East Coast, city commuters travel freely
`Cross bun', kite sales suffer in post-elections tension

By Amanda Wilson
Guyana Chronicle
April 13, 2001

COMMUTERS yesterday travelled freely along the East Coast Demerara Public Road and in Georgetown, shoppers quickly made their way around preparing for the Easter weekend.

There were no reports of violent incidents on the East Coast Demerara nor in the city.

Drivers did not encounter flaming roadblocks, as erected by villagers along the East Coast in recent days, and the city, mostly deserted after the March 19 general and regional elections, was relatively packed with shoppers.

Police ranks took the day off from guarding roadways along the Coast, but remained at the Regent/Robb Streets site in Georgetown where fire gutted several stores late Monday afternoon.

The fire, reported to be deliberately set by a group of young men, left billions of dollars in damages.

Yesterday, persons were seen buying colourful kites, both large and small, and `Hot Cross Buns on Sale' signs were posted outside city bakeries, indicating the usual Easter treat was widely available.

Kites hung on stands along Regent, Wellington, Robb and Water Streets, in front of `Demico House' at the Stabroek Market square and in small shops around the city and on the East Coast Demerara.

Even though kite sales increased yesterday, vendors still complained that sales were poor in comparison with last April.

"Early this week, I didn't even sell a kite. I just sit down all day and pack up my kites when the crowd started running around the town", one vendor said.

They all blamed it on the post-elections tension and some noted that they did not make a lot of kites this year because of the situation.

"People come up and say they willing to buy a kite, but if things turn ugly in the city Easter Monday or during the weekend, their children can't fly it", a Regent Street vendor added.

Vendors said that they even dropped kite prices but that too, failed to improve sales during the week.

However, they were still optimistic that persons will get into the Easter spirit by tomorrow.

"If my set (kites) don't sell out by Monday, I will just have to do house-to-house selling and then go to all the Easter Monday spots and sell", a man who has more than 50 kites on sale said.

At city bakeries, salesgirls disclosed that `cross bun' sales have also suffered due to the tension in several parts of the country.

Some said that they did not receive many `Cross bun' orders this year.

Clothes vendors too, yesterday complained that they sold nothing during the week.

"People aren't even looking at clothes now. Last Easter, I was sold out, now people afraid that if they go out something will happen, so they are just not going anywhere and they are not buying new clothes", a Bourda market stallholder said.

She added that she spent a lot of money on Easter clothes because she had hoped that things would return to normal in the city.

Up to late yesterday afternoon, Georgetown was calm and some persons were still doing late shopping.

Sharma condemns disruptions

LEADER of the Justice For All Party, Mr. C.N. Sharma yesterday strongly condemned the recent incidences of violence, saying the resulting disruptions have been affecting everyone.

". . .it is time that the perpetrators of such actions understand that they are not helping Guyana in any way and that ultimately, all Guyanese will suffer if these acts continue," Sharma said in a statement.

Sharma reiterated earlier statements that all acts of violence must be condemned and that the "Police must be more stringent in keeping law and order in the country."

He called on civil society to raise voices in unison against the atrocities.

Sharma said he is praying that peace and tranquility will come quickly and that all citizens should realise that they are Guyanese and should live as a free and loving people, working to build a nation of harmony, peace and prosperity. "We were doing this before elections, why not after elections?" he asked.

Sharma noted: "Destruction of Guyana means destruction of all Guyanese, your race will play no part whatever. To quote our very own poet, the late Martin Carter, 'all are consumed'."

Bishop Edghill denounces escalation of violence
- says attempts to damage places of worship `unacceptable'

CHAIRMAN of the Guyana Council of Churches, Bishop Juan A. Edghill yesterday denounced the escalation of violence in the streets of Georgetown and the destruction to property by way of fires and other forms.

"Attempts by anyone to damage places of worship is unacceptable behaviour. The mayhem in our streets must stop NOW," Edghill said in a statement.

In a plea for civility come back to Guyana, he said certainly some groups and individuals are making efforts to solve the present crisis and this must be commended.

