[PRELUDE: We post this
letter here because in the aftermath of the 2001 elections, the
PNC forced the PPP to bargain at the table (i.e., "Dialogue").
The PNC's leader, Mr. Hoyte wrote this letter in the press in
May in response to an editorial by Stabroek News. Much
of what he said may be argued to and fro, but what cannot be disputed
is a few claims made by Mr. Hoyte, which were not true. One is
that water was being diverfted from Buxton to predominantly Indian
villages like Annandale and Lusignan. This was refuted both by
the Guyana Water Authority and the PPP. That Mr. Hoyte would say
such a crass thing was, we believe, an unusual position for this
ex-president. Was he merely misinformed by his subordinates or
did he knowingly lie to the public? See response by PPP minister,
Dale Bisnauth also.]
in East Coast villages springs from justifiable causes
Your editorial (Sunday Stabroek May 6, 2001) captioned, 'The Buxton
Violence', requires a response. It is tendentious, simplistic
and dangerously naive. I had hoped that someone else would have
challenged it long ago.
In the first place, the writer seeks to isolate the incident of
Wednesday May 2, 2001 from the wider ongoing protests which erupted
at Buxton since Thursday March 22, 2001. Obviously, this is untenable.
Second, to conclude that the incident was deliberately staged
(a) to '(sabotage) the talks between President Jagdeo and the
Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Desmond Hoyte', (b) to drive out
the government by force (the 'grab for power' thesis) and (c)
to promote ethnic confrontation, is nonsensical and utterly wide
of the mark.
It is nothing short of tragic that your organ should peddle such
facile notions about the nature of the manifestations we are witnessing.
The problems are too serious to be dismissed with such superficial
analysis. Unless we have the good sense to acknowledge their existence,
the patience to uncover their root causes, and the courage to
address them in an honest and forthright manner, we will talk
in vain about lowering tensions and creating stability in our
Admittedly, there have been some wholly undesirable side-effects
of the protests. A few miscreants have used them, opportunistically,
to pursue their own criminal and other anti-social agenda; but
to conceive of the protests, in their entirety, as being organised
by 'criminal elements' or 'racists' is to indulge in willful obscurantism.
Unfortunately, some media have (conspiratorially?) tended to suppress
the fact that the protests were not confined to Buxton but were
widespread along the Coast. After the initial disturbances in
that village, there was a domino effect that involved communities
as far west as Plaisance and as far east as Belladrum. The same
outburst of anger seen at Buxton appeared sporadically and in
varying forms of intensity in these communities. The anger was
pervasive; it still persists and shows no sign of abatement. Why
this is so should be a matter of national concern and serious
If the writer of the editorial would take the trouble to visit
the villages and talk with the residents, he/she would be better
able to understand what their real concerns are and the reasons
for their deep-seated anger.
Within recent years, they have witnessed with alarm and anguish
the progressive decay of their village infrastructure, their economic
circumstances and their quality of life. In these circumstances,
as they became increasingly resentful of their marginalised state,
breaking point was bound to come sooner or later. Regrettably,
the PPP regime cynically denies that these villages are marginalised
and that there is justifiable cause for their frustration and
feelings of injustice. The regime has therefore paid little or
no attention to their grievances and complaints. Ineluctably,
the anger has mounted; and the regime and its apologists seemed,
albeit transiently, to have found comfort in the vain hope that
the resulting protests could be extinguished by police (and military)
force. There has even been inane prattle about "pacifying"
Buxton. The reasons why the protests extended well beyond Buxton
are simple: their root causes are endemic in all of the marginalised
communities. They cannot be wished away by pious talk or brute
What are the economic and social realities in these villages?
These villages are traditionally farming communities whose backlands
in the past yielded large volumes of vegetables, fruits and other
agricultural produce. This was their economic base. Today, whether
by accident or design (the villagers infer the latter), the regime
has successfully struck at and destroyed their economic base.
Their drainage and irrigation systems have been neglected and
allowed to go to wrack and ruin. Consequently, in no instance
are they able to farm their backlands in any reasonable way and
a principal source of their family income has vanished.
But it is not only drainage and irrigation systems that have been
neglected; little or no attention has been paid to all basic infrastructure
such as roads, potable water supply, electricity, education and
health and recreational facilities.
At Buxton, the children are herded into a building that used to
be a market where fish, vegetables and other commodities were
sold; the nursery section is in the part where fish was vended.
The entire building is low, dark and filthy and completely unfit
for human habitation. How the Ministry of Education and the Public
Health authorities could permit a school to be housed in such
conditions passes all understanding.
The delivery of basic health services, too, is also a bitter cause
of complaint. The Health Centre at Buxton opens on week days from
8.30 a.m. to 2 p.m., a period that is far too short to cope with
the demand for the services, given the susceptibility of the residents,
particularly children, to maladies deriving from public health
inadequacies and economic woes. Their exasperation can be readily
understood when it is observed that in neighbouring villages,
such as Enterprise and Enmore, there are resident Medexes and
services are accessible to these communities on a 24 hours basis.
