For fear of bandits
East Coast families choose nomadic life
March 25, 2004
Residents of some of the crime-affected East Coast villages are fleeing their homes and in some instances demolishing them in the face of renewed attacks by bandits operating out of Buxton.
Besieged by the criminals for almost two years, the residents had begun to breathe a sigh of relief late last year and earlier this year. But just when things showed some signs of improvement, they are again at the mercy of a money-hungry gang.
Over the past two weeks, numerous persons have been robbed. Last Friday night some 15 armed bandits terrorised Zarina Singh and her family for nearly two hours in Lusignan.
Already one family of Strathspey Railway Embank-ment and three at Lusignan have fled their homes in fear. They are now living in homes owned by their relatives but this has not changed their state of mind.
"No matter where you go dem bandits know where to find you so we just gat to hope and pray they ain't come hay," Lunadat Singh, one of the residents who moved out of Lusignan told this newspaper yesterday. Singh now resides at the home of a friend. He said he moved out two weeks ago following an attack on his home by three armed bandits on February 22.
Sam Gopaul (left) of Lusignan Squatting Area watching his home being demolished yesterday. Gopaul and others are leaving to escape from bandits operating out of Buxton. (Ken Moore photo)
At about midnight, the bandits who were riding bicycles entered Lusignan squatting area and robbed Singh and his family of some $160,000 in cash and jewellery. This was not the first attack, Singh said, recalling that two men robbed his home in broad daylight last year.
Singh said following the attack on his home in February, he received several extortion threats and he was advised to flee.
Expressing disgust at the situation, the father of one recalled spending many nights watching his property in the days after he was robbed. "I had to move some time or the other. Because when dem men come at you and get something they like come again and I know that the next time it wouldn't have ended easily is either me dead or one ah dem dead," Singh declared while working on his new home currently under construction in another area.
He said his neighbours wanted to take similar steps but unlike him they have nowhere to go.
After living for some ten years in the area known as Lusignan Squatting area or Centre View, Singh said he regretted having to move under such circumstances. "Everybody living around this area poor. We just trying to make a lil dollar here and there, but these bandits behaving like if they work and put de money in you hand. Soon as you gat some money is bandits on you."
He said another reason which forced him to leave Lusignan was the fact that his wife and children are afraid. Singh said his children watched in horror the night when the bandits attacked his home, beating him with their guns and also kicking him about his body. "They can't tek it no more. We had to move, boy. We had to move."
Some ten families had been living at Centre View, but over the past two years, five of them moved. Now that Singh has left and with his neighbour to the front, Sam Gopaul following suit yesterday, only three families remain. The squatting area, which was once filled with shacks, now looks desolate.
Stabroek News was on hand yesterday to witness the demolition of Gopaul's one-bedroom home. The man said he was compelled to follow Singh since he, too, was vulnerable to attacks. Gopaul said he had no permanent place to go, but was moving because he was warned about the bandits' renewed attacks.
Gopaul cited the bandits' utterance during Friday night's attack on Zarina Singh's family that they were seeking money to replenish their armoury. He said the statement should not be taken lightly since already there have been numerous attacks.
Stabroek News was told that Zarina Singh and her family are also considering moving out. The attack on Zarina Singh was seen to be particularly sinister as the family lived in very modest quarters and it was not a typical robbery. The men spent nearly two hours terrorising and humiliating the family. During the attack a man was forced to drink from a bottle of rum and a slice of pine was then forced into his mouth as a `chaser'. Police are yet to hold anyone in this case.
Gopaul told Stabroek News that the situation in some other villages was tense; residents were afraid and were considering migrating. He said many persons have reverted to some of the security measures they had taken during last year's crime wave.
Meanwhile, police have stepped up their patrols along the east coast and yesterday a vanload of Tactical Service Unit ranks was stationed on the Lusignan Embankment. Several other mobile patrols were seen traversing the Public and Embankment roads.
At Strathspey, Asif Ally again moved out of his railway line home. Ally was forced to flee last year, but had returned after four of the five February 23, 2002 prison escapees died.