When the mob struck By Andrew Richards
Kaieteur News
July 4, 2004

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Storeowner Chatterpaul Persaud is a survivor. Not only has he bore up to the pain of huge losses when his store was burnt down two years ago, but he has refused to quit on Guyana.

It was on July 3, 2002, that a violent mob invaded Regent Street and caused havoc for storeowners and shoppers.

Persaud’s Payless store was located adjacent to Fullworth’s and obliquely opposite the Bourda Market. It was razed to the ground.

His car, which was parked in front of the store was demolished by fire as well.

The actions by a small band of protesters last week Friday, which shut down Regent Street brought back grim memories to Persaud of the ill fate he suffered two years ago.

Persaud said even though he had closed his business on that fateful day in 2002, the violent mob ripped away the grill and looted the store.

He even offered the looters money to stay away from the store but they refused to take the cash.

Persaud and his staff had to run upstairs of the building as they were fearful that the mob would attack them.

Little did they know that someone had started a fire in the store.

By the time they realised what was happening, it was too late.

Their passage to safety downstairs was blocked by a searing wall of fire.

The backdoor upstairs was locked and the key was downstairs.

Persaud and the staff had to end up breaking down the wall and jumping to safety over a fence at the back of the building.

Two staff members broke their feet in the process.

“After that I thought about packing up and leaving,” Persaud said yesterday in an interview with Kaieteur News. “But…the support of my wife, and the will to honour my commitments spurred me to stay on and restart the business.”

The businessman lauded the government for the assistance received in the form of concessions to get back on his feet again.

His bank was also considerate enough to see him through the crisis.

“I am very thankful to the government for their support. It is one of the main reasons why I stayed back. One week after the fire I was able to start back business with the help of some friends.”

The storming of Regent Street last Friday by a band of mostly women sent shivers down Persaud’s spine.

“Last Friday reminded me exactly of July 3. I don’t know how I would react if a similar situation confronted me,” he said.

Persaud feels the police should do whatever they could to prevent protesters from going down Regent Street.

He said even though the band last Friday was a small pocket of people, it could have easily built up as it did on July 3, 2002.

He is also of the opinion that there should be an increased police presence in the busy shopping area to act as a deterrent to persons wishing to create mischief.

“Guyana is an OK country to live in but the political situation is not good. I still hope that one day the political parties would come together in cooperation so that a better business environment will be provided,” he said.

Persaud views the last 6-8 months as “pretty OK” where business on Regent Street is concerned.

He said the police have been doing a reasonable job but is still ever cautious of those persons who use legitimate causes for protest as an excuse to rob and harm people.