"I ask that all Christians would pray for peace and after prayer engage in dialogue their families, neighbourhood and political leaders so as to defuse the current tension in our nation. I make a very strong appeal to Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte, the principal leader of the PNC/R (People's National Congress/Reform) to take control of the protestors who claim that they are his supporters. This includes talk show hosts and others who use television and other medium to preach hate and divisiveness.

"Mr. Hoyte, I know you can do this, you are a leader of strength and stature.

"I equally appeal to His Excellency the President, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo to act in an appropriate manner considering the existing situation to ensure peace and stability. Please Mr. President, don't be insensitive. Let this season of Easter bring forth atonement and reconciliation.

"(Today) is 'Good Friday' it will not be 'Black Friday'.

"Let the church be that salt and light that this nation needs," the Bishop appealed.

Common Entrance student unconscious after accident

AN 11-YEAR-OLD West Coast Berbice schoolgirl, who was due to write the Secondary School Entrance Examinations (SSEE) over the last two days, is in an unconscious state in the Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown Hospital after being involved in a vehicular accident last Saturday.

Dhanrajie Ramdhan, also called "Monica" of Lot 2B Cotton Tree, West Coast Berbice, was involved in an accident with a motor car on the Cotton Tree Public Road. One week later, she has still not regained consciousness. Relatives say she suffered injuries to her head and a fractured right leg.

Her distraught parents, Janwant and Ramrajie Ramdhan, told the Chronicle that around 15.30 hrs on Saturday, the child was returning from a shop near her home when the accident occurred as she was about to cross the road.

She was rushed to the Fort Wellington Hospital in an unconscious state and subsequently transferred to the Georgetown Hospital.

The parents said that since being admitted there, she was given a blood transfusion, and on Monday was taken to the theatre where doctors removed a clot from her head.

Dhanrajie, a pupil of Cotton Tree Primary School, was said to be very diligent and attentive to school work, and was doing the 'extra' in preparation for SSEE (Common Entrance) so as to be able to secure a place in one of the nation's top schools.

Her parents have been travelling the several miles from their home to the hospital daily to be by her bedside, desperately hoping she will regain consciousness soon. - Shirley Thomas

Region Eight students write SSEE one day late
By Stacey Davidson

STUDENTS of Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) were unable to write the Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations (SSEE) like their counterparts around the country on Wednesday because of a cancellation of a flight to the area.

Chief Education Officer, Mr. Ed Caesar, at an emergency press briefing at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development in Kingston, Georgetown, noted that as a result, the students were required to commence writing the tests yesterday and will continue today.

"We normally send our papers by aircraft and these papers ought to have been flown to Region Eight last Thursday. It was unfortunate that we discovered that flight was cancelled and that was brought to our attention yesterday (Wednesday). Those papers did not leave for Region Eight until this morning (yesterday) Thursday, the second day of the SSEE," Caesar said.

He urged parents in that community to give all the support to their children who will be sitting the examinations today.

As a result, four centres in Kato, one centre in Paramakatoi, one in Monkey Mountain and three in Orinduik have been affected.

"So, those pupils will be writing their examination from today (yesterday), and we hope they will continue same tomorrow (today)", he said.

Caesar indicated that there were no other major difficulties at the various centres where children sat the exams countrywide, but in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), 17 test papers were missing. These, he said, were left out during packaging.

Generally, he said reports from the other regions show that there were no major problems, but there were a few hiccups in Georgetown such as paper shortages, which were immediately sorted out.

Also in Region Six, one student turned up half an hour before the end of the examinations, and claimed that she was not aware that the tests were in progress.

Because of this, Caesar said there is a communication breakdown, which has to be remedied.

Caesar noted that 96 per cent of the students in Georgetown wrote the examinations. Those who were not present, when he investigated, were absent from school for one month or had migrated.

He said he was quite pleased with the parental support given to the students, adding that this indicates that Guyanese, in a general way, are interested in their children's welfare.

"I was particularly pleased yesterday as I moved around several schools and I looked at the way parents were escorting their children and giving (them) the last bit of advice prior to their entering the compound".

