Enough! Buxtonians condemn violence
Attribute Wednesday night's events to 'rogue elements'

Stabroek News
May 4, 2001

Businessmen and residents of Buxton, including political activist Eusi Kwayana, have condemned Wednesday night's road fire, exchange of gunfire between the police and "criminal elements", and the attacks on minibuses and on persons travelling through the area as being "uncalled for and defying logic".

Two persons travelling in different minibuses suffered burns of varying degrees when makeshift "firebombs" were thrown inside the vehicles.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds visited one of the victims at the Georgetown Public Hospital yesterday and condemned the acts of violence that caused the injuries. Sending a strong message to the wrongdoers, Hinds said the "protestors" must be treated as criminals when they acted in such a manner, and dealt with accordingly. (See other story on this page.)

Meanwhile, the PNC REFORM (PNC/R) in a release issued last night, said that the party "has always condemned acts of violence" but did not refer specifically to Wednesday night's events. The party said it rejected insinuations that such acts were condoned by the party. "This is a deliberate attempt to misinform and mislead the Guyanese public. These people probably have an agenda to jeopardise the talks between [PNC/R Leader] Mr [Desmond] Hoyte and President [Bharrat] Jagdeo. If this is so, it is a very dangerous course of action to pursue," the release stated.

Contending that the police were responsible for the unrest which erupted, the PNC/R said "it is a matter of great urgency and public importance that a Commission of Inquiry into the leadership, organisation and the effectiveness of the Guyana Police Force, should be mounted by the government."

Claiming that Wednesday night's action was not a part of the protest against disenfranchisement, discrimination and marginalisation, the Buxtonians said they condemned "wanton criminal acts". Beating of people and the robberies will have to stop, they said.

However, some of the same residents criticised the police for arresting two 17-year-old lads in spite of protests by residents who claimed the youths were not involved in the illegal actions.

The police took into custody on Wednesday night seven persons who appeared at the Vigilance Magistrate's Court yesterday and were charged with causing public terror.

According to a police press release, Trevor Sam of Buxton and Deon Newton of Friendship, both 17 years old, along with Shaka Blair, 32, of Buxton were each placed on $10,000 bail when they appeared in court. Four persons - Shawn Garnette, 29, of Annandale; Kadinan Sutton, 41, of Beterverwagting; Ayenne Hutton, 26, of Friendship; and Rudolph Sutton, 21, of Vigilance - were remanded to prison.

According to reports from Buxton yesterday, Wednesday night's unrest started shortly after a funeral which took place in the Friendship cemetery. Buxtonians felt that criminal elements were on the public road just waiting to take advantage of any situation where there would have been a gathering.

Kwayana said in a release that there was only one fair way of dealing with the acts of violence in the society at present; that is, "all spokespersons must agree to condemn every act of violence against the persons and always especially against women and children."

Kwayana added: "Robbery is not protest. Beating innocent people is not protest. In other places, banking a stranger, beating or killing that stranger is not protest."

He said that "no one can know all the incidents. We do not have to go public day after day, but we can all make sure that we speak out in defence of people of all races. A sense of justice and fairness is lacking in our statements."

He added that "when we expose the crimes done by people of our own race, our own side only then can we honestly condemn crimes done by people of other races. Only when we begin to do this will we deserve justice. Otherwise we are posturing. People in public life cannot go to the world as one-eyed tricksters."

A respected businessman in the community, who preferred anonymity, told this newspaper that he was appalled at the events, which literally unfolded before his eyes on Wednesday.

He said that the police station was "just about a stone's throw" (about a quarter of a mile away) from where the fires were lit, yet police took one and a half hours before they arrived on the scene. He felt that had the police arrived when the first fire was being lit the problem would not have escalated. Fires were lit at three places within proximity of the Company Road Bridge.

The fiery roadblocks and the subsequent exchange of gunfire with the police, which lasted way after midnight, he said, should not have happened.

He noted that when the police arrived persons began pelting the police with stones and pieces of wood under the cover of darkness and the police reacted by firing shots in the air.

The response was an exchange of gunfire. This, he said, sent many Buxtonians scuttling to the safety of their homes.

One resident said he knew when the police were firing because he heard single shots from their rifles.

However, he said when their opponents responded it was with a burst of rapid fire, which gave the impression that they were armed with an automatic weapon(s).

The opponents were firing from a side street while the police were on the Buxton Public Road.

Some residents said they never expected Wednesday's actions since the political leaders were in discussions to find a way out for many of the people in the area who have been marginalised and are at present eking out a living.

Residents said that the police knew "very well some of the rogue elements in the area" who had weapons and the type of weapons they possessed.

A few of these persons, they said, have had some amount of military training.

When this newspaper visited the area shortly after noon yesterday, the police were scouring for spent shells in the area where gunshots had been fired.