By: Nicholas Peters
A longstanding dispute between villagers and mining operators in the Cuyuni District got worse last week when, farmer Raymond Hope from Arau Village was beaten and held captive for hours by a group of disgruntled miners.
Hope who suffered several wounds about his body told this newspaper in an exclusive interview of the abuse he endured on November 3. Hope is a farmer in what is known as the Torobaru Farmlands, where he plants an assortment of crops for a living. According to him, his family had operated the plot of land in question for many generations.
Since mining operations began in the area, Hope has had many run-ins with nearby miners. He related that livestock owned by the miners would breach his compound and consume his crop. These livestock which include goats, donkeys and horses, proved difficult to deal with. After futile complaints to miners and authorities, Hope decided to fence off his compound.
However, this still did not prevent the animals from entering his property. On the morning of November 2, a horse from the encampment intruded his farm. Annoyed, Hope chased the animal off his property, injuring it in the process.
The following morning, the miners turned up at Hope’s residence, enquiring about the injured animal. Accompanying them was Hope’s neighbour who had been tied up by the miners and was forced to lead the men to Hope’s residence.
After talking to the miners about the incident, Hope related that the men invited him to their camp to discuss compensation.
“When I reached to the camp, the men showed me the horse, and say that it won’t walk anymore and that they will have to put it down,” explained Hope.
“They ask how I would repay them but I say that that wasn’t fair to me. Then they tell me that I have to speak to the Mine’s Ranger.”
According to an emotional Hope, it was at this point that the miners began to assault him. He said the men attacked him with cutlasses and large pieces of wood from behind then started to kick him while he lay on the ground. Afterwards, the men tied Hope to a pole, where they left him for the remainder of the day.
Meanwhile, when he did not return home, Lauretta Hope, the victim’s wife, began to worry about her husband’s whereabouts. She took it upon herself to the make the one hour trek to the miners’ encampment. Upon arrival, she noticed that the miners were still holding her husband captive.
The woman said that she pleaded with the men to set her husband free but they refused. She then made her way to Arau, where she hoped that the Village Council would help her with the situation.
This paper understands that the journey from the camp to the village takes about two hours on foot, since the area is densely forested.
Hope said that after his wife left, he made attempts to escape but his captors would foil his attempts and even threatened to kill him if he persisted. They nevertheless provided him with food and ‘coffee’.
The following morning, Hope’s wife along with the members of the Arau Village Council arrived at the campsite to liberate him, which they eventually did.
According to Dexter Joseph, the Toshao of Arau, it was difficult trying to reason with the men but eventually they agreed to set Hope free.
“We got Raymond to the village health worker, thinking that he could be treated there but his condition didn’t stabilize so we had to hurry and bring him to the hospital in Georgetown,” the Toshao related.
Hope arrived in the city late Tuesday afternoon with his wife and young son and was immediately taken for treatment at the GPHC. However, the process was difficult for Hope as he is not fluent in English since he is a speaker of the Akawaio language.
After receiving treatment, Hope and his family reported the matter to the Brickdam Police Station, where they were assured that an investigation would be launched in the area.
According to the Toshao, this is not the first time that a dilemma of this sort has affected the village.
“We made many reports to the police in our region,” a vexed Joseph related, “but nothing comes out of it. We are hoping that after bringing the matter to the police here (in Georgetown), we can finally get something done. The people of Arau Village are frustrated with this treatment.”
Kaieteur News understands that tensions between the villagers and miners have been rising for some time. The Toshao related that he and his people have made numerous reports to relevant authorities like the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). However, nothing has been done to address their grievances.
The village leader even provided letters that were sent to the President and appropriate Ministries addressing the issues which began in April. To date Arau Village has not received a response from any of these institutions.
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