Police move to keep East Coast road clear

Guyana Chronicle
April 12, 2001

POLICE Commissioner Laurie Lewis yesterday said steps were being taken to keep the East Coast Demerara main road clear for a free flow of traffic and to stop attacks and robberies against innocent people.

In unrest in some villages along the East Coast since the victory of the PPP/C at the March 19 elections, the road has been blocked with burning tyres and other objects, bridges have been burnt and persons attacked and robbed during anti-government protests.

In a statement yesterday, the Police said that between Sunday and Tuesday, there have been several incidents on the East Coast "which resulted in considerable inconvenience to law-abiding citizens as well as damage to roadways and bridges".

Public and privately-owned properties were destroyed and robberies committed on members of the travelling public, it said.

These incidents occurred mainly in the villages of Buxton, Friendship, Paradise, Haslington, Golden Grove, Nabaclis, Victoria, Belfield and Ann's Grove, police reported.

The statement said persons blocked roads in these villages using materials such as large rocks, tree trunks, derelict vehicles, wood and other materials, which in many instances were then set on fire.

"More than 40 blockages were erected over the period along the East Coast Demerara, of which over 30 were set on fire", the statement said.

These fires have caused extensive damage to the road surface at some points, police noted.

"These blockages resulted in a build up of motor vehicles at the various parts.

"During the build up, a number of persons took the opportunity to rob occupants of the vehicles claiming that they need money to support the struggle.

"Police ranks were stoned resulting in injuries to five ranks.

"In one incident an unarmed Policeman at Buxton was attacked by a group of persons armed with pieces of wood and bricks.

"He, however, managed to elude them and made his way back to the Police Station with minor injuries", the statement said.

Police said persons also hurled missiles at motor vehicles stopped by the blocks and physically attacked drivers.

Several vehicles were severely damaged, including a Police vehicle, the windscreen of which was shattered.

Two privately-owned motor-lorries were set on fire and completely destroyed when the drivers were forced to abandon them, police said.

The statement noted that during Tuesday night, the old post office building at Ann's Grove was set on fire.

Quick response by the Police managed to save the building. Two ranks received injuries when a stairway on which they were standing collapsed, police said.

A number of persons have been arrested for varying offences including causing public terror.

"The Police will continue to take appropriate action to arrest these unlawful activities on the East Coast of Demerara and elsewhere.

"Members of the public who have no legitimate business are advised to stay home.

"The force calls on persons to desist from these unlawful activities and urges law-abiding citizens to assist where necessary in preventing unlawful activities as well as report promptly any such incidents", the statement said.

Police, Army to maintain patrols tomorrow
- asks groups to help

THE police said yesterday that reports coming to the attention of the Security Forces suggest that attempts will be made to turn tomorrow into another `Black Friday'.

"The Guyana Police Force supported by the Guyana Defence Force will send out patrols throughout the day", a statement said.

"Members of the Private Sector Commission, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Guyana Manufacturers' Association, Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry and indeed all members of the public and law abiding citizens are asked to support the efforts of the Security Forces in this preventive patrolling effort", the statement said.

Georgetown was swept by fires and violence on a Friday dubbed `Black Friday' in the early 1960s.

Ministry heartened by turnout of public servants despite instability

PERMANENT Secretary in the Public Service Ministry, Dr Nanda Kishore Gopaul yesterday said he is heartened by the response shown so far by public servants towards their jobs with a 90 to 95 per cent turnout despite the current disturbances, street protests and instability in the country.

"We are heartened by the response so far from the public servants, they are sticking to their task and they are putting their shoulders to the wheel," Gopaul said.

The situation in the public service is normal as on any other working day despite being faced with some difficulties and setbacks due to the current situation, he said.

He said some of these difficulties arise due to "some degree of coercive mechanisms deployed by political activists as well as some of the trade union leaders seeking to reach out to some workers within the Public Service and threatening them to take industrial action..."

Gopaul said there are also setbacks in the form of transportation to and from work by public servants.

"In the mornings they (public servants) are faced with difficulties in terms of transportation due to blockages on the roads on the East Coast of Demerara and in the afternoons they are faced with difficulties at the car park as a result of some unsavoury behaviour which is occurring around the car parks where people are being robbed and vehicles are not there."

He said as a consequence of this, the Public Service is faced with some difficulties in not having public servants working as scheduled.

"We have some difficulties in terms of people being present at work on time (that is 8:00) or be present at work after 3:30 because of transportation difficulties and Heads of Department have had to take that judgment to send people home earlier than scheduled", he said.

"You can't keep your people in here knowing that the car park will be swarmed or that there wouldn't be transportation or that traffic would be held up as a result of blockages on the East Coast or elsewhere."

Gopaul also said there is one very unpleasant situation developing in that a number of calls have been received at ministries and government departments saying that `bombs' are placed in them.

He condemned this action saying it is disrupting work at these ministries and departments.

