Businesses along the Essequibo Coast are reporting a commercial slowdown as protestors in the community of Dartmouth, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) continue to block the roadways, preventing access to both commercial hubs in the region.
Charity and Anna Regina are the main commercial hubs on the Essequibo Coast, and would see hundreds of people traversing the coast to conduct business there. However, since the protests started following the shooting to death of 29-year-old businessman Orin Boston, there has been a constant decline.
Boston was shot and killed in his home by the Guyana Police Force’s SWAT team early on Wednesday morning during an anti-crime operation. Since then, Boston’s fellow Dartmouth villagers have blocked the main roadway as well as dug out the dams preventing access beyond the community on both ends.
President of the Essequibo Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECCI), Aadil Baksh, told <<Guyana Times>> on Thursday that the blocking of the roadways would have a particularly devastating impact on the most vulnerable communities.
“What is happening here is going to affect the most vulnerable parts of our population. The people in the riverine area who are at the mercy of being cut out more than they are, those who need medical help, and of course the severing of that roadway affects the rice crop that is ongoing now,” Baksh said.
He explained that the farmers depend on both the main thoroughfare and backdam roads to transport their paddy from field to mill, and with harvesting season ongoing, they are ever more dependent. He added that the farmers cannot delay the harvesting of their paddy, since the rice crops work with their own schedule.
“The crop has its own schedule, and because the paddy cannot go back and forth over that bridge, the mills are isolated. The paddy can’t flow back and forth, and it is going to disturb the harvesting significantly,” he added.
The ECCI, in a statement, called for calm and restoration of the roadways.
“We believe that the protestors’ refusal to deny fellow Essequibians access to service and goods will result in harm to the most vulnerable among us, especially the farming residents of the riverine outlying areas, who depend on these roadways to sell produce and get essential supplies. We call for calm on both sides in this emotional time, and that we all consider how our actions affect others.
“The ECCI also urges the relevant authorities to secure the roadway and restore its function in a manner that is safe and decisive. A small number of persons cannot be allowed to deny the rights of everyone else,” the statement said.
Baksh further related that he has not been able to fully assess the situation on the ground, but expects a comprehensive report soon.
Meanwhile, Regional Vice Chairman Humace Oodit, who visited the picket line on Thursday, told Guyana Times that businesses have been significantly impacted by the blocking of the roadways.
“So Charity, which is an economic hub here, a lot of business people in Charity depend on Bakewell, Banks, DDL and all of those agencies, but they are stuck up and they could not have passed to go down and supply their customers in Charity,” he said.
Oodit said the Regional Democratic Council is waiting on the Police to give the go ahead to reconstruct the dams, so that the farmers can access it to transport their paddy. He added that they are also appealing to the residents to discontinue blocking the roadways, so that the Region can be serviced.
He explained that farmers with perishable goods that come from the Pomeroon would offload at Charity and then trucks would transport from there to Supenaam to the ferry and then to Parika; but, with the roads being blocked, they cannot do so. Those farmers, he said, may suffer financial losses if the blocking of the roadways continues.
This publication spoke to a number of truck drivers who are hoping that the road would be cleared so they can ply their trade. The usually bustling Anna Regina Market was almost at a standstill as well when Guyana Times visited.
Friday is usually market day at Anna Regina, and the vendors there are monitoring the situation to see the impact of the blocked roadways. (Lakhram Bhagirat)