Pres. Ali says went against all advice to meet with affected vendors, residents during violent protest
By Fareeza Haniff
Even after a threat was made to his life, President Dr Irfaan Ali says he went against all advice and decided to go on the ground to meet with vendors and residents along the East Coast corridor who were robbed and beaten during a peaceful turned violent protest on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters at the sidelines of an event on Wednesday night at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Dr Ali said he “went against every advice.”
“I went on the ground [Tuesday] because I understand the anger, I understand the sentiments on the ground and as the leader of the country, whether they had to take the anger out somewhere, I was willing to be that person. I was willing to be…the object on the ground because I didn’t know what would have been the reaction but that is what leadership is,” the Head of State said.
He said he could have listened to his advisors and visited the affected residents at a later stage but that is something he just couldn’t do.
Protest action on Tuesday for justice over the shooting death of 23-year-old Quindon Bachhus by a policeman presented the opportunity for rioters to loot, burn stalls and destroy the vehicles of vendors at the Mon Repos Market on the East Coast of Demerara.
The destruction left vendors with millions of dollars in damage and losses and many of them, in tears, have questioned what their next move will be.
The East Coast corridor was packed with hundreds of protestors who blocked the free flow of traffic at several villages but it was at the Mon Repos market that the protest turned violent.
And President Ali met with those vendors just hours after the incident; many of the residents were angry at the police’s delayed response and pressed the President to assure them that there would not be a recurrence.
When questioned whether any explanations were offered for the late response by the Joint Services, the President said that the police approached the situation based on the intelligence gathered.
“The police were on the ground and I am not making excuses for the police. The police worked based on the intelligence they had. The police designed their approach based on the intelligence,” the President said.
He reasoned that the situation could have escalated if the Joint Services had “moved in” on the protesters earlier.
The President noted, however, that the immediate task was to “secure the corridor and return things to normalcy.”
He promised that a full report will be submitted to him by the leadership of the Police Force soon.