April 6, 2007
Three Guyanese residents are murdered and eighteen armed robberies occur every week, on average, according to last year's police statistics. But, given their tiny numbers, Chinese restaurateurs seem to be the victims of a disproportionate amount of these murders and armed robberies.
Yun-Sun Chen, the owner of the Carrefour restaurant on Hadfield Street in Georgetown, was the most recent victim. Shot in his chest by bandits at his business probably after misunderstanding his assailants who left empty-handed, he died soon afterwards in hospital. But he was not the first and, certainly, will not be the last.
Back in January 2005, five armed men barged into Li Kechao's Village Restaurant at Kuru Kururu on the Linden-Soesydke Highway, dragged him from his kitchen, stripped his clothes off, emptied the cash register and then shot him in the abdomen, after which he died. And in December last year, Ru Fu Hua, proprietor of the Phoenix Chinese Restaurant at La Grange, West Bank Demerara, was stabbed to death. Wong Lee Dong was also shot during a robbery at Green Farm on the Coverden Public Road, East Bank Demerara, but he survived his injury.
The list of armed robberies is long and alarming. A gang of four robbed Zhou's Pearl Restaurant at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara in January 2006. The next month, another gang of four robbed Wong Ton Woon, his cashier and a customer at the Eastern King restaurant on Sheriff Street, Georgetown. The next month, March, another armed gang robbed the Chinese-operated Bonny's Supermarket on Church Street and Seiko Garden Restaurant at Regent and Oronoque streets.
Jiang Li Yan on the Soesdyke Public Road on the East Bank Demerara; Thong Hung-Wang at Melanie Damishana on the East Coast; Leung Kam Sing; Lin Hao Biao and Suta Quing at Sparendaam, also on the East Coast; Yang Mei Lan of the Cambo Restaurant on Regent Street, have all been victims. As recently as late March, two armed men robbed the Ming Xing restaurant at Industry on the East Coast Demerara.
How many gangs can exist and operate undetected? The number of cases is enormous and certainly, by now, the Police Force's Criminal Investigation Department should have discerned a pattern, determined the gangsters' almost amateurish modus operandi, and decided on a course of action to enforce the law.
Robbers seem to be very young, frequently teenagers; they enter the premises pretending to be customers; robberies occur in good light, in the evening between 20:00 and 22:00 hours; they do not bother to conceal their identities by wearing masks; they are armed with hand guns which they are prepared to use with deadly accuracy and without provocation; their booty, often no more than a single day's takings, are surprisingly low in relation to the high risk of taking or losing life; and their escape, normally unhurried, is on easily identifiable motor cars or motorcycles on long roadways with little traffic.
Although both urban and rural premises have been attacked, the attraction has been towards isolated rural restaurants. The reaction of the poorly-manned police stations has been notoriously slow. In addition, robberies occur so swiftly that there is hardly time to activate security alarm systems to summon contracted private security services.
In light of the mounting evidence, there certainly needs to be better protection and swifter reaction, on the one hand, and better identification of the gangsters and their incarceration, on the other.
David Lui Hing, an executive member of the Chinese Association, disclosed that it did not seem that the crimes were part of a deliberate pattern aimed at ethnic Chinese. He might be right but, regardless of race, every resident is entitled to the state's protection of his life and property.