Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 June 2023, 22:51 by Denis Chabrol
Several protesters in Plaisance, East Coast Demerara on Tuesday greeted Vice President Jagdeo to vent their anger against the widening of the Railway Embankment Road because they would lose their properties and livelihoods as vendors and other businesspeople.
After waving placards and chanting slogans , most of them failed in their attempt to enter the school to express their concerns at the meeting he was holding with concerned residents.
Police officers and uniformed policemen blocked a large number of persons who tried to force their way through the gate into the compound of the Plaisance Primary School, Victoria Road to attend the meeting. It was unclear why many of them were prevented from entering the school while others were allowed in.
Inside, Mr Jagdeo, in response to a number of questions and suggestions at what appeared to have been an orderly meeting, announced that the seven-day deadline for removal of the vendors from the Plaisance Railway Line Embankment has been extended to six months.
He told residents that separate meetings would eventually be held with businesspeople and residents who would be affected by the road works that would stretch from Sheriff Street to as far Enmore, East Coast Demerara.
He also instructed Public Works Minister Juan Edghill to conduct a site visit of the area on Wednesday to examine how vendors and residents would be affected by the expansion of the two-lane road into four lanes to accommodate increased vehicular traffic. Also to be examined and ownership determined, according to Mr Jagdeo, is a plot of land that a number of residents suggested could be used to relocate a number of vendors. Mr Jagdeo also said that during weekend market day, that section of the road could still be cordoned off to allow vendors to ply their trade.
After the meeting, the Vice President posted several pictures of that event on his Facebook page and stated that, “Vice President Hon Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo held a fruitful engagement this evening with residents of Plaisance and vendors from the Plaisance line top area.”
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) supporter Mr Conway, who campaigned heavily in the recently concluded Local Government Elections, said residents and businessowners were angry that they received a seven-day notice three days to the deadline to remove. He said the residents held a news conference and a meeting, calling for a meeting but they were never informed about Tuesday afternoon’s engagement by the Vice President.
As Mr Jagdeo was exiting the compound in his vehicle after the meeting, presidential guards walked alongside the slowly driven vehicle while protesters hurled insults at him. Eventually, he left the compound.
Accompanied by known People’s National Congress Reform/ A Partnership for National Unity supporters, the protesters bore placards that read “No land grabbing, we are all affected”, “Hands off Plaisance, Enough is Enough”, “1842 Plaisance was bought and paid for; our village is our pride”, and “Plaisance not for sale.”
The outgoing Neighbourhood Council Chairman said the NDC office and the Plaisance Historical Site that was financed by residents’ contributions are among the structures that would eventually be demolished. “We would not be standing idly by and allowing these things to go on within our community- no way,” he said. The 18-member Neighbourhood Council is evenly split between APNU and the People’s Progressive Party.
Former Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson lamented the government’s decision to order the vendors to remove from the Plaisance line-top less than three weeks after the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections. “Vendors have been given seven days to cease doing what they have done for the last 60 years and shops owners were told that they must demolish their buildings, all of which were constructed after permission was granted by previous NDCs. The villagers of Plaisance were not even given the courtesy of any prior engagements before these demand notices were dispatched,” he said.
Mr Patterson said that was in contrast to how the APNU+AFC had treated with the vendors of Mon Repos Market area before that road was expanded into a four lane highway.
Meanwhile, PNCR spokeswoman Member Shaneika Haynes took Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport , Charles Ramson to task for turning his back on her and other protesters as they voiced concern about Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall being in office despite a swirling rape allegation against him. Through his lawyer, he has denied all allegations. The Director of Public Prosecutions is yet to advice police on the next steps. “When people talk to you all, you all turn you all back on them. It is a perfect analogy of what you all do to this country. Whne people express our legitimate concern, you turn your back on us,” she said as Mr Ramson, senior ministry officials and other persons stood outside the Guinness Bar on the Plaisance Line Top.
President Irfaan Ali earlier Tuesday reiterated that the criminal justice system must be allowed to work, he would respect whatever decision is made and then Mr Dharamlall’s ministerial future would be determined.