City struggles to get back to normalcy

Guyana Chronicle
March 30, 2001

STREET protestors who triggered unrest in Georgetown this week after the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the March 19 elections, did not show up yesterday.

But with Chief Justice Desiree Bernard still to give her decision in the People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) legal bid to block the swearing-in of President Bharrat Jagdeo, the city struggled to get back to normalcy.

The fear of violence from street protests was still in the air and the city was far from the usual bustle and crowds that are its lifeline during the work week.

Store owners and other business people operating within the commercial areas of Georgetown are convinced that their trade has been dampened by the recent disturbances.

Police said all was quiet but though things seemed to be getting back to normal, business people complained "business dead..."

"Nothing ain't selling...", one store owner said.

Store operators said people seemed to be going about their usual business but they are not getting sales and many have opted to keep their doors closed.

Several stores in the city remained barred and many continue to leave their doors partially open.

Most vendors in the municipal markets, including Stabroek and Bourda, are still staying away from their stalls.

These markets were almost empty of shoppers yesterday, usually one of the busiest days during the week, and sellers who turned out for business complained that they are not getting sales.

Others reportedly closed their stalls and left a few hours after opening since people have not been shopping.

At the Bourda Market, one stall owner said she did reasonably well yesterday but noted that many of her customers were stocking up goods for the next few days.

She said one of her customers told her he has no intention of walking the streets of Georgetown until he is certain that things are back to normal.

Another vendor said she is only out for business because she has perishable goods and that when those are finished, she will not be restocking for the time being.

"Until I know everything alright, I ain't buying more things to a big waste of time. I only selling because the things might spoil and I got to make back me money..."

According to the seller, many other vendors have similar views and some have even stated that they will not be selling until after the Chief Justice gives her decision.

Some store owners noted that unless the air is cleared of the conflicts among the political parties, members of the public and the police, their business will be affected.

For the past two weeks, there has been rising tension and fear in and around the capital city due to several fierce confrontations between police ranks and protestors outside the High Court.

Police were forced to use tear gas and fire pellets to break up crowds which in most instances pelted the ranks with bottles and stones.

Supporters of the PNC/R gathered several days in the vicinity of the High Court building and were involved in clashes with police ranks.

However, there were no incidents Wednesday when PNC/R leaders headed a band of about 250 protestors around some city streets demanding, among other things, an explanation from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on why some voters were not allowed to cast ballots on March 19.

Several parties said their supporters were affected by the problems that prevented them from voting and President Jagdeo has said he expects the independent GECOM will be offering an explanation to the electorate.

A rampage by protestors Monday when groups charged through city streets, attacking vehicles and robbing and beating several persons seemed to have left its mark on the city.

Store owners on that day hurriedly shut their doors while shoppers and other citizens quickly joined vehicles to get out of harm's way.

"...not only the vendors seem to be afraid to come out and continue their business, but other residents also seem to be afraid of leaving their homes", a customer said.

The woman, who was shopping in a dismal Stabroek Market, said she does not even have the will to shop in the city because the stalls in the market, for instance, are closed and other places allow their stocks to run down.

She said she also plans to stock her cupboard with the next week's rations and just wait for things to get back to normal.

But mini-bus drivers feel that this may not be soon.

They too complained that people are not travelling as is normal and that the bus parks seem to have more buses that passengers.

Traffic was redirected in some mini-bus parks when police erected barricades in some parts of the city during the court hearing.

This has been brought back to normal.

One driver felt that there has been a major clamp down in the activities following the recent unrest and that people seem to be discouraged from carrying out their daily activities.

He said persons prefer to stay at home rather than be caught in the crossfire between the police and mobs.

Several persons have been hospitalised with pellet wounds following some of these clashes.