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Police arrest Kwakwani-Ituni road protesters; community remains defiant

Despite the arrest of several persons, residents of the Kwakwani-Ituni area on Tuesday defied police and resumed blocking a key road to press demands for government to urgently fix the deplorable roads there.

“The protest will continue until the government and business community understand the people of Region Ten are too entitled to be treated as equals under the laws,” said Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon.

Sources said that moves were afoot to block the road in the vicinity of the Kwakwani Waterfront again and protesters have ordered drivers at Ituni not to proceed further.

Solomon defended the protest action, saying the residents were exercising their fundamental right and freedom to petition the government as a last ditch effort to rehabilitate the roads.

“On the people’s part, it is their last hope to bring attention to their deprivation and confiscation of their equipment because, were the equipment in the community the roads would, at the minimum, be in a better condition.

These roads continue to pose threat to lives, limbs, school children, the vulnerable (pregnant women and elderly), vehicles, and the community’s economic wellbeing. Roads are not only a mean of traversing they are also a foundation for personal wellbeing and developmental opportunities,”

kwakwani roadThe Region 10 Chairman accused government of being directly responsible for the poor condition of the roads because heavy duty machinery was re-deployed to build a road to the Amaila Falls Hydropower site.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) on Monday said the Public Works Ministry and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission were collaborating to repair the roads.

“The Ministry of Public Works and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission are at present assessing the situation and preparing to conduct rehabilitation work on the road.

The two entities met (Monday) and assessed what work is required. Also discussed was sourcing of funds to effect the repairs,” said GINA. Government said the poor condition of the road was caused by unusual heavy rainfall in July and August which seriously affected scheduled work.

Fourteen persons were early Tuesday morning arrested and the roadway at Ituni cleared of blockages that had been placed there to protest the deplorable state of the roadway, police said.

The Guyana Police Force has shown considerable restraint in this matter and wishes to reiterate its respect for the rights of all citizens to protest peacefully on issues of concern to them,” said Guyana Police Force spokesman, Ivelaw Whittaker.

He said the 10 men and four women were arrested around 4:15 AM because they were allegedly involved in blocking the roadway at Ituni. But the Region 10 Chairman said 14 year old Anthony Barkoye was among 15 persons nabbed.

The Public Works Ministry deployed machinery to assist police in removing logs that were used to create the blockage.

A Police Constable was assaulted during efforts to arrest another man, added Whittaker.
 
Little more than four hours later, police were also deployed at the Kwakwani Waterfront to remove several coconut tree trunks that had been used to block the roadway.

The Guyana Police Force assured that it has no objection to persons conducting peaceful protests, “but when protests degenerate into unlawful acts infringing on the rights of other citizens, the police will as a consequence have to take the appropriate action.”

The police action came less than one day after the Public Works Ministry warned that moves would have been made to clear the roadway.

The more than three-day old blockage had resulted in long lines of minibuses and trucks waiting to enter and leave the bauxite communities in Region 10.

The Ministry of Education has said that the road blockage had prevented vital food supplies from being transported to the Kwakwani dormitory where only rice and sugar were available.

“A truck carrying food items to the dorm (Sunday) was greeted by the protestors and turned away. The protestors refused to let the truck through although the Education officers on the truck begged them to let the truck through,” said the Education Ministry.

The Education Ministry has since instructed that a plane be chartered to dispatch the food supplies to the dormitory.