Friday, September 19, 2008

Timehri demolition…Bulldozer operator refuses order, breaks down in tears

The following KN story illustrates the (mis)governance prevalent in Guyana: swift action by the government to bulldoze the homes of the poorest Guyanese; at the same time no official response or investigation of the allegation that the Timehri runway lights were stolen by GDF ranks and sold to a well-known PPP activist / fish exporter.

Was the bulldozer operator or his company acting in accordance with a court order? If not, why not?

Timehri demolition…Bulldozer operator refuses order, breaks down in tears
Kaieteur News, September 19, 2008 | By knews | Filed Under News

Government must order an immediate halt to demolition, and forthwith arrange a genuine consultation with the residents towards the end of regularising the area into a housing scheme.
This is according to the Alliance for Change in a statement to the media yesterday. The political party also questioned whether the government was not cognizant of “what it might be spawning when children watch in horror how their parents’ homes and belongings are crushed? The AFC demands a better way out than the demolition of homes of law abiding Guyanese.”
The party noted that it was increasingly outraged at the manner in which the government, especially through its Minister of Works, Robeson Benn, was destroying the houses of hardworking Guyanese in the Timehri area aback of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. “There must be a better, more humane way out of this dispute.”
More than 400 families have made the contentious area their homes over the last 40 years. “Some like the ‘Sams’ have been there for in excess of 50 years. Others are of more recent vintage, all of whom have found gainful employ in the area but all of these persons have worked hard to clear the grounds of thick vegetation and leveled the land to set up their foundations and structures, utilizing the entirety of their life’s savings…The values of some of these structures must be in the vicinity of $10M and more.”
The party also noted that the demolition exercise was all done in the face of Central, Regional and Local Government officials from the very inception. “Yet in this background of open acquiescence by the authorities and what must be regarded as actual permission by virtue of the granting of lights and water to these families, a demolition job has commenced where a minimum of eight houses have already been brought down.”
It was noted that the ninth did not go down because the bulldozer driver simply started crying when he realized that the next house he was instructed to destroy belonged to his friend.
“He simply could not do it in spite of the exhortations of the police officers that he drive and destroy the homes…The AFC commends the driver for telling the officers, ‘Officer I can not do it…Enough is enough…You might soon instruct me fuh bulldoze me own one too. No!’”
The AFC also reported that based on recent meetings with families made homeless and threatened with homelessness upon a recent visit into the area, the party has learnt that the whole community has been demonised as a result of the recent spate of theft of the airport’s runway lights.
It was also noted by the party that utterances from senior Government and Regional officials, who were asked why the ‘draconian’ measure of demolition of homes was being used, insinuated that the community had harboured Fine Man and Skinny, an allegation which the residents totally denied.
Others alleged that the residents had stolen the airport runway lights.
The party noted that its investigations have revealed that two GDF ranks stole the runway lights and sold them to a well known PPP activist who is also a high profile exotic fish exporter.
“Instead of charges being instituted for larceny and receiving stolen property against these culprits, the Minister of Demolition Mr. Robeson Benn, who is right now facing contempt charges for demolishing a structure in breach of a High Court Order, is on his merry-way ordering the breaking up of everything in the area…
“Leaders of the AFC have seen the frustration, defiance and anger in the eyes of the children and young people made homeless and who are threatened with homelessness…It is frightening to contemplate what passions may be aroused as a result of this uncaring, heartless action on the part of the Government unto these who the government calls the future of Guyana.”

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