– during tense standoff between squatters and police
TWO suspects are in custody, including an ex-prison officer, for reportedly relieving a GuySuCo Supernumerary Constable of his firearm, ammunition, cellphone and $25,000, during efforts by GuySuCo on Thursday, to reclaim lands from squatters at Success by flooding it for cultivation of sugarcane.
Pump attendant, Sabastian Rajeet, was also attacked and robbed of his cellphone. The incident occurred around 16: 15 hours, police say.
According to a police report, Supernumerary Constable, Mohamed Karim Haniff, 50, and pump attendant, Sabastian Rajeet, were in a make shift tent when they were confronted by the suspects who were armed with cutlasses.
Police say the suspects reportedly ambushed the men, placed the cutlasses at their necks and relieved them of their possessions before making good their escape on a red and black XR motor cycle.
Another GuySuCo Supernumerary Constable, Frank Lawrence, who was armed with a 12-guage shotgun and police ranks, who were conducting a dismantling operation about 100 meters away, gave chase and discharged several rounds in the “general direction” of the suspects but it is unclear if anyone was injured in the process, the police report indicated.
The report also pointed out that police checked the area but no blood was seen and based on information received, the suspects were arrested.
At around 16:00 hours, on Thursday, the Guyana Chronicle received reports that police had gone into the squatting area and were instructing the squatters to leave the lands which belong to GuySuCo. The squatters refused to leave and a commotion ensued, causing the police to discharge a few rounds of rubber pellets to bring the situation under control.
A young man, who is nursing a wound on his back, related that when the officers told him to leave, he refused to leave and instead began reciting Guyana’s National Anthem. He said many other squatters joined him in reciting this anthem.
When this newspaper arrived at Success, squatters were congregated at the side of the canal which separates the GuySuCo lands from the rest of Success where residents live. Many of the squatters there showed their wounds and complained that they were forced to leave the structures they erected on the fields.
Amanda Jordan, a pregnant mother of two, recounted that she hurriedly left her home when she heard the commotion. She related that she previously paid $35,000 monthly in rent, but when the COVID-19 pandemic caused her to lose her job in March, she was left with nowhere else to stay.
While she is horrified at what happened on Thursday, she said she cannot leave because she has nowhere else to go. Similarly, Jamaica, a mother of four young children, said that she cannot leave either, because she has nowhere else to go.
On Wednesday, the flooding of the Success fields to prepare the lands of cultivation of the sugarcane crop intensified. Many of the squatters fled their homes as the flood water rose. But, these squatters fled to the higher dams on the Success field.
One squatter, who wished to remain unnamed, said that squatters who were still there even after they had been flooded out were the persons who were in dire need. She said that a large number of persons had left, and that those persons who left were not in such dire need.
These lands at Success are being released by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), the parent or holding company of GuySuCo as part of plans to restart sugar production on the ECD. President Irfaan Ali, during a recent press conference, related that a sum of money would be used to start preparation for the reopening of the Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore estates. And in order for the Enmore estate to be operationalised, Head of the Agriculture Research Centre at GuySuCo, Gavin Ramnarain, explained that massive amounts of the sugarcane crop will be required.
Speaking to the Guyana Chronicle on Thursday, NICIL’s Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Radha Krishna Sharma, highlighted, “At this point in time, GuySuCo has started their pre-cultivation period and you gotta see what’s happening in the context of GuySuCo’s preparation of the land for cultivation.”
Sharma explained that both NICIL and the housing authorities have engaged these squatters for quite some time, and attempted to provide whatever support it could. Now, however, he emphasised that GuySuCo has to take control of their lands.