He said these `hoax' calls in ministries resulted in work being disrupted and staff have to go outside while the security checks are being made.

Gopaul also repeated his condemnation of the coercive activities by political elements and trade union activists calling workers at different ministries and threatening them and seeking to have them out from the job to join the other protestors on the streets.

"...so the public servants ought to be commended for the manner in which they are responding to their task but they are faced with some difficulties as a result of the instability which prevail in the country at this point in time," he said.

"It is as any normal day, the level of turnout that you would have had is the same as any normal day," he said.

"...but it's `not business as usual' to use the terms of the politicians," he added.

Police seek public help in death of woman, city fires

THE Police are asking anyone with information to assist them with the alleged fatal shooting of a woman whose body was discovered at the corner of Robb and Wellington streets in Georgetown during the city fire Monday afternoon.

The woman has been identified as Donna McKinnon.

A Police statement yesterday also appealed to anyone having information into the shooting and the fire which gutted several buildings on Regent and Robb streets to contact with them at once.

McKinnon, 43, of Lot 3 Tucville Squatting Area, Georgetown, was shot under the left side breast and on a leg.

Nurses at the Georgetown Hospital said McKinnon whose face was covered with ants, was taken there at around 18:30 hrs Monday in a Police vehicle.

She was pronounced dead before arrival by doctors on duty and a post mortem examination has since been ordered.

The Police statement stressed that all information given will be treated with strict confidentiality.

Persons can call telephones numbers - 226-8869, 225-3650, 226-1326, 226-1389, 226-7476, 225-2317, 225-3052, 226-2069, 225-2200 or 225-6411 or make immediate contact with the nearest police station.

WPA calls for Commission of Enquiry into post-elections events

Pull Quote: "We appeal for a stop to the behaviour, which puts fear into the minds of people innocently passing through your villages by day or by night. Such actions are not revolution. They are backward. The chief persons affected are Indian Guyanese females and children" - WPA

THE Working People's Alliance (WPA) yesterday supported a call for a Commission of Enquiry into the post-elections events, saying it must be "considered by all sincere actors in the scene who have nothing to hide".

In a statement, the party said referred to events in and outside the city, apart from Monday's picket, noting that in the rush of events, many incidents have gone by without comment.

"Street robbery has been staged so as to link itself with the marches and other protests carried out by persons who do not carry out street robbery. Leaders to the protests must at once and regularly say as we do now, whether they approve or do not approve of this unlawful, provocative and violent action. We condemn Police violence, but not only Police violence. We condemn all violence against any person who did not attack others physically," the WPA declared.

It pointed to other problems in rural areas where the scene has "changed from the time when young people were resisting the Police who abused them."

Speaking as a party, which was not supported by the masses of these villages in the elections, the WPA noted its vote was no more than two per cent of the electorate. "Therefore, we are in no position to speak to people with political authority. Yet, we have a message, which is the same as in the 1970s. People may take it or leave it.

"We appeal for a stop to the behaviour, which puts fear into the minds of people innocently passing through your villages by day or by night. Such actions are not revolution. They are backward. The chief persons affected are Indian Guyanese females and children.

"If your own race is in a majority in one place, always remember that it can be a minority in another village or another place, in places you do not even know. By acting violently against strangers, or people who have a right to pass along public roads in your own village you are endangering people you do not know and cannot help.

"Every Guyanese, young and old, of all races, must be free to walk peacefully and those who threaten them are starting off something they cannot control. We urge serious discussion by dissatisfied classes of persons about how best to get problems solved," the WPA said.

It referred to a letter in Stabroek News and a statement reportedly made on Channel Nine advising certain persons how to seek protection. "Such a call, out of the blue, and without stated provocation, is an act of extremism and it is hoped that the political party implicated will clarify its position on this threat, if it was made. Such a threat is the most naked threat made in peace time anywhere and cannot be ignored. Again it endangers thousands of innocent people from every walk of life.

"To those on both sides who are using the media to worsen the already sensitive race relations, we say that the situation can get much, much worse unless the drift to madness is halted now," the WPA said.

GECOM to commission review, audit of elections

THE Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has decided to commission a systems review and audit of the electoral process, which it implemented for the conduct of the March 19 general and regional elections.

"This review and audit will focus on issues, including the official list of electors; the production and distribution of national identification cards; the process of voting; and the declaration of results," the Commission said in a statement.

It said it expects that the findings of the review and audit would provide answers to many of the concerns expressed. The findings should also contribute to the streamlining and strengthening of the Commission and its secretariat's capacity to fulfill its Constitutional mandate.

The Commission has approached the donor group for assistance in identifying an internationally reputable organisation to conduct the review and audit in an expeditious manner.

The statement said the donor group has responded favourably to the request and a representative is expected in Guyana in the second half of this month to define the scope of work in preparation for the team to conduct the audit and review in May.

Political parties have been notified of the exercise and will be invited to indicate areas of particular concern. These will be considered for inclusion in the terms of reference for the project.