Annandale, Enterprise residents felt like captives during East Coast unrest
Road links to Buxton sealed by persons unknown

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
April 7, 2001

The unrest which rocked the East Coast Demerara in the aftermath of the March 19 elections made residents of Enterprise and Annandale North feel captive in their own villages.

Persons unknown in Annandale North, a predominantly Indo-Guyanese community have since blocked the road link between the neighbouring community of Buxton by creating fences at the head of the streets which were connected by bridges to the Buxton Sideline Dam.

Stabroek News could not ascertain from villagers who put up the fence which stopped Buxtonians from accessing the Annandale Market through the sideline dam and trenches. The fences were erected after the March 22 eruption of clashes between villagers on the East Coast and the police. Fires were set along a large stretch of the East Coast, the police stoned and traffic disrupted. The clashes came after Buxtonians beat up two elections workers who had gone into the village to retrieve polling material on the instruction of a Deputy Returning Officer. The police turned up to rescue the workers who had been beaten. After rescuing the workers the police returned to the village and this led to the clashes.

When Stabroek News visited the Sideline Dam on Wednesday afternoon four fences stood erect barring passage. When this newspaper visited the area on Thursday, one fence had already been removed. Gateways were cut into two of the other fences to allow for some amount of movement. Boards and planks which had been used to bridge the two villages were also removed and Stabroek News observed some young people gingerly crossing one of the planks.

Residents were not willing to comment on the erection of the fences but one who did not want to go on record said that the fence was erected by members of the community policing group in the area to keep the Buxtonians from running through the village during the unrest and attacking them.

Rajendra Persaud, Vice-Chairman of the La Bonne Intention/Better Hope Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) under which the Annandale community falls told Stabroek News that the NDC did not tell anyone to block the thoroughfare nor to remove bridges or planks that connected the two communities.

He assumed that there were groups of people in the community who did it for their own safety as they might have felt endangered. Some may have recalled problems of race they experienced among themselves in the sixties, he added.

Noting that the NDC had not visited the area, he said that he rather suspects that the bridges would be replaced and the fence removed when the people feel more secure. He said that the NDC would not tell the residents to remove the fences as it would feel responsible should anything untoward happens. However, he said that as far as he knows the people of Annandale and Buxton are friends. It is just that they have political differences but give them another few weeks and things would be back to normal.

Residents of Enterprise said that they felt trapped in their village because of the blockade which was put up at Bachelor's Adventure and at the junction of the Enterprise Road and the Railway Embankment Road. Vehicles could not enter the community nor could they leave while the blockade was in effect. In addition people were just plain scared to venture beyond the boundaries of the village. Enterprise is about one mile south of the East Coast Public Road.

A number of Indo-Guyanese of Lusignan, Strathspey and Non Pariel and employees of Coldingen told Stabroek News during this newspaper's visit to the area that throughout the unrest they were never threatened though in some instances they were afraid.

A businessman said that on March 22, when the fracas between the police and the residents of Buxton broke out early in the afternoon, he was stranded at Strathspey. He does not live in the area but does business there. He said that after he learnt of the problem he tried to make it to the city but the mini-bus in which he was travelling waited for a while but had to turn back after it could not pass through Buxton. He was not able to go through till after 6:00 pm that day. He said he never felt threatened because of his ethnicity but was afraid because he had a lot of money on him, most of which, was not his.

Most residents in the surrounding communities said that they stayed indoors because they felt safe in their homes. They were not taking chances.

Workers from both sides of the divide were affected. Relatives of persons who worked at the Enmore Sugar Estate and the Coldingen Industrial Estate said that their relatives were forced to walk as much as five miles or even more to get from Buxton to their destination.

A businesswoman recalled that workers from Enmore were put off the trucks and those from Coldingen put off buses at Strathspey. However, those who walked were allowed to go through. She said that even though the problem was between the people of Buxton and the police, she stayed home to be on the safe side. She said that she did not feel threatened at any time.

Two employees of Coldingen told Stabroek News that they felt safer walking through Buxton with Guyanese of African descent. They said that some people walked from Strathspey to Plaisance that day.

On the other hand some residents of Annandale South said that persons who were held up on their side "footed it" to the villages on the other side of Buxton.

Annandale South is a mixed community and residents there said they had no problems of race among themselves. One man said that in a community like Annandale South, "you have to feel safe".