A police officer is drenched in abeer during Phagwa celebrations in Guyana yesterday.

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Major Hindu organisations cancelled their Phagwah celebrations in Guyana yesterday in the wake of rising tensions in the aftermath of last week Monday’s election. Yesterday was a public holiday in Guyana as the country commemorated Holi, the Festival of Colours.

Over time the Guyana National Stadium has become the place to be for Phagwah celebrations as hundreds of people assemble there to celebrate the festivity. However, the much-anticipated event this year at the Guyana National Stadium was cancelled amid growing tensions across the country following last week’s election.

The organiser of the event, Yog Mahadeo, director of Inspire Inc, said it was “with deep regret and tears in my eyes” that he had to announce the cancellation of the event.

“Happy Holi. It is The Holi Season. Initially, I thought we could still celebrate notwithstanding the calling off of the Stadium celebrations. But then I realised how we have allowed hate to control our life and actions… and I cannot celebrate with hate, I cannot celebrate with racism. I cannot celebrate when some of my Hindu brothers and sisters desecrate the Holika burning ceremony with political hate,” Mahadeo said.

“Holi is not about Hate. It is about Good triumphing over evil, Good over bad. Love over hate. Peace over violence,” he stated.

“I decry any priest who allowed such hate at time of worship. Worship is an act of love… how can you hate? Maybe I am wrong, maybe my views are wrong. But I will not celebrate when we’re having hate, intolerance or racism. Holi belongs to everyone. I will not celebrate with anyone who, while celebrating would have hate for others in their heart,” he stated.

Mahadeo called for Holi to be celebrated with “love and reconciliation”.

When Guardian Media visited the Guyana National Stadium yesterday the gates were closed. During our time there, several vehicles pulled up enquiring about the festivities. They left disappointed when they were told by security the event was cancelled.

Other Phagwah events were also called off by several major Hindu organisations yesterday. The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha cancelled its Holi Utsav which was originally scheduled to be held at the Everest Ground. President of the Dharmic Sabha, Dr Bindhya Persaud said the organisation decided to cancel the event due to the post-election tensions in the country.

Pujya Swami Aksharanandaji of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan on the West Coast of Demerara said that over 100 mandirs across the country would not be celebrating the festival.

While the official Phagwah celebrations were cancelled that did not dampen the spirits of those who wanted to commemorate the day. A few villages opted to host their own celebrations instead of the cancellation of the major events.

Seeta’s Bar located on Station Street in Kitty Village held an event on the street with abeer and water flowing. There was also a DJ present.

One of the attendees, John, said he was looking forward to celebrating Phagwah and was happy to see the festival was still being held despite the post-election climate.

“We are Guyanese. We are one people. We should never let politics divide us,” John said while covered with various colours.

The village of Albouystown also held an event where residents used their super soaker guns filled with dye to douse down each other.

In one of the villages, a group of children opted to indulge in a water fight since they did not have abeer.

President David Granger said Holi promotes togetherness.

“It breaks down the barriers of suspicion and insecurity. It is a path towards social cohesion. It enriches the country’s multicultural character,” he said.

He urged all Guyanese “to continue to live in harmony, to eschew hatred and to contribute to the common good by strengthening social cohesion and heightening national consciousness”.

“The celebration of Holi is a joyous occasion and, for Guyanese, it is even more auspicious this year because we are commemorating the nation’s 50th Republic Anniversary,” Granger said.

All attention will turn to the Guyana High Court today. The matter of the injunction filed against the Guyana Election Commission returns to the High Court before Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire at courtroom one.

Senior Counsel Neil Boston has to file his affidavits this morning in response to the injunction by 10.30 am. The court matter will eventually begin at 2 pm.

Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes will be leading the legal team that filed the injunction calling for the verification of votes at Region Four.

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