"I was pleased many parents took the time off to accompany their children to the examination centres or compounds and some even took meals for them during the lunch period. That was good."

"It means that all is not lost. It means that we still have persons out there who understand what caring means and who understand what development means and who understand what welfare means", he remarked.

Caesar took the opportunity to congratulate those parents and all who lent some degree of support to the students in their preparations for the tests.

Bishops deplore `evil plan to destroy'

ANGLICAN Bishop Randolph George and Roman Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh yesterday said recent events have left the nation in a state of shock and urgent dialogue was needed to avert destruction.

In a joint statement, they said:

"The traumatic events of the last few days which reveal a frightening lack of awareness on the part of the perpetrators have left the nation in a state of shock.

The political leaders and others who encourage subtly destructive action and racist remarks on the television must take a large share of responsibility for what has happened to date and which now has our people living in a state of great tension.

Following the PNC/Reform vigil (Wednesday) evening there was another fire in Water Street which destroyed a business premises and there was an attempt to set fire to the St. George's Cathedral.

This vicious attempt to destroy a building which is not only a place of workshop but also our most cherished National Heritage Building, points to the extent to which things have gone out of control.

We are not dealing with political rhetoric but with an evil plan to destroy.

We call on political leaders to urge their supporters to respect the rights of their fellow Guyanese of whatever race or religious background.

And it now becomes a matter of great urgency for our leaders to move the process of dialogue forward and genuinely try to rescue the nation now tottering on the brink of destruction.

During the Solemn Season, we urge all Christians and all men and women of good will, to make Good Friday, April 13, a day of prayer and reflection on ways in which we can all work for the good of each and every one, in whatever sphere of life we happen to be employed.

May the mystery of the new life of Easter blossom in our wounded nation."

Fire guts building on Water Street
by Wendella Davidson

A SECOND fire in Georgetown within days early yesterday morning gutted a building formerly owned by the liquidated Guyana Refrigerators Limited (GRL) at Water and Holmes streets.

It started at about 00:15 hrs.

Flying debris from the burning building started two other smaller fires which threatened two other businesses, S & N Mattai & Sons on the other side of Holmes Street and Avinash Complex General Store, of the chain of stores owned by the Pandays, which was across the road.

At Mattai's, firemen mounted the roof before they were able to contain the blaze.

Meanwhile, residents in nearby buildings began removing household articles using every conceivable receptacle.

Precautionary measures were taken too to protect the wooden St Thomas Presbyterian Church on Holmes Street.

The caretaker of the building of about three years, who preferred not to be named, told the Chronicle he was asleep in the building when he heard shouts of `Fire! Fire!'

"I jumped out of my sleep and as I burst through the door there was these licking flames. Man the whole thing was done on fire," he recalled.

The caretaker who is also from the area said other residents helped him to remove some parts from the church organ, and other important pieces of equipment and material including the carpet, to safe ground.

"Then I went to give the firemen a hand, but the pressure was low."

He nevertheless praised the firemen for doing an excellent job in containing the fire which at times seemed as if it would get out of control.

A member of the Panday family, which lost another store to the Monday fire in Georgetown that wiped out almost a block of stores and offices, said yesterday's fire was the third suffered by the family in six months.

He said some guards saw persons attempting to set fire to his building but left subsequently, and not long after the GRL building was ablaze.

He said that while not much damage was caused by the fire itself, millions of dollars in stocks were lost through water damage.

Monday's fire resulted in some $100M in losses, while an earlier one at the complex warehouse was estimated at about $200M.

As a result of the latest fire more than 100 people who were employed by the Pandays are now facing the bread line, he said.

A fire service official said a call informing about the fire came at 01:00 hrs and four tenders were immediately dispatched to the scene.

Scores of policemen were quickly deployed there and cordoned off the area allowing the firemen to carry out their work without hindrance.

The firemen were able to bring the fire under control at about 04:41 hrs, and families once certain they were safe, began taking their household articles back home.

The Monday fire which witnesses said was deliberately set at the Kissoon's furniture store at Camp and Robb streets, destroyed most of the buildings in the block up to Wellington and Regent streets.