As a Guyanese citizen, there are certain public places where I have a right to walk freely, without harassment and stress. I am not certain if the Fish Market at the Meadow Bank Wharf is a public space but it is certainly not a safe space, though thousands of ordinary Guyanese make the journey there to get their fish fresh from source.
Last September, my mom and I decided to make a morning trip to the wharf. We got there late, by fish market standards, around 7 am. We parked our car on the public road and walked to the wharf. I have done this many times before, albeit much earlier in the morning, with an innocent, and quite false, sense of security. That morning, however, due to the lateness, the area was not busy. We were followed, from the time we reached the cleaning stalls, all the way out to the wharf and back to the Fresh Fish Depot, by a female who said she ‘hustling’. Even though we told her that we did not need her services, she continued to harass us. We ended up purchasing from the Fresh Fish Depot. By the time we returned to our car, it had been broken into and the stereo set and a few miscellaneous articles were gone. We instantly realised that the female who had followed us had been keeping track of our location.
We went directly to the nearest police station and made our useless report. The visit to the Police Station was not entirely useless, however. While taking my statement, the Police Officer rifled through his list of reports and found a ‘sample’ upon which to draft my statement. That ‘sample’ was of a previous case of break and enter and theft of stereo set at the Meadow Bank Wharf. With a shock, I realised that the Police were aware of this problem. Yet, the public was being kept in the dark. They have no crime prevention strategy, and no care to enlighten the public to the security risks. Why would they? It would reflect poorly on them. Another man in the police station told us that his vehicle broke down and he had to park it on the East Bank Road overnight. By the time he arrived back at his car in the morning, the stereo set was gone. So, we have a class of thieves in operation with a very specific skill set.
Around that same time, last September/ October, I went with another relative to check out the Massy Supermarket. We parked our vehicle and made a quick visit to the supermarket. By the time we came out the Supermarket and got back to our car, the alarm was disarmed and the back door was open. However, the poor thieves could not find anything of value to steal this time around but the experience left us unnerved. It was then that I realised that there is a serious crime problem on the East Bank Demerara. Later last year, the public heard about the Rahaman Park Christmas Tree being robbed. This time around, though, the Police got involved because ‘big ones’ were affected. And they even recovered the articles stolen from the Christmas Tree. So, the Guyana Police Force knows the criminals; but they just don’t care to deal with this problem until ‘big ones’ get involved.
More recently, about a week ago, I revisited the Meadow Bank Wharf around 6 a.m., in the company of a male friend. This time I drove into the compound and parked. A tout, once again claiming to be ‘hustling’, proceeded to try to show me how to park. As we repeatedly told him that we need no assistance, he got abusive. This individual followed myself and my friend all the way out to the wharf and back, with a constant stream of abuse, taunts and threats. One of the workers at the wharf saw what he was doing and asked him to stop, to no avail. It became clear that these ‘touts’ at the Fish Market had an impunity to do as they please, even if that means abusing visitors to the market and robbing them. It made me wonder who is the management at the Meadow Bank Wharf and whether this is a public space. Another worker at the market informed me that only the previous week someone had broken into the car trunk of a visitor to the market and stolen all the ‘glue’ he had purchased. No doubt, the police are aware and do not care.
When I read the recent story about a government official being highhanded at the Massy Supermarket parking lot and I listened to some nonsense spoken by the Crime Chief about the situation, I had to shake my head in disbelief. Our Government officials and politicians with the responsibility for improving the lives of Guyanese citizens are living in Ivory Towers, driving around in big vehicles disconnected from the realities of the day to day lives of Guyanese citizens. When the Government fails in its responsibilities, what happens next? That is when private security has to resort to the use of Big Guns. Basically, the citizens are on their own, and we have a failed state.
While it is too much to expect anything from the Guyana Police Force, I hope that this letter can serve to bring awareness to the general public and the private sector bodies of a serious crime problem and the existence of an organised criminal network on the East Bank Demerara. I hope also that the Management of the Meadow Bank Wharf can enlighten the public as to their policies in place to secure the safety of ordinary customers visiting that market.
(Name and address supplied)