Extended barricades keep protestors far from Public Buildings

Ali Rasheed with his wife and four of their children at the protest yesterday.

Hoping to get the attention of parliamentarians, members from the Guyana Used Tyres Association and sugar workers headed for the Public Buildings yesterday with their placards intending to hold a peaceful protest.

Bearing the brunt of the midday sun, protestors gathered at the eastern and western ends of the barricades after they were prevented by the police from picketing in front of the building, which some of the protestors said was against their democratic rights.

However, about two dozen protestors from the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union were able to weave their way through the barricades and they held their placards and walked around in a circle for about 15 minutes, as members from both sides of the house trickled through the gates. Several opposition members, armed their selves with placards and joined the protest.

However, after the MPs entered Parliament, reinforcement police officers arrived and the group was forced to retreat behind the barricades, where they spent the next hour.

“My concern at this point in time is the fact that we have the people who would like to protest things that are happening with our government and we’ve been banished to the western and eastern end of Parliament building which is where you can’t see any of the parliamentarians driving in. They wind up their tinted glass vehicles and they pretend not to see you,” Jonathan Yearwood, member of the Movement Against VAT on Education, said yesterday.

According to Yearwood, the group, which has been protesting against the government’s decision to tax private intuitions, had initially planned to protest yesterday but was denied permission to do so. He explained that the police told them they were not granted permission to bring their group out to Parliament or the surrounding area to have a peaceful protest.

“Is this the kind of democracy we asked for? We should be able to be in touch with our parliamentarians whenever we have Parliament. Why would we come protest to an empty building? This is absolutely ridiculous from our government…,” Yearwood said.

On the other side of the crowd, Mustaak Mohammed from the Used Tyres Association, said he and his group of about 15 came out to restate that they are still imploring the government to rescind the ban on the importation of used tyres. According to Mohammed, the move is not economical for persons who sell tyres since it would cost exponentially more to import the same amount of new tyres.

He explained that while it would cost some $18 million to import a container of new tyres, it costs approximately $7 million to import a container of used tyres, which sell for almost a quarter of the price of a new one.

Mohammed Yusuf, a taxi driver for over 50 years, also related to Stabroek News that he is of the opinion that the decision is going to make life very difficult for persons who drive. “I’ve been using used tyres all my life and I have never gotten a problem with them. I have two on right now and it’s been two years and they can go another two. What they saying about accidents is wrong. Rum, cellphones and speed cause accidents, not used tyres,” Yusuf said.

For the sugar workers, Ali Rasheed, who said he has been working at Wales for over 19 years, said he was protesting because since the estate’s closure he has not received his severance pay. Accompanied by his wife and five children, the man said he has been finding it extremely difficult to provide for his family since he is not working.

However, while there is the option of transferring to Uitvlugt, Rasheed pointed out that it was not logical. “It’s over 50 some miles to go and come. When you leave early in the morning and reach there and you go in the back dam it’s another long journey. By the time you come out back its late and you gotto get up back early to go again so it doesn’t make any sense. It’s affecting the children. The lil you saved you gotto take it out and they can’t even go to school every day because of the whole situation,” the man said.

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