” Williams Stephens, an 86 year old man, who decided to state his voice of protest, that the young generation of the Raizal People may have a dignified life and may recover the lands and the territory of which the community was dispossessed and displaced by the Colombian State. There was also, Mr. Bristol “Little man” Pomare Watson of 84 years, who could scarcely walk, due to arthritis, but he was determined to still try to show everyone on which side he was firmly standing.

The youth was also present at the march and so were the children and a host of women, who could not hide their despair as they prayed in favor of the struggle which should help to guarantee a better future for their children.

The farmers and seamen were there also. Mr. Felix Mitchell Jr., Carlos Pusey and Bill Francis were aboard a pick-up with loud-speakers, and led the crowd in the shouting and “singing” of slogans and hymns of praise. The demonstration ended with a concentration of the crowd, in front of the Coral Palace (Local Government Offices) where many prayers were uttered. They finally ended with the collection of an offering to help sponsor Mr. Peter Bent’s radio program, “Clear Talks” The only radio program in English.

You could clearly distinguish the absence of fear on the faces of the people and the pride in themselves as they stood up publicly for their rights to SELF-DETERMINATION.

Finally, Pastor Raymond Howard, encouraged the crowd to bear in mind that the struggle has to continue and informed them about the many demonstrations that will have to be made. He invited all the Raizal people to get back "on the streets" to stand up for their rights to dignity and freedom, which can only be attained by the means of Self-Determination.

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