Sunday October 28, 2012
PNCR Column The Agricola riot of 11th October was a direct result of the People’s Progressive Party’s sectarian social and security policies over the past 20 years. The PPPC administration, more than all other Guyanese, is aware of Agricola’s agony and anger. The proximate cause of the recent trouble was the murder of an Agricola teenager, Shaquille Grant, by the Police on 11th September. There were some small, subsequent displays of anger in the neighbourhood but it was not until 11thOctober that chaos erupted at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court. Grant’s mother, relatives and friends expressed their dismay at what they perceived to be the preferential manner with which Grant’s accused killer, Police Constable Terrence Wallace, was treated by Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry. Wallace and two other policemen were charged with his murder. The crowd chanted: “We want justice” and “How many more”, as they stood on the road. Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr. Roger Luncheon, to make matters worse, gave a flippant and unfunny response to questions about the possibility of mass protest for the removal of Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee following an upsurge in police killings. Luncheon laughingly said: “I look forward to the fight... As Muhammad Ali said, ‘Let’s get ready for the rumble.’” Some Agricola residents participating in the protest at the Magistrates’ Court were heard to express anger and astonishment at the remarks attributed to Dr. Roger Luncheon. Disorder broke out soon afterwards. A large number of persons gathered on the roadway about 13:00h on Thursday 11th October. They threw tyres and other obstacles across onto the East Bank Demerara roadway at Agricola and set them on fire, bringing traffic to a standstill. Several persons caught in the ensuing traffic jam were robbed. The Agricola riot was the most serious in Georgetown for over 14 years and, on the surface, seemed out of proportion to the proximate causes. It is evident that there was deep underlying anger against the PPPC administration. Constable Wallace’s treatment and Dr. Luncheon’s remarks were only the sparks which ignited the time bomb that Agricola had become. Villagers, first of all, have been angry at the police for several years, throughout the period of the ‘Troubles’ when there was widespread criminal violence on the East Coast and East Bank Demerara. Much of the
Don’t cry for me Agricola
trouble was caused by the Police who were involved in killing several so-called suspects. The US Department of State’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices has often warned that: “The most significant reported abuses included potentially unlawful killings by police [and] mistreatment of suspects and detainees by the security forces.” In one case of political and Police harassment during this period, armed special squad policemen in dark uniforms without required regulation identifying numbers swarmed five East Bank Demerara villages – Agricola, Bagotstown, Eccles, Houston and McDoom – and started a systematic round up of nearly six dozen young persons daily from 30th July to 2nd August 2008. Most victims were minors and all were male. As Emancipation Day  dawned in Georgetown, several innocent adolescents celebrated the anniversary with shouts of “We want freedom” because they were still locked up in the Police Force detention centre in Brickdam. The reason for this unwarranted detention of youths was, simply, that the ruling People’s Progressive Party was preparing for its two-day 29th Congress which was due to begin on Saturday 2nd August at the Diamond Secondary School, a mere eight kilometres from the Agricola-BagotstownEccles-Houston-McDoom village complex. There were numerous other incidents of harassment and humiliation. Police would drive into the community and arrest young persons without explanation. Police on 2nd March 2008, for example, took eight youths from Agricola, into custody, after firing at shots in the air. The Police Public Relations Department said that the youths were taken into custody to “assist with investigations in relation to break and enter.” Police at 05:00 h on 30th May 2008 arrested another dozen youths in Agricola during a raid described as “a routine exercise.” Angry residents told reporters that most of the youths were arrested at their homes while others were stopped and searched on their way to work and later bundled into a police vehicle. A group of young men were playing football on the street, on yet another occasion, when policemen in a car pulled up and fired three shots in the air while ordering everyone to stay still. An eyewitness said: “I just standing here and all I hear is pow, pow pow…everybody running and ducking. “The police ordered another group
