Gunmen open fire on Police in Buxton
- at least two wounded in fresh attacks

Guyana Chronicle
May 3, 2001

POLICE came under gunfire last night at Buxton, East Coast Demerara as violence flared again in the area plagued by opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) protests since the March 19 elections.

No Policemen were reported wounded but at least five persons were detained, the Chronicle understands.

At least two civilians were wounded when gangs yesterday afternoon suddenly blocked the main road at Buxton and began attacking vehicles and robbing and beating those inside, Police confirmed.

A `channa' (bottle) bomb was hurled into a mini-bus and a corrosive substance thrown into another, burning at least two persons inside them, witnesses said.

Police had by late last night managed to clear the blockades from the road at Buxton and the Army was backing up with patrols, officials said.

The fresh violence erupted after a lull of about a week since President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC/R leader, Mr Desmond Hoyte began meeting last week Tuesday.

The flare-up came after the President and Hoyte ended a third round of meetings at the Office of the President in Georgetown yesterday.

Their first session last week Tuesday afternoon was preceded by violence outside the PNC/R Congress Place headquarters in Georgetown when gangs attacked vehicles, overturned and burnt a mini-bus, damaged two other vehicles, including a Demerara Distillers Limited truck which was also robbed, and stoned the house of Mr Manzoor Nadir, leader of The United Force.

But there were no major incidents since then until the gangs suddenly appeared again on the Buxton main highway yesterday afternoon, burning tyres and other material and stopping vehicles.

Fires were previously set on the road recently built along the old railway embankment on which traffic has been disrupted because protesters had dug two deep ditches across the thoroughfare.

As armed Police patrolled the main road last night, they came under fire from gunmen in Buxton, witnesses said.

At around 21:15 hrs a truckload of riot Police travelling to Georgetown was on the road in the vicinity of the Friendship gas station, next to Buxton.

They stopped to remove obstacles which had been placed in the middle of the road after an earlier batch of Policemen had succeeded in putting out a fire set by the gangs.

Having cleared the road of the obstacles, which included a large portion of a tree root, the ranks boarded the vehicle and were just moving off when they came under a hail of bullets from dark corners of the street.

The Police returned fire and the shooting lasted for about 45 seconds.

Police quickly disembarked from the truck and took up positions along the road in readiness for any further confrontation.

Another truckload of beat duty police and other ranks in casual wear who had earlier in the evening responded to a call to intervene after a fire was lit in the middle of the road opposite the Buxton Club, executed their task and left around 20:45 hrs.

Another batch of cops clearing the road came under attack from the dark, with stones and other objects hurled at them, witnesses said.

Police were deployed to the scene after reports were received of attacks being made on buses and passengers travelling to destinations higher up the East Coast.

Witnesses said the violence erupted at around 18:30 hrs when a fire was lit in the middle of the road at Buxton, preventing vehicles from passing.

As some mini-buses attempted to change course with the intention of returning to Georgetown, they were reportedly overpowered by gangs which stormed the vehicles, resulting in injury to operatives and commuters, and extensive damage to the vehicles.

At least two persons were rushed to the Georgetown Hospital nursing serious burns about the body.

Thirty-nine-year-old Premnauth Seepersaud of Enmore, a mini-bus conductor was on his way home when the bus in which he was travelling was caught in the violent events.

After the vehicle in which he was travelling was overpowered, someone threw a `channa' bomb into the bus, and Seepersaud who was seated behind the driver was seriously burnt on his left arm and other parts of the body after the device exploded, reports said.

The injured man was rescued by villagers from nearby who transported him to hospital using a car.

He received emergency treatment at the Georgetown Hospital and up to press time his condition was still being monitored.

Eyewitnesses said the vehicle was stoned, the windscreen shattered, and the top and upholstery destroyed.

The matter was reported to the Beterverwagting Police and the vehicle was taken to Enmore.

Meanwhile, also seriously injured was Mala Phagoo, 34, also of Enmore.

Phagoo, a clerical staff member attached to the MMC Security Service at Happy Acres, East Coast Demerara was one of several persons in another mini-bus, travelling home when they were intercepted by mobs which violently attacked the vehicle.

As the men stormed the vehicle, a flammable substance was thrown inside and Phagoo who was in the front seat along with the driver was doused with the liquid.

Her clothes caught afire and she was burned on the face, neck and hands.

She impulsively jumped out of the window of the bus and started running up the road, hotly pursued by her attackers.

In the chase, she was robbed of her handbag which the Chronicle understands had $30,000, a bunch of keys and other items.

In her desperate bid to reach nearby Annandale seeking refuge, she was helped to safety by a passerby on a motor cycle.

With his help she was taken to relatives at Annandale, after which she was rushed to the Georgetown Hospital.

Up to late last night Phagoo was still being treated at the hospital.

Following the shootout in Buxton more Police patrol vehicles were seen in the vicinity of Sparendaam on standby for any further unrest.