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Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Bush Lot residents stage fiery protest over flood relief
Stabroek News
Minister Satyadeow Sawh (centre with cap) speaking with residents at Bush Lot yesterday. (Keisha McCammon photo)

Residents of Bush Lot Village, West Coast Berbice yesterday lit fires as they staged a protest on the main access road between Rosignol and Georgetown expressing their anger at not being given flood relief cheques that were supposedly promised by the President.

They said they would continue to protest until the President went to the village. However, Acting Minister of Agriculture Satyadeow Sawh met the residents yesterday afternoon and he convinced them to have ten persons meet him today at the Office of the President. He had asked for them to clear the road and they were willing but at the same time two villagers were arrested for allegedly throwing bottles.

The villagers called for them to be released before they cleared the road. Â

According to the residents they were told to visit the village office yesterday morning to uplift their cheques for $25,000 each, which had been promised to them by President Bharrat Jagdeo as flood relief. When they enquired about their cheques, they were rudely turned away.

One resident said she was a poultry farmer and had lost all her ducks and fowls during the January flood in the village. She said she was told that only the residents in Bush Lot New Scheme and side line dam were flooded and she was not entitled. Other residents in the protest spoke about a man who had his entire family receiving money. They claimed that the name of a dead relative and another who was overseas were called to receive money as well.

Through the flames: A car headed in the direction of the city took the initiative to drive through the burning tyres after it was caught in a protest on the Bush Lot Village Public Road, West Coast Berbice. Vehicles were lined up along the road waiting fo

They insisted that on the President's visit to their area he had said that every household would get relief. One man explained that the President stated exclusively that every household in the village would be given a package.

He said they were told they had misinterpreted what the President said and that the President would come and explain what he meant.

The residents said they decided to have a protest after just 240 cheques were issued when there were over 1,000 households in Bush Lot. They said it was unjust because some of them suffered heavy losses and persons who were really in need were without money.

Another man pointed out that persons had gone around the village and collected names to put down for the relief but he said there was no set procedure on how to collect the relief.

According to the man, what ended up happening yesterday at the office was that some of the cheques were shared out and some were sent back and one family collected more than one cheque.

The residents who felt cheated started the protest around 2 pm yesterday. They dragged out old car and tractor tyres and burnt them on the main access road which was recently reconstructed. They burnt tyres at two separate sections of the public road stopping vehicles going to and travelling from Georgetown. Once again persons travelling in vehicles were stranded on the road and long lines of vehicles were backed up along the road unable to pass. Some commuters said that at the second road block, which was set up at the turn separating Bush Lot from Golden Grove, the protesters had lit coconut trees as well as tractor tyres.

Heavy smoke shrouded the West Coast Berbice all yesterday afternoon.

Two hours after the protest started, some drivers fed up of the long delay, began to drive their vehicles through the burning tyres at a fast rate of speed preventing the protesters from stopping them. One woman recounted that she could feel the heat in the bus as it went over the fire.

After some drivers did this successfully, many others began to follow suit.

The police were present during the protest and more were seen arriving as this newspaper left the scene just after 4 pm. One small Guysuco fire truck, which arrived on the scene to put out the burning tyres, was forced to leave as the residents blocked the way.