Home Affairs Ministry, AFC trade barbs over Essequibo protest

The Ministry of Home Affairs today condemned the Alliance for Change (AFC) over yesterday’s protest by Essequibo rice farmers which saw the main road in the area being blocked and fires set.
The ministry said that while it supports peaceful protest it will not allow this to degenerate into public disorder.
For its part the AFC slammed the government and the police over their handling of the protest and condemned the alleged assault of its Region Two councillor Naith Ram and the use of tear gas.

The Home Affairs Ministry press release follows:

The Ministry of Home Affairs strongly condemns The Alliance for Change (AFC) for politically manipulating the plight and grievance of rice farmers on the Essequibo Coast and encouraging a few among the farmers to block the public road on the coast.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has advised and warned time and again that peaceful protest cannot mean blocking of public roads thus preventing the right of others to proceed without let or hindrance.

Public safety and security must be for all Guyanese and any attempt by a few to inhibit the peaceful and orderly life of law abiding citizens will not be tolerated.

The Ministry has noted that over the past weeks representatives of the AFC have been frequenting the Essequibo Coast encouraging their political activists imbedded in the rice farming community to engage in unlawful acts to disrupt the peace and good order on the Essequibo Coast.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has reasons to believe that the protest was politically motivated and orchestrated by the AFC.

The action of the AFC is similar to the politically orchestrated protest by the AFC at Agricola and Linden which resulted in pain rather the gain for the protestors while the AFC leaders were comfortably ensconced in the comfort of their homes and never seen at the scene of the unlawful protests.

The Ministry of Home Affairs wishes to remind that blocking of public roads and bridges is unlawful and persons found engaging in such acts will be prosecuted according to the law.

The Ministry of Home Affairs supports peaceful protest by Guyanese citizens and their respective organizations however; it will not condone the degeneration of peaceful protest into unlawful behavior that affects the lives and wellbeing of others who do not support any such unlawful activities.

An abridged version of the AFC press release follows.

AFC condemns police assault of rice farmers
The Alliance For Change (AFC) strongly condemns the assault and inhumane treatment of the party’s Region-2 RDC Councilor, Mr. Naith Ram by members of the Guyana Police Force during yesterday’s protest action by rice farmers in that region.
The Guyana Police Force continues to bring shame upon our nation by the manner in which it mistreats and abuses our citizens. Its resort to publicly undressing a senior member of our party is yet another example of a crude and uncivilized approach to policing.
The AFC supports the protest action by the rice farmers of Essequibo whose right to be paid in a timely manner for their produce cannot be ignored year after year. In this regard the AFC condemns the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters and deployment of soldiers armed to the teeth. This is a clear attempt to prevent farmers from pursuing their democratic and constitutional human rights to association and protest.
The AFC considers the release of teargas into the crowd and surrounding community as reckless and unnecessary, and cautions that brute force must never be the first mechanism to ensure law and order.
This outrage against Essequibians is unforgivable and is a clear indication of where this government stands when it comes to the well-being of that community.

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