of youths and children sitting under a tree: “nobody don’t move” and placed them to lay face-down on the ground. The police radioed for back-up and a van with three other policemen arrived and the eight youths were placed inside and whisked away. Police, on 28th April this year, simply ordered three youths off the streets claiming that there was a “curfew’ in force. The rage against the Police had its roots in these repeated acts of humiliation over a long period. Agricola also became a bloody victim of the ‘Troubles.’ Dr. Luncheon, who is also Chairman of the Central Intelligence Committee, first described the outbreak of criminal violence ten years ago as the result of ‘drug gang warfare.” Many failed to comprehend how correct Luncheon was. Many failed to see how violent the drug war had become. Agricola became a community of interest during the ‘Troubles’ for several reasons but mainly because of the introduction of drugtrafficking. It was penetrated by Guyana’s most notorious narco-trafficker, Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan. It was also the hometown of two fugitives Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and Jermaine ‘Skinny’ Charles. The village is located on the East Bank corridor which leads to the country’s only international airport and to the hinterland roads network and on the Demerara River – all important drug routes. It also adjoins the capital, Georgetown, a major marketplace. The community suffers, however, from a high rate of poverty, a high rate of school dropouts and high rate of youth unemployment. These factors attracted narcotraffickers in search of recruits and who could supply the
guns and violence that accompany that trade. The murder of Harold Duncan, a CANU counternarcotics officer in January 2003 and Donald Allison in September 2005 were related to the ensuing bloody druggang war. The most gruesome drug-related executions were the beheading of David ‘Gurple’ Barrow and the killing of his girlfriend in March 2005. The village also remembers the February 2006 massacre at Eccles and Agricola in which eight persons were killed. Six months later, in August, an armed gang invaded the press of a newspaper at Eccles and killed five workers. The PPPC administration, despite this record of police harassment and drug-related violence, has been reluctant to address causes of the problems affecting residents of Agricola. The Ministry of Home Affairs is at the centre of Agricola’s anguish. It has made no attempt to correct the provocative behaviour of the Police Force by implementing a Security Sector Reform Plan or to curtail drug trafficking by implementing its own National Drug Strategy master Plan. The PPPC administration, even now, has evinced no interest in conducting independent inquiries, inquests and investigations into these crimes. Youth unemployment and police harassment remain the most serious problems for Agricola residents. The community has been stigmatised by the police and the government who seem content with aggravating, rather than alleviating, Agricola’s problems. And so the story goes. Pastor Ivan John of the
Open Door Bible Way Church, in a newspaper interview some time ago said: “What we find when these young people come and ask for a recommendation is that they literally beg you not to put their addresses as Agricola…As if this is not enough for our youths to deal with, those who have decent jobs for one reason or the other are picked up, photographed and thrown into the lockups for days and have to be missing out days on their jobs.” According to John, as a result of the treatment meted out to the young men in Agricola, many have
expressed the view “is best we just join de criminals because we getting lock up fuh nothing at all”. The recent riot, certainly, was a violent expression of anger against years of mistreatment by the administration and misconduct by the police. It was not planned or directed by Opposition political parties – A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change. Agricola’s problems – especially those concerning brute-force policing, poverty and youth employment – are at the heart of the People’s Progressive Party’s policy towards this poor village.
Dem boys seh
PPP coming to an end Honesty is de best policy. That is wha dem boys learn since dem li’l. Dem go to Sunday school and dem hear bout de Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not steal is one of dem. But if you live in Guyana you would believe that thiefing is de way to go. Jagdeo never lock up nobody and is anybody’s guess ‘Why”. Is it a case of being in de same boat? Donald doing de same thing which suggest that he jump in de same boat. Because nuff thiefing happening all over. De auditor fuh Hen See Hen find nuff flaws and nobody ain’t get jail, yet although Donald get de report. De NDIA Auditor find out some more thiefing and he recommend that two senior officer get send home. He send de report to Donald thinking that Donald gun send home de thieves. Instead, he get a letter fuh go home. Is a case of beating de messenger instead of de thief. Is like if a policeman arrest a thief. Instead of charging de thief dem charge de policeman. Imagine de magistrate telling de police that he like see too much. Next time see and shut you mouth. That is wha happen to de auditor. Guyana reach de stage wheh people got to see and shut dem mouth. Wid wha a happen under Jagdeo leadership and now de Donald sponsorship it look like you can thief wholesale and nutten would happen to you. That is wha de PPP come to; dem boys seh suh. Now de PPP coming to an end and is not dem boys seh suh, is Khurshid. And he learn that through de licence office wheh de licence number is now PPP 9900. That mean that PPP coming to an end. Dem boys wonder if dem got room fuh dem in de PPP. Talk half wait fuh see de end of thiefing—hopefully.