Protest abates
Members of the Joint Services clearing the road of debris
Members of the Joint Services clearing the road of debris

– many stranded return home safely under Army escort

-four detained in connection with murder of Henry cousins to be released

– three arrested for assaulting members of the public

 

By Nafeeza Yahya-Sakur

THE West Coast of Berbice (WCB), which, for the past four days has seen deaths, violence, arson, robberies and intense protest action, is returning to some semblance of normalcy.

The Joint Service ranks from the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defense Force and the Guyana Fire Service were able to get protesters off the roads and remove the numerous impediments that kept traffic at a standstill over the past four days.

The situation had left hundreds stranded on both sides of WCB.

The protests started following the discovery of the mutilated bodies of two teen cousins, Isaiah and Joel Henry of Number Four Village, in the Cotton Tree Backdam, last Sunday afternoon.

Initially, protesters blocked the streets and demanded justice for the Henry boys on Sunday night but, by Monday, the protests turned violent, with persons being attacked as they attempted to pass the blockades in Number Five Village and other areas.

By Monday night, several other West Coast villages joined the protest action and things took a turn for the worse.

Innocent citizens were beaten and robbed at almost all the locations where the protests were being held, and, on Tuesday, trucks and minibuses were burnt, in addition to a house and barber shop. Things took a turn for the worse on Thursday morning when a 17-year-old, Haresh Singh from Number Three Village, was beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of protesters.

Based on the family’s account of the incident, he was heading to the backdam when the incident occurred.  No arrest has been made in regards to this murder up to press time.

CONDEMNATION

Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Volda Lawrence, on Wednesday, condemned the murder of Singh. Singh was killed as protests escalated over the murders of Isaiah and Joel Henry.

The former minister said the killings were “gruesome and barbaric” and she was hurt and angry over what has happened.

“I learnt of the death of a 17-year-old, not so long ago and it is claimed that he is associated with the person in custody. I want to offer my sincere condolences to the family. We’re not a people who kill our children, we’re not a people who maim each other, we’re not barbarians, we’re Guyanese,” Lawrence said in a live video posted on Facebook.

She added: “We are hurting each other as a people, we are hurting each other as neighbours and friends and we are turning on each other as though we don’t know each other, and, as a leader, we have to call a spade a spade. We’re asking for justice, we’re also asking for peace. Pull away the things from in the middle of the road, we can do things differently, we can send our message differently,” she said.

Prettipaul Hargobin, 34, also lost his life the same day after he allegedly opened fire with a shotgun on a group of protesters who had moments ago beaten him. So far, the police have arrested four persons in relation to this incident.

PNC/R member, James Bond, in a Facebook Live also condemned the violence, assault and burning of property.

Meanwhile, the police have stated that, of the seven persons who have been arrested in relation to the murder of the Henry cousins, four were expected to be released on bail with the expiration of the 72-hour detention period. However, they will report to the police on Friday.

Despite the roadways being cleared on Thursday, minimal traffic risked passing through and reports are that vehicles were being stopped and their occupants were being robbed in Mahaicony and other villages in Region Five.

The Guyana Chronicle has also received reports of persons being forced to pay to traverse certain areas in Mahaicony, including a resident who was made to pay to pass her own street.

A US-based Guyanese, her husband and other family members were robbed, beaten and nearly had their vehicle torched on Tuesday. She said that she was thankful that her family made it out alive.
During the “traumatic” incident, she said they were relieved of cash and other valuables, including documents. The family managed to retrieve the documents, and after several hours being stranded in the area, they were assisted out by the Army.

HOME SAFELY

The army and the police, on Thursday, provided escort to many stranded commuters who were seeking to return home at various locations. Many later took to social media to express praises to be home safely.

On Thursday, the Home Affairs Ministry issued an advisory asking citizens to be extremely cautious when attempting to traverse hotspots of the protests and to only venture there unless absolutely necessary until advised further.

The Joint Services also issued a statement indicating that additional resources were deployed to the area to ensure law and order were maintained.

“Based on the assessment of the operations, added resources were deployed to the West Berbice area in furtherance of the maintenance of law and order and facilitation of unhindered flow of traffic in the area.

“Further, despite attacks by protesters on members of the Joint Services, the ranks have been able to clear the stretches of roads that were blocked along West Coast Berbice and East Coast Demerara, which facilitated the free flow of traffic as of today, 10th September, 2020.”

The statement continued: “The heads of Joint Services also wish to inform the public that the police are in receipt of reports and evidence of assault on members of the public, and have since arrested three persons, and will continue in their efforts to arrest and prosecute others who were identified breaking the law.”

REACHED OUT
President Irfaan Ali, on Wednesday, announced that he had reached out to the British Government and the Regional Security System (RSS) to visit Guyana and support the Guyana Police Force’s investigative capacity into the recent murders.
The President said he will also explore all systems and protocols available within the United Nations (UN) system to deal with persons who spread hate and racial strife in speech and in action.

“We need to understand who instigated, what was instigated, and, as a result, I am exploring the commissioning of an International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to look at every aspect of this situation, to look beyond what took place on the ground, to look at the behaviours that came about as a result of statements made. The CoI is important for us to have a comprehensive understanding as to what took place,” the President said, in taking national interventions to address the West Coast Berbice (WCB) murders and the ensuing unrest.

The President also thanked the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force for their tireless work.
“I am confident that they will bring the situation to order. They have assured me that they will be using all available resources and laws, in keeping with the protocols and guidelines, to ensure that the situation does not escalate. I call upon all Guyanese to refrain from endangering each other’s life, as I assure you that this government will work to bring justice to every single person who has been affected in these circumstances,” the head of state explained.
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Caption: Members of the Joint Services clearing the road of debris

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