From as early as 5 am, Sea Lots residents — still hurting from the deaths of 28-year-old Haydee Paul and her two daughters Shakira and Akasha — on Sunday, began throwing tyres and empty barrels onto the highway. The tyres were then set on fire.
The action caused an immediate pile-up of traffic as commuters tried to avoid the burning debris, opting to drive into Port-of-Spain on the eastbound lane of the highway. All the while, residents continued to express their grief and disenchantment in various ways including loudly chanting, screaming, lighting candles, playing of pans and even singing a variety of Gospel songs.
The police immediately swooped down with officers from the Inter Agency Task Force, the Guard and Emergency Branch, the Besson Street Police, as well as soldiers from TT Defence Force, visiting the scene. The police and army personnel formed a tight line near the protesters, and while at times the situation became heated, there were no reports of the police using tear gas or rubber bullets on the crowd as was done on Sunday.
The officers continued to watch over the situation and the scene was visited by Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Minister of National Security Jack Warner.
Five army trucks, a police van and jeep were seen parked near the highway. Not all of the army personnel were deployed, several were seen sitting in the trucks.
Guard and Emergency and riot squad members were seen on the pavement of the westbound lane of the highway and some residents speculated that they were trying to hide the marking on the wall where the car collided which knocked down Paul and her children.
The deaths brought back memories of the terrible accident in which 46-year-old mother of seven Valerie Boneo was killed while crossing the highway. The East Dry River resident was at the time crossing the highway at the intersection in the vicinity of the PoS Central Market after purchasing fish at the Sea Lots Fish market. “Nothing ever came out of that!” said a resident.
“Enough is enough” was the refrain of Pioneer Drive resident Patrick Lewis, a Calypsonian who sang with the sobriquet, “Revealer.” He criticised the delay in government officials visiting the community and speaking directly to residents and counselling not being provided.
“We are asking for a walkover. That’s all,” he said. He said residents are willing to die for their cause. A pregnant female resident said children of the area who, out of curiosity went out and saw the accident scene, were traumatised and afraid to walk near the highway.
“Who go to school on their own afraid to walk on the highway. They say they are not walking on the highway again, parents are trying to assist them” she said. The resident was angered that the police used rubber bullets and tear gas on Sunday. “Old people got trampled, nobody attacked them (the police),” she said.
By 9 am yesterday, the residents dispersed after an agreement was brokered to allow the police to continue their investigations into the fatal accident as well as the building of a walkover.
Officials from the Port-of-Spain City Corporation then used a backhoe to clear the roadway and shortly after 9am, Fire Service personnel washed down the scorch marks from the roadway.
(SEE PAGE 20A)