August 9, 2002
The destruction by fire of Ms Chesterís houses in Buxton, the shooting of some members of her family and the killing of her livestock constitutes a horrendous story for all kinds of reasons. This is far from being the first horror story we have had from the bandits who have displayed a ruthlessness that is largely alien to the local crime scene, but it is the first time that they have attempted to kill children, the youngest only four years old, by burning them alive in their homes. There is something else too. When Stabroek News visited the Friendship area on Wednesday, the distinct impression was gained that a significant proportion of the residents considered that the family had in some sense got what they had deserved.
Even Mr Randolph Blair, the Chairman of the Buxton/Foulis Neighbourhood Democratic Council declined to make an outright condemnation of what happened. He was reported in this newspaper as saying that he was out most of the day, and was unable to comment on the incident since he had not assessed the situation. What, one wonders, is there to assess? Since when does an official have to consider carefully before condemning what is clearly a case of arson and attempted murder?
Both the villagers and the family have indicated that they were targeted because the bandits perceived that they had been assisting the police and the army. Ms Chester has strenuously asserted this. But even had it been true, and apparently it was not, then the family would have been doing the law-abiding members of the community and Guyanese everywhere a service. What inference is one to draw, therefore, from Mr Blairís reluctance to speak out on this issue?
And as for those residents of Buxton/Friendship who seem to be harbouring the view that justice was done in some sense when Ms Chesterís property was destroyed and her relatives injured, the conclusion can only be drawn that there are communities in our midst whose values run counter to those of honest people everywhere. How can the banditsí counter culture, involving as it does, murder, arson, terror and mayhem, become the predominant value system in a community? If those were the underlying principles of any state, there simply would be no state at all.
Wednesdayís attack on Ms Chester and her family was not the first one of its kind; on April 26 her son Brian and his wife were shot at by gunmen. She related how prior to that attack some villagers had assaulted and robbed an Indian resident who lived opposite her on Brusche Dam. She had come out openly against the robbery, and had spoken to some people whom she had been told knew the perpetrators. The message she asked to be relayed was that they should return the manís property ďbefore a big manhunt start.Ē Her son Brian also spoke to the father of one of the alleged thieves, asking him to tell his son to return the manís money and car keys.
It was following this that she began to be targeted by the bandits, and that it was said around the village that the family was providing information to the police force and later the GDF. So here we have a lady who exemplifies what is good in terms of human values, and who has acted in accordance with her principles irrespective of race. Yet she has to suffer because over the last few months the ethos in Buxton/Friendship has undergone a sea change, and instead of reflecting all that is best in the human spirit, it is now reflecting the opposite.
Buxton and Friendship are communities with a wonderful history; they are communities which have produced some remarkable scholars and some truly committed members of society; they are communities which at one time were an inspiration to all the other villages of this country. Murder, robbery and arson were not the principles on which these villages were founded, and it is nothing short of a tragedy that law-abiding residents there have been terrorized into silence by those whose perceptions have been distorted by banditry. Mr Blair and the members of the NDC should speak out now about what is happening in the area, and should condemn what needs to be condemned.
And since these were traditionally PNC villages, so it must be said, should the PNC/R.