Moreover, the regime shows a remarkable solicitude for the welfare
of favoured neighbouring communities at the expense of these marginalised
communities. For example, potable water
supply at Buxton is insufficient to meet the needs of the village
but, despite this fact, the regime diverts water from Buxton to
supplement the supply at Annandale!
To compound these problems, there is an unacceptably high incidence
of unemployment among young people. With no backlands to farm
and in the absence of recreational and cultural facilities, they
float about the village and become easy targets for anti-social
influences. In short, these marginalised villages suffer from
grossly inadequate and often non-existent basic infrastructure.
The nub of the problem, then is this: they see favoured neighbouring
villages enjoying the benefits of basic infrastructure - water,
electricity, schools, community health and recreational facilities,
telephone services, roads, drainage and irrigation - while they
are left out in the cold to suffer. Who can blame them if they
attribute their condition to a studied, deliberate policy of the
Two other causes of persistent tension in these depressed communities
need to be noted.
The first stems from continual Police provocation and harassment.
The Police have developed a practice of swooping down on these
villages, arresting young men by the droves and charging them
with loitering, and often with some 'bonus' offences, such as
resisting arrest or assaulting a Police Officer, thrown in for
good measure. Thus, these young people are unjustifiably criminalized
and their prospects blighted.
The other derives from the perception of being threatened by neighbouring
villages. The village of Enmore offers a prime case study of such
an armed community. Villagers embody themselves into a so-called
community policing group; dress in a black uniform in imitation
of the notorious Target Squad of the regular Police Force; describe
themselves as 'vigilantes'; and are perceived to be a constant
source of menace.
I referred to this problem in a letter dated 7th March, 1996,
when I wrote as follows:
"... It is a disturbing fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs
records show that the PPP regime, during the past three years,
has issued five times the number of firearms licences as issued
during 1990-1992 under the previous PNC Administration . . ."
The situation has got even worse. In a written answer to a question
in the National Assembly, the Minister of Home Affairs admitted
that between the date of PPP accession to governmental office
to December 1998, some 30,000 firearm licences have been issued
- an amazing 5,000 licences per year! Recently, a Senior Police
Officer expressed a very deep concern to me. According to him,
he estimated that in the months prior to the March 19, 2001 elections,
firearm licences were being issued at a rate of 1,000 per month!
Yet, the writer of the aforementioned editorial feigns surprise
that some residents of the marginalised villages appear to be
The prevailing manifestations of resentment, frustration and deep
anger spring from justifiable causes that cannot be dismissed
as being specious or irrelevant. They have to be honestly confronted
and courageously addressed. We have to grapple with them in good
faith. This is the only way in which conditions that could reasonably
be described as being 'normal' would emerge. There is no other
The quicker we begin the process, the better it will be for the
security, development and progress of our country.
H. D. Hoyte
of marginalisation are without substance
following is a response by Dr. Dale Bisnauth, Minister of Labour,
Human Services and Social Security to a letter headed: `Resentment
in East Coast villages springs from justifiable causes' by Mr.
Desmond Hoyte published in the Stabroek News of May 27, 2001.)
THE examples of "marginalisation" provided
by Mr. Hoyte (SN: 27/5/01) give me the opportunity to show that
these claims that have consistently been utilised by the PNC/R
to abuse the democratic process in this country are without substance.
Indeed, over the years, the
PNC/R has manufactured this and similar positions to help secure
its traditional support. What differentiates the PPP/C from others
is its capacity to provide responsible leadership.
In our delicate situation leadership with concepts
of "slow fire; more fire" is destructive. The people
of Guyana recognise that the PPP/C has moved our country forward:
every village has benefited.
Given the decrepit state of the country we inherited;
there is still much more to be done. However, the rebuilding process
cannot take place in an environment where acts of violence, destruction,
disruption, robbery and general disrespect for law and order are
The PPP/C has been and will continue to be a responsible
political party, rooted in the working class but committed to
all our people. Our history and record of achievements require
that we vigorously defend ourselves against Mr. Hoyte's insidious
campaign to portray the Government as racist and insensitive to
the needs of ordinary working people.
Mr. Hoyte's attempt to blame
the PPP/C for the economic destruction of the village backlands
is his most outlandish. By the time Mr. Hoyte came to office the
economic viability of the backland of most of these villages was
A thriving pig-rearing industry died under his tenure.
However, during the past several years, these communities have
again become major suppliers of cash crops and ground provisions.
The claim that "drainage and irrigation systems have been
neglected and allowed to go to wrack and ruin" is an accurate
description of what existed before 1992.
