Mahdia protests bring riot cops

Mahdia’s continuing protests over poor roads and services have resulted in the deployment of riot police to the area, while residents have been told that they have to apply for permission to hold peaceful demonstrations.

While they do not believe permits will be granted, residents have vowed that the response will not deter their efforts in continuing to highlight their plight.

“We protested so everyone knows what is happening and someone in authority will take action. Instead, they sent two vanloads of riot police with big guns and bulletproof vests…. ‘For what?’ We ask. We are not criminals… we will continue until some action,” one resident told Stabroek News via phone yesterday.

Police stationed in Mahdia remove the logs used as road barriers.
Police stationed in Mahdia remove the logs used as road barriers.

Residents of the Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) community on Monday staged a protest during which they signalled they will refuse to sell gold to the Guyana Gold Board until action is taken to address the grim state of their community.

An AFC regional councillor, Naeem Gaffoor, was arrested in his home by police and slapped with two charges, including illegal protesting.

The residents have said that they are annoyed and weary that for over three years they have complained, protested, written to the government and ministers and notified the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and still nothing has been done to fix their roads or address the water situation.

They said too that there has been little or no infrastructural development works in the area and they feel this is deliberate as they are not supporters of the ruling PPP/C government.

A resident informed that in the wee hours of yesterday morning, the riot squad from the city arrived and from the look of the rations they brought with them it seems as if they were to be deployed to the area for some time.

According to another resident, yesterday morning police stationed in the village came out into the streets of Mahdia and removed obstacles that were placed to block the roadways.

Some of the riot police chat on the steps and balcony of the Mahdia police station.
Some of the riot police chat on the steps and balcony of the Mahdia police station.

A miner from Campbelltown told this newspaper that he sees the move to have the riot squad in the area as an intimidatory tactic by government to force villages to “shut up and tek what they get.”

He opined that the decision to send the police will only make the residents more determined in their pursuit to have better living conditions.

A senior citizen said authorities should have used the situation to visit the area and hear recommendations from villagers. “They couldn’t send anybody from the whole big government to talk to us? For us to show them that they don’t need much to fix these roads because they have laterite and sand … and we will throw in a hand because we want the road,” the man said.

He too believes that the community is being neglected because it did not vote for the PPP/C during the last general elections.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) gained control of the region at the last general elections but its appointed Chairman Mark Crawford has since said that he is being sidelined by the government-appointed Regional Executive Officer (REO) Ronald Harsawack.

It is not the first time the residents are protesting. Back in 2012, they had staged a demonstration in front of Harsawack’s office, protesting not only their dissatisfaction with his performance as REO but also the lack of water and facilities in the community and schools.

A no-confidence motion was brought by APNU, in August of 2012, and passed by a majority of the members of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) against Harsawack. Eight of the 15 members of the RDC backed the motion, which was based on a series of complaints against the REO. The then Minister of Local Government Ganga Persaud had said that the RDC had no jurisdiction over appointed officials and nothing ever came of the motion. Instead, tensions worsened and the region’s councillors charge that Harsawack is hardly in the area.

He is currently in the city and Crawford said that he does not believe that Harsawack would return to interface with the community but would stay until the situation is quelled.

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