Sugarcane Protests: A Calm Week Amidst Historical Tensions, Police Commissioner Reflects on 2017 Clash
The recent protests and clamor among the sugarcane farmers this past week is nothing new when it comes to that industry. As a matter of fact, it has become an expected event whenever a new crop season comes about. This week’s series of events, however, was calm and well-handed when compared to other years. Back in 2017, Prime Minister John Briceno, who was leader of opposition at the time, was man-handled by Police, and tear-gassed as he gave an interview to Love News on the toll bridge in Orange Walk. As members of the opposition, including the now Minister of Agriculture, Abelardo Mai stood up in support of the farmers, members of the GSU and the Special Patrol Unit surrounded them with aggression. It is a situation that got out of control, one that the current Police Commissioner says was not necessary.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Different style of leadership, different government. 2009 was under a UDP government. My philosophy has always been and if you were to check my track record since I became Commissioner I have not had any standoff with nobody. I always try as best as I can to employ diplomacy. I think that that is always the best way to go. Yes we must have a contingency in the event that diplomacy fails but I am happy to say that diplomacy has always worked under my tenure as Commissioner and there has been no need for me to deploy, some may want to say the bulldogs, in to the fray of what is taking place. We have always been able to quell things by speaking to people and employing different tactics and that’s how we intend to move forward so long as I’m the Commissioner of Police.”
The chaos on the toll bridge in 2017 was not the worst as some years prior, in 2009, Anastacio Guttierez was killed amid the riot in the sugar industry.