Terror grips lower East Demerara
As armed gunmen rob, kill and create mayhem
Many residents abandon homes for safer havens
Others calling for guns in
absence of police protection
— Tension and fear are the order of the day (and nights) in villages on the lower East Coast of Demerara in the wake of a new wave of violence that has been unleashed by gunmen who seem bent on terrorizing citizens.
Many residents of Non Pareil, Coldingen, Lusignan and Annandale, the areas being directly targeted by the criminals, have fled in fear for their lives. Many are asking for house lots elsewhere, saying they are willing to give up the houses in which they are living. And according to newspaper reports, some have put up their properties for sale.
The outrage of residents reached a boiling point at the end of August when a band of marauding bandits killed 9-year-old Christine Sukhra in a foiled robbery attempt at Coldingen. The gunmen stormed into the Sukhra's yard just after midnight on August 27 and demanded that the family let them in. They then opened fire on the house in an attempt to get in, killing the schoolgirl in the process and wounding her brother Ryan.
In the campaign of terror sweeping through the area recently, heavily-armed men have killed fisherman Anthony Parsram of Annandale, cattle farmer Ramesh Suesankar of Lusignan and shopkeeper Nigel Amsterdam of Buxton.
On August 17, bus driver Davechand Appana of Non Pariel was brutally stabbed about the body and left dead in a pool of blood next to his wife who was beaten to unconsciousness. The next day, a young policeman Omani Savory was shot dead during a police operation in Buxton.
Distraught - From top to bottom: 1.Grieving Rajpaul, father of the 9-year old deceased Christine Sukhra along with Christine’s two other siblings Jagdish and Angela; 2. Christine Sukhra; 3. Christine’s schoolmates at her funeral; 4. residents of the crime-affected area dismantling their shacks and moving out to safer places
With the death of the schoolgirl, a visiting team of government officials came calling. Residents complained to them of the absence of police protection in the face of high incidence of crimes. One newspaper reported a resident as saying to the officials: “Give us the guns now and we'll do the job that the police may not be around to do." The man, whose home at Coldingen was attacked twice in one week, said that half the housing scheme's 800 families could be attacked and/or killed if the government failed to act promptly on their request.
The visiting officials concluded that security was the number one priority for the residents and decided to have street lamps installed on the western side of the village of Coldingen which is usually used by bandits coming from Buxton.
Apparently bent on continuing their campaign of terror, five armed gunmen turned their attention to Annandale south on August 30 ransacking the wooden shack of Rajendra Rajana and his reputed wife Laranie Pooran. The bandits searched the home but found nothing to take. They left with their weapons slung at their sides.
Fear is so palpable in the area that keeping wakes for those who have been killed would only go up to 6 p.m. When night falls, residents prefer to shut up their premises and stay inside.
One young man from Annandale expressed his despair thus: "A night in this place is like a night in jail...this thing happening all the time, since 2002 people getting kill in Annandale for nothing and up to now nothing is being done. Not even one person you hear get charge for one of the murders."
'Ivan the Terrible' hammers Tobago
Trinidad spared hurricane's pounding
Port-of-Spain - Hurricane Ivan, packing winds of up to 185 km an hour, hammered Tobago on Tuesday afternoon, leaving a stream of devastation in its wake.
Although there were no reported casualties, dubbed "Ivan the Terrible," hit the northern part of Tobago, tearing roofs off houses, felling trees and cutting off electricity on the island.
Hardest hit were Charlotteville, Parlatuvier, Roxborough, Plymouth, Delaford, Mason Hall, Mt St George, Moriah and Canaan.
Trinidad appeared to have been spared from the category three hurricane. Yesterday it's effect was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Tobago, however, had to cope with the full force of the hurricane's fury, with more than 200 Tobagonians evacuated from coastal areas as Ivan unleashed its wrath. They were accommodated in shelters at Belle Garden Community Centre, Roxborough Composite, Goodwood Community Centre, Kendall Farm School and Bethel.
Trees that were uprooted by forceful winds hampered traffic at Plymouth, Turtle Beach and other areas. Some flooding was also reported at Crown Point and Arnos Vale.
Reports out of Tobago yesterday indicated part of the roof at the Signal Hill Comprehensive School was blown off. The roof of St Joseph's Convent in Scarborough was also torn off.
"The wind was howling very, very hard and visibility was poor," said Elizabeth Williams, a news reporter from Tobago.
Williams added that although many people had obeyed the NEMA advisory to stay indoors, a small group of people were enjoying a game of cards at Black Rock.
At a news conference at Bacolet, THA chief secretary Orville London indicated that about 14 villages were severely affected by the hurricane. He said National Security Minister Martin Joseph had promised to supply additional boats to transport supplies to Tobago.
London urged Tobagonians to be careful. "We have to remain very, very …cautious," he said.
"People should still remain indoors, follow the normal common sense procedures, listen to the radios. We have been saying all day that we would be operating on the side of caution."
Trinidad, too, also felt the effects of Ivan's reach. On the north coast, severe winds and rains toppled trees in some areas. Several landslides were also reported at Toco.
Vera Edwards, of Radio Toco, said the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation and T&TEC were on high alert.
Senior meteorologist Glendell de Souza, yesterday told the media that, "Tobago…felt the brunt of Hurricane Ivan in comparison to Trinidad. There has been significant damage to buildings, trees, people's property on the whole in several areas."
Hurricane Flora, in 1963, was the last hurricane to hit Tobago.