The crime protests in Berbice

What the people say about...
By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
June 11, 2001

Is the protest against crime in Berbice a reflection of the problems the country is facing and which the government has not addressed? The following is the response of the man/woman-in-the-street to the question;

Cheryl-Ann Kerr - vendor: `The Berbice protest and the reaction by government is a reflection of how the country is governed in general. It also shows a lack of confidence in government, especially when supporters of the party in government have to resort to intimidation of high public officials and attempting to burn down police stations to seek attention. Government's immediate reaction smacks of discrimination as well. In Georgetown the police force needs vehicles as police cannot respond to robberies and arrest people because they do not have vehicles but as soon as the demand is made in Berbice it is given and budget ain't even pass yet. Even the newspapers discriminate. You call protesters in Georgetown mobsters and in Berbice they are people with genuine grievances. In Berbice the President meets with protestors privately and doesn't want the media. Isn't that cause for suspicion in a transparent democracy. This is the double standard I don't like. You arrest (Ronald) Waddell and Mark Benschop and charge them for sedition. Yet you let Ravi Dev and another man I saw saying on television that people must buy guns go free... where is the justice and the democracy government talks about. These are the things that frustrate people like me.'

Carlton Lee - businessman: `The Berbice protest is a reflection of the state of affairs in this country. It is not only Berbicians who experience problems of the kind they complain about but all Guyanese in general. The problem is that during the elections campaign you get all the promises and once in office they cannot deliver the goods. Right now all we are getting is inflation, the rate of exchange gets higher, the cost of living gets higher... Everything is going up except the poor man's salary. There is lots of garbage, mosquitoes have taken over the city... Look at Albouystown where `Six Head' Lewis comes from. You would have thought that President (Bharrat) Jagdeo would have seen the pile of garbage on Sussex Street and the Mayor, who has his roots there, too, would have smelt the stench. I am just left to wonder what are peopleto do when they clamour for public office and cannot fulfil their promises. Is it that they only go there to fill their pockets? The police are a law unto themselves. Today it is who knows who to get along in society. My child would be picked up by the police for no crime committed and charged and fined but the `big one' child could commit a crime and all it would take is a telephone call for him or her to be released.'

Amar - self-employed: `We got to stop this stupidness of blocking roads and burning down in Georgetown, Berbice, Buxton or wherever in this country. Both government and the opposition have to look at where the country is heading and try to find a way to stop the downward slide and bring it back to a level where we can go forward with development. I think we all recognise that government cannot do it alone. We do have genuine problems in this country and all of us are affected but the government alone cannot do it and support must be given to the government from all sides. I don't think now is the time for attacking institutions of the state but instead, lend or give support to these institutions. We want love and unity. East Coast Demerara want it, East Berbice want it, West Coast Demerara want peace, West Berbice want peace, in the North West they want it and in the South West of Guyana. All over the country want peace. I am tired of the disruptions. Every time there is protest we are losing business and we have families to look after and bills to pay.'

Andy Bovell - conductor: `The Berbice and East Coast protests are telling us that all is not well in the country especially as it relates to the activities of the police. It tells us also that people cannot take government's stand-off attitude on important issues. Yet the immediate response by President Bharrat Jagdeo and the government to the requests of the people of Berbice is yet another case of clear discrimination against other sections of society. Why hasn't he responded to the plight of Buxtonians as yet. I think the protests show a lack of confidence in government and that they are also fed up with government and are looking for a change. Probably they see that change in someone else... Not the PNC REFORM but probably in Ravi Dev.'

Geoffrey Smith - educator: `The Berbice protest which follows the East Coast Demerara protest is an indication of the way we now think in society. We do whatever we want, whenever we want regardless of who suffers, whenever we get angry. Whenever we are angry we light fires and block the roadway disrupting society in general and it is no big thing. This has to be anarchy. I know it is all due to frustrations but surely there are legal ways to deal with frustrations instead of resorting to illegal methods. If every time we get frustrated we block roads and burn down, how far will we go?'

Mark - businessman: `In Georgetown and the East Coast is police brutality. In Berbice is lack of police response, in the rest of Guyana it is a combination of the two. It is because of the police that protests have erupted on the East Coast and Berbice and what will be done to improve the situation between citizens and the police force? You make a report to the police and they treat you like you are the criminal. The government and all those holding high office in the land, in whatever capacity, must realise that all we want in this country is peace. The police is responsible for law and order and according to their motto `service and protection' and that is all we need. We don't need lawlessness and corruption.'

Sheik Mohamed Shaw - mini-bus operator: `People have a right to protest especially if they are not getting justice. And yes, the protests in Berbice and in Demerara, which we are witnessing are an indication of what is happening around us. The politicians especially those in office are passing laws but they are also among the first to break them. So it is good that Berbice took up the banner against the police. In Georgetown marches against police brutality mean nothing. I can understand the frustrations people face all over Guyana. In Georgetown no one caters for the poor man. No urinals for people in the busy downtown. No one puts down bins for people to throw litter. This is basic. The City Mayor does not care, the government does not care, who does?'

Gobin Persaud - accountant: `The country is in a state of depression. Neither the PPP/Civic nor the PNC can do anything to help the situation because they are both race based. While that may be the case the PPP/Civic are not representing Guyanese of Indian origin who form the base of that party and Indians realise this. I think this is the last term the PPP/Civic will hold office for sometime to come. Berbicians have been neglected that they feel as marginalised as others who have protested before. If we continue in this state of depression Guyana will not attract any foreign investments. Even if the PNC REFORM goes into office there will be passive resistance from supporters of other parties. The way forward is a national front government comprising all parliamentary parties but I am not sure that the PPP/Civic and PNC REFORM which commands the majority in parliament would want this. They feel that power must be shared between the two of them alone and this is the source of our problems.'