Today, the situation has improved significantly that
farmers have returned to lands that had been abandoned for decades
and others have expanded their farming activities. A mobile pump,
established in January 2000, now drains the main drainage system
in Buxton and its adjoining villages.
The maintenance of secondary
drainage falls under the Regional and Neighbourhood Democratic
Councils, which have been in PNC control over the past eight years.
Central government has been most responsive to requests from these
For example, for the single year March 2000 to March
2001, $9M helped the Buxton/Foulis NDC to grade and shape 6,594
rods of access dams in the Buxton/Friendship farmlands; weed,
clean and excavate about 25,900 rods of drains in Buxton, Friendship,
Melanie, Bachelor's Adventure, Enterprise and Paradise; and to
rehabilitate kokers at Company and Pond dams.
Mr. Hoyte also claimed that the children of Buxton
were "being herded in a building that used to be a market
where fish, vegetables, and other commodities were sold; the nursery
section is in the part where fish was vended." What he omitted
to mention was the fact that the use of the market at Buxton was
a temporary measure employed by the Ministry of Education to facilitate
the construction of a new and modern primary school for children
of the Buxton community.
The choice of the market was
made in consultation with parents; it was not an imposition on
the community. Recourse by the Ministry of Education to buildings
not designed for education purposes is common and is not limited
to any particular communities. For example, at Anna Regina, Essequibo
Coast children were decanted at five locations including a discarded
Industrial Arts Building.
A similar situation obtained at Taymouth Manor, Essequibo
where four bottom-houses were used. The Overwinning Market Centre
was utilised to facilitate the construction of the new Overwinning
Primary School. The ministry's ongoing capital programme will
of necessity result in less than ideal temporary dislocations.
Under the PNC, health centres for the East Coast of
Demerara were only established in communities from which it drew
significant support: Plaisance, Beterverwagting, Buxton, Melanie,
Nabacalis, Victoria, Ann's Grove, Mahaica, etc. That is now being
corrected to provide equitable access to health care for residents.
In addition to establishing
other facilities, a number of health centres, including the one
at Buxton, was rehabilitated and now has adequate medical supplies.
Regarding the opening hours for the clinic, the Region Four Democratic
Council, which the PNC controls, is responsible for the day-to-day
operations of that clinic.
For the record, Enmore and Enterprise do not have
government health centres. These are Guyana Sugar Corporation
(GUYSUCO) dispensaries, which are accessible only to GUYSUCO employees.
The Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA) has already corrected
the false impression that water is being diverted from Buxton
to other communities. I must point out that the PPP/C Government
has spent $47M to install and repair pipelines as well as to refurbish
the pumps at Buxton and Friendship. The residents of Buxton can
testify to better water supply.
Mr. Hoyte's constant harping
on "police provocation and harassment" is intended to
demoralise the hardworking law enforcement ranks. Instead, he
should have commended them for their professionalism in face of
provocation and other distractions. The government does not and
will not condone police excesses.
However, Mr. Hoyte must appreciate that the Police
Force must be allowed to use such force as may be necessary for
it to efficiently and effective discharge its responsibility.
With reference to the activities of the security forces in Buxton
and other areas during the post-election unrest, it is regrettable
that Mr. Hoyte did not provide facts.
The police only act on information or after the prevalence
of criminal activities in the specified areas. This has been so
from time immemorial. Mr. Hoyte, as a former Minister of Home
Affairs, knows this.
He also knows of the hundreds
of unwarranted politically motivated raids against PPP and other
opposition supporters and leaders.
On the issue of distribution of firearm licences,
there are laid down criteria, which are followed by the Guyana
Police Force before a recommendation is made. The claim that 1,000
licences are distributed a month is preposterous and a figment
of Mr. Hoyte's imagination.
The Government supports the formation of Policing
Groups in all communities and probably Mr. Hoyte may want to encourage
other communities to organise such groups. A policing group may
help to address the concerns of the residents of Buxton about
the presence of drug camps aback their village.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Hoyte
did not care to say what he did for the communities, he now so
violently defends, during his Presidency. Let me remind him: roadways
in the villages were neglected; no major drainage and irrigation
work was done to help the farmers of the backlands; economic activities
slowed to a stop; extension services to farmers ceased; the rate
of poverty spiraled to 85% across the nation; thousands of public
servants, many from those communities, were laid off; local democracy
was hijacked with the last local government elections being held
in 1970; the overall socio-economic decline took its toll on every
The political stance of the PNC/R has led to violence
against innocent law-abiding citizens and to blatant breaches
of the law. Sadly, Mr. Hoyte seems unrepentant about the scores
of Guyanese, mainly persons of Indian descent and PPP supporters
of African descent, who were beaten, robbed and their properties
destroyed: not to mention his party's callous disruption of the
nation's social and economic life. All Guyanese are and will continue
to pay the price of this disruption.
Further, the report of the Joint
Committee on depressed communities should be instructive.