Gunfire thwarts police/army operation in Buxton
Residents set roadblocks, sing hymns
January 11, 2003
A volley of bullets into the air from Buxton gunmen yesterday thwarted a joint police/army operation in the village and sparked a tense day-long standoff with residents which saw roads being dug up and numerous fires being set.
Some residents of Buxton yesterday made a vow that from now on they would protect themselves at any cost against what they termed extreme policing by members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
Criminal elements within the village yesterday morning greeted a joint services patrol with a hail of bullets just when it was about to start an operation. There were no casualties but the police contingent in the patrol abandoned the operation leaving the army to continue. The police and army had this week announced the launch of Operation Saline Solution 11 in the aftermath of intensified crime and the shooting to death of a policeman in Buxton on Wednesday. It was the first time that a policeman had been shot dead - since the start of the crime spree last year February - while on duty in the village of Buxton.
Up to late yesterday afternoon there was still evidence of burnt tyres and other debris on the railway embankment and thick smoke was seen coming from shells of old cars which had been set ablaze. Some villagers mainly men and a few women yesterday resumed digging up the road and depositing huge planks, preventing any vehicle from passing.
Contacted yesterday, Assistant Superintendent, David Ramnarine said there might have been some level of shooting in the village yesterday, but no one was injured.
Speaking to this newspaper a resident said that some villagers were reacting to the manner in which the police had carried out an operation in the village on Wednesday evening. On that same evening police constable Nankumar Mohabir was gunned down when the vehicle he was driving came under heavy gunfire at Brusche Dam. Another policeman, Constable Surujballi was injured in the melee. The resident told this newspaper that shortly before 8 am yesterday, a contingent of police/army members lined the streets of Brusche Dam, Friendship access Road, Company Road, Church of God Road and the Sideline Dam. According to the man, on all of the streets there were policemen from the Tactical Service Unit and the Impact Squad along with soldiers. Stabroek News understands that the law enforcers parked their vehicles on the public road and were slowly venturing into the village when shots were fired into the air near Company and Church of God Roads by gunmen from the village. The policemen immediately took cover.
After this burst of gunfire, the soldiers began sheltering the police, placing each one between two soldiers. This defensive mode of operation continued for a little while, but after a few minutes the policemen abandoned the operation. The resident observed that during this time the gunmen from Buxton were all standing on the embankment, but neither the police nor the army made any attempt to go after them.
The man said, “It was clear that those men did not want to do anything to the soldiers, but if they were not there, maybe the men might have shot at the police.”
The resident said that among the group there were men with grenades and from all indications they were fully prepared to attack the police had there been a repeat of Wednesday’s incident when the police entered the village and conducted a controversial operation.
Moreover, as the men stood guard on the railway embankment, those residents who were in their homes all closed their doors and came out on the road. The resident noted that almost every villager left his/her home and went either onto the public road or on the embankment with fellow villagers possibly to avoid being caught in any crossfire.
A huge crowd had gathered on the embankment with parents holding their children in their arms. For the entire morning yesterday the village was tense.
Leaving the village, the police officers reported to their base at Vigilance Police Station, but appeared on high alert. While they were away and the army was on the public road, a group of young men went home, got their implements for digging and began tearing up the embankment road. At the same time others lit tyres, old buckets and other items. Shortly after the fire was lit, drums began to roll accompanied by loud singing of the spiritual song “We shall overcome” and other songs. Some residents complained yesterday that the police had disrespected everyone in the village and even though their leaders have pleaded with the government to correct the problem there has been no change. On Wednesday they said TSS ranks went into the village, broke down some of the residents’ stalls and also threatened a few persons.
Some villagers recalled yesterday the events of April 6, 2002 when Shaka Blair was gunned down by members of the Target Special Squad and according to them from since then they have lost all confidence in the police force.
“For us, it is now time for us to defend ourselves at any cost, this nonsense will have to stop,” one resident declared. From all reports the men have a well-established network of cellular phones and mobile radios which allow them to communicate effectively with each other.
At the moment the situation in the village appears to have returned to what it used to be prior to the army’s launching of its Operation Tourniquet in May last year to rein in crime in Buxton and neighbouring villages. While Stabroek News was in the village at around 12:45 pm, two men attempted to rob a man on a horse cart, but the man foiled their attempt by running into a gas station. The man aborted the journey through the village and went home instead. All of the schools in the village were closed yesterday as parents fearing an outbreak of violence kept their children at home.
The police and army launched the intensified operations in the wake of concerns that Buxton remains a haven for the gunmen and criminals who have been terrorising neighbouring villages and other parts of the country. Several persons have been killed or kidnapped recently by persons who fled to safety in Buxton. The situation took a turn for the worse when Mohabir was killed in the village on Wednesday night.