An encounter in Buxton
June 28, 2002
On Tuesday a Stabroek News reporter and photographer travelled up to Buxton to investigate a report that fires were being set near the embankment road and that there was a disturbance. Just after the photographer had taken photos of three burning roadblocks, a group of villagers closed in on him angrily declaring that they wanted no pictures taken and stole the camera from him. It was only because the photographer was related to a well-known Buxtonian that the villagers relented and returned the camera to him minus the film.
Amid a stream of dangerous threats including a call to `Leh we get de sticks with de nailsí, the reporter and photographer with their driver and vehicle were able to leave the area without further incident but without being able to complete their task. The incident was an attack on the freedom of the newspaper to report. Wherever and whenever this occurs it is a serious assault on all other freedoms and must be roundly condemned.
This experience is only one of numerous that ordinary citizens have had at the hands of Buxtonians since last year. Some of the encounters have resulted in unspeakable terror, beatings, destruction and theft of property including cars. This is completely intolerable.
The latest unrest was apparently sparked by the arrest of two Buxtonians at an army roadblock when a gun and ammunition were found in a car and an attempt was made by the army to search a house in the village for weapons. Buxtonians alleged that soldiers attempted to arrest a 12-year-old boy. The army has denied this. One villager went as far as alleging that 50 soldiers surrounded the boy, guns at the ready and assaulted him. This was a gross exaggeration. Clearly, some Buxtonians are attempting to wage the same battle they have waged against the police. They are seeking to draw the army into a confrontation where they can taint the army with the charge of brutality and other transgressions. The army has so far operated with professionalism and restraint and we commend them for this.
We are sure that the vast majority of Buxtonians have no problem with the army participating in Operation Tourniquet and helping to keep crime at bay. Indeed, many noble Buxtonians have gone out of their way to shelter victims of attacks by other Buxtonians and to shepherd them to safety. We commend these persons who risk their own safety to help others. Veteran politician and community leader Eusi Kwayana has also added his voice in condemnation of those Buxtonians who have attacked innocents.
It would help if other community and local government leaders add the weight of their voices too. When the Chairman of the Buxton/Foulis Neighbourhood Democratic Council, Randolph Blair was contacted by Stabroek News on the latest unrest his response was "they just get tired of seeing them (the soldiers)". The unfortunate truth Mr Blair, is that the soldiers are there because groups like the one which confronted the Stabroek News reporter and photographer on Tuesday are violently and criminally trespassing on the rights of many ordinary citizens for no good reason. Further, the police have come under armed attack from gunmen within Buxton and several of their number have been injured. Additionally, there is sufficiently plausible information to suggest that some of those who were engaged in horrendous crimes over the last few months have sought refuge and cover in and around the community.
Buxton like many other villages around the country does have serious bread and butter issues to complain about. In a civilised and democratic society it must be done within the framework that is created for dealing with complaints. The President has been invited to visit to see for himself the problems affecting the community. He has accepted the invitation and arrangements are to be made for it. That visit should be used as the opportunity for all Buxtonians to air their grievances and to adopt a realistic view of what can be done today, tomorrow and next week. That is how a democracy works. It will not work if mindless, baseless violence by some Buxtonians against innocent citizens continues. Such violence will not gain these Buxtonians an iota of advantage.