GEORGETOWN –– Riot police, backed by soldiers, were last night trying to defuse an explosive situation in “C” Field, Sophia, after an angry mob torched several vehicles and attacked a pastor’s home in the belief that PPP/C supporters had set up an illegal polling station in the area.
The building was actually a PPP/C command centre, which had no ballot boxes, as several residents had believed. The Lot 589 “C” Field property which came under attack is owned by Pastor Narine Khublall.
In all, eight vehicles, including a minibus and three SUVs, one of which belonged to PPP candidate Joseph Hamilton, were destroyed by the time police and army ranks brought the situation under control.
Kaieteur News was told that the mob made off with three motorcycles. People also torched a small stable in which the Khublall family kept some of their horses. Attempts were also made to set fire to another house next to the Khublalls’.
A tearful Pastor Khublall was too distraught to immediately estimate his loss. He told Kaieteur News that he had lived in Sophia for the past 18 years. He is also a Community Policing member.
The riot all started because of a rumour, reportedly spread by a passing minibus driver, who claimed that the PPP/C had set up an illegal polling station at the location. As the rumour spread, several angry residents began converging in front of Khublall’s property, where a PPP banner had been on prominent display for the past two months. The rumour was fuelled by the sight of heightened activity at the house, as the PPP mobilized its supporters to vote.
PPP candidate Joseph Hamilton, who was assigned to coordinate activities there, blamed an individual whom he knows to be a former policeman for starting the rumour.
He said that hundreds of people, from far and near, converged near the PPP command centre. He alleged that among them were several prominent members of the Opposition Coalition, including Raphael Trotman.
Hamilton said he invited some of them into the command centre in an effort to dispel suggestions that illegal polling day activities were being conducted there.
After satisfying themselves that nothing untoward was happening, the opposition members spoke to the protesters in an effort to calm them down. But as soon as the officials had left, the residents stepped up their attack.
“A Mr Edmonds, whom I don’t know, also came, seeking to be a speaker on the people’s behalf. We said [to him], ‘Don’t worry with the office; go into this man’s total house’. They did that and they left, and the people continued [to protest]. This was since 5:30.”
It was then that things escalated, with the mob torching a stable. According to Hamilton, some police ranks arrived and tried to pacify the protestors. He alleged that a police official reassured him that ranks from the Riot Unit would arrive soon, but they never did until much later.
By then, the mob had torched a vehicle. In the presence of police ranks in riot gear, they proceeded to set fire to seven other vehicles which were parked outside the command centre.
When Kaieteur News arrived, sporadic gunfire was heard coming from the command centre as the occupants, who were under siege, tried desperately to repel the menacing advances of the angry mob that also began stoning Khublall’s property. The shots were apparently fired in the air.
“This was a well-orchestrated operation; this was nothing spontaneous,” Hamilton said. He alleged that the Khublall family had been receiving threats for the past several weeks.
Hamilton was critical of the police response to the attack.
“We were under siege since five o’clock, with about six policemen for protection.”
Around 10:45 p.m., several more riot police ranks arrived, backed up by a number of army ranks while a GDF helicopter hovered overhead.
By then, millions of dollars had been lost in damages.