`Fringe element has Buxton under siege'
-- Army urges decent citizens to reclaim village By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
June 29, 2002

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`...these few, this fringe group, must be identified. This fringe group must be ostracised. This fringe group must be dealt with by the residents of Buxton' - Lt. Col. Andrew Pompey

LT. COL. Andrew Pompey of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) yesterday indicated that a "fringe element" has taken Buxton "under siege", operating without fear in the East Coast Demerara village in the promotion and maintenance of lawlessness.

He said this has resulted in the entire community being stigmatised.

Pompey, at a news conference at the GDF Camp Ayanganna headquarters in Georgetown, urged "all concerned community and church leaders, businessmen, professionals and all decent, peace loving members of the Buxton community to take a stand and reclaim their community from this fringe element."

"What we are happy about (when) we spoke of the efforts by that fringe element to promote and maintain lawlessness in that area, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of residents in Buxton are not part of or do not share the views or do not participate in the activities of this fringe group," Pompey told reporters.

"We hope that the peace loving residents of Buxton - the community leaders, the church leaders and of course the members of the media - will help us all to identify this fringe group that has resulted in the entire community being stigmatised," he said.

According to him, it is the fringe group that "has the Buxton community under siege".

"What I am saying is that these few, this fringe group, must be identified. This fringe group must be ostracised. This fringe group must be dealt with by the residents of Buxton," Pompey declared.

There have recently been several violent protests in the village with groups digging up roads in the area and at times attacking and robbing mini-buses and other vehicles passing through the area.

"It is unfortunate that fringe elements reacted negatively to a Police patrol in the Buxton area (yesterday morning) and attempted to breach the Railway Embankment road and disrupt traffic," he said.

"We reiterate that the Police must be allowed to provide service and protection to all residents of Buxton and we call on the few not to stand in the way as the Police discharge their constitutional role," he told reporters.

He said, too, that `Operation Tourniquet', which the Army launched with the Police on June 6 last, "must be regarded as a success in realising the reduction of crime in our area of responsibility".

According to him, some specific successes were the arrest of Anthony Charles and the apprehension and detention of a stolen vehicle. Following the arrest of Charles and information divulged, a house in the vicinity of Webster Street was placed under surveillance and ultimately an occupant, Kerwin Jarvis, was taken into custody, Pompey reported.

"After these arrests, the GDF noted the agitation of a few community members by a known public personality and the following day, there was an organised and not spontaneous protest by persons from Paradise and other areas outside of Buxton who converged on this area," he said.

"We also noted an orchestrated campaign to malign the GDF, abuse of our soldiers on patrol and efforts to provoke a response from our ranks on deployment. We have observed that such acts are not totally supported by residents of Buxton but rather are sustained by fringe elements that have rejected the traditional moral authority of village elders," the Lt. Col. said.

He asserted that "these elements seem bent on promoting and maintaining lawlessness in the Buxton community for their own nefarious reasons."

Pompey also noted that `Operation Tourniquet' has allowed for several joint operations with the Police Force including roadblocks, control points and patrolling.

He, however, said that some of these exercises such as the roadblocks have placed a strain and inconvenienced East Coast residents and motorists most of whom have been patient and understanding.

"We commend and thank you for this exercise of patience and tolerance (and) we would like to thank also the residents of Buxton, Annandale and Lusignan for being good and accommodating neighbours to our (ranks) based in these villages."

He said the GDF wishes to state categorically that its deployment to the East Coast should not be seen as a permanent feature. As such, Pompey said there must be a return to normal levels of policing so as to ensure the maintenance of law and order.

"We are maintaining patrols in the backlands of Buxton and in the backlands between the areas of Annandale/Lusignan and Enmore," Pompey said, noting that the Army's patrols in the backlands are not "specific to the backlands of Buxton only".

He said too that all information obtained so far from those patrols will be shared with the Police as they (the Army and the Police) jointly try to develop an operational plan to deal with whatever the intelligence reveals.

Asked whether there was evidence that any of the bandits involved in a crime rampage since late February are hiding in the backlands between Annandale and Enmore, based on their patrols in those areas, the Army official said that "on every occasion that our operations have been conducted in the backlands between the areas of Enmore and Annandale, there have been no reported sightings or evidence of criminal activities or hideouts in those areas".

Asked to specify what he meant by "a reduction of crime" because it would seem that crime has not been reduced but has in fact escalated, Pompey said he had "alluded to the fact that there was success in terms of the reduction of crime within our area of responsibility and which stretches from Lusignan to Enmore."

Questioned whether their operations are limited to that area, Pompey said that is the "area where we have seen tangible results or tangible successes and that is based on our concentration of efforts in that area".

Asked how the Army, and `Operation Tourniquet' hope to deal with the movement of the alleged criminal activities from the East Coast to other areas of the coast, Pompey said the Army's operations are not fixed and are always driven by intelligence.

"Certainly `Operation Tourniquet' is currently being reviewed and based on intelligence (and) when that intelligence is properly assessed, that will determine the thrust of the operation in the future."

"Apart from that, there has been a marked reduction of crimes on the East Coast between Lusignan and Enmore where we are deployed and you would note that there had been a dramatic increase in crimes in these areas along the East Coast immediately following February 23 (when five armed and very dangerous criminals escaped from the Georgetown Prisons)," he said.

Pompey also asserted that since the Army's presence in these specific areas along the East Coast, there has been a "sense of security and well being that residents along the East Coast enjoy. They feel safe, they feel secure, they feel assured by our presence in those areas."

Asked to comment on the widespread concerns that persons are fearful of passing through Buxton, what role the Army is playing and how they are able to measure this success with this fear, Pompey said: "We will maintain that the majority of Buxtonians are peace loving; the majority of Buxtonians want a return to normalcy; the majority of Buxtonians reject the lawlessness that is taking place in their community."

He said this "majority" he is speaking about is "much larger than 52 per cent".

"Indeed we have seen residents of Buxton beginning to speak out about the atrocities and the other forms of civil disobedience being perpetrated in the area. So we are saying that the majority of Buxtonians are concerned and we hope that (the media) would continue to support those peace loving majority of Buxtonians to reclaim their community," Pompey added.

He also indicated that the Army is "trying to facilitate the Police return to the Buxton community" to carry out their law enforcement activities as normal.

"The Police have returned to the Buxton area (and) are operating in the areas north of Buxton and we hope that very soon the Police will be able to return to south Buxton," Pompey said.

Asked whether the fringe element is indigenous to Buxton, Pompey said, "there is a fringe element of Buxtonians and their presence there serves to attract criminals and other deviants to the Buxton community".

Lt. Col. Bruce Lovell noted that the Army was not making a claim that since its deployment "we have met with 100 per cent success".

According to him, "the mere fact that we are still deployed testifies that a problem still exists."