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Business community jittery; ABC diplomats urge normalcy

Workers reinforcing the entrance to a Regent Street department store on Elections Day, May 11, 2015. The store opened its doors for business on Tuesday.

Top Western diplomats in Guyana say let businesses continue as several owners in Georgetown opted to keep their doors closed Tuesday owing to the unrest in Sophia last night. 

Last evening several irate supporters of the opposition coalition burnt vehicles and blocked a main thoroughfare in that eastern Georgetown community as they came to believe that ballot boxes were being stored at a Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) command center in the community, and that persons had voted at the location which they later found out to be an illegitimate polling station.

A Demerara Waves reporter observed that as early 3 O’clock Tuesday afternoon, fewer persons were seen on the streets and many businesses closed early.

Joseph Hamilton, a PPP/C activist, has since debunked these claims.

 “What we have observed based on what happened last night, the business community is very nervous I must let you know…” Persaud told reporters during the conference.

 “Quite a bit of our members and stores in the city haven not been opened today and its all out of caution…and not necessarily based on any insight of what is going to happen now,” he elaborated. He further said that “based on historical scenarios we know what can escalate. And those instances last night I’m sure are indicators…”

Persaud expressed “disappointment at what happened last night,” though he was optimistic that things do not escalate further.

While understanding the business community’s nervousness though, Canadian High Commissioner, Nicole Giles, British High Commissioner, Gregory Quinn, and Charge d’ Affaires of the United States Embassy, Bryan Hunt believes that business must continue.

Hunt told reporters that the Private Sector has an important role to play in Guyana’s development and that they should not postpone their operations. This is especially the case, he encouraged, in light of the demonstrated competence of the security forces in Guyana to restore peace and order.

After the unrest broke out, members of the police force’s Tactical Services Unit (TSU) as well as members of the Guyana Defense Force were dispatched to the area. By the early hours of this morning they were able to restore peace and calm.

Hunt said that “everyone (should) keep in mind, as the chairman said, that when the incident happened in Sophia the police responded.” As a result, he continued, “the incident was contained to a single part of that” community.

Continuing, he said “I think we can take a degree of confidence in the fact that when you did have what was obviously a very tragic incident for the people who were involved the security force did their job.”

Quinn said “our message I think to our friends in the business is…keep going, because this country will need businessmen who are here if it is going to continue to develop…”

He too noted the tragic nature of last evening’s incident but, as Hunt did, pointed out that the “security forces were able to contain and neutralise the situation in Sophia.”

The sentiments of Quinn and Hunt were echoed by Giles.