BOY, 11, SCARRED
By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, September 5 2013
An 11-year-old boy remains at home on extended medical leave today, four days after being struck on the left side of his face by a rock thrown at his father’s vehicle by angry Beetham residents as the family drove along the Beetham Highway last Sunday evening.
Mr and Mrs Ali, who requested their full names not be published, recalled how their two boys were having fun reliving moments from earlier in the day, during their time at Maracas Beach and then at an ice cream shop in Maraval.
“We were headed home to San Juan around 6 pm on Sunday,” Mrs Ali said, “when my husband saw debris on the highway. There was also a group of angry-looking men and women standing up on the left side of the highway. As my husband slowed down to navigate around the debris, the people started throwing things at us, rocks and pieces of wood with nails in them.”
The family had innocently found themselves in the middle of heated protests by residents of Beetham Gardens, Port-of-Spain over the fatal police shooting of 23-year-old Christopher Greaves earlier on Sunday.
Mrs Ali remembered seeing a woman throw a large rock at their van as it sped around the scattered debris.
“I just heard the glass shatter on the left passenger side, right where my younger son was sitting. The force of the blow sent him collapsing against his brother, and blood started pouring from his cheek because there was a chunk of flesh missing from below his left eye.”
Mrs Ali said police officers stationed on the highway, a bit further down from where the incident occurred, initially advised them to file a report at Besson Street Police Station but upon seeing their injured son bleeding all over the backseat, told the couple to head to the nearest hospital.
Mr Ali told Newsday they drove to St Augustine Private Hospital but were advised by staff there that their son’s injuries were so deep, it required the skills of a plastic surgeon to repair the damage caused by the rock and pieces of broken glass.
“They sent us to Mt Hope (Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex) and called ahead to let hospital officials know to have the plastic surgeon on stand-by. I want to express my gratitude to Dr Ramcharan for the excellent job on my son’s injuries,” Mr Ali said.
His wife also praised the plastic surgeon and the rest of the medical staff at Mt Hope for their “patience and quick action.”
“They were ready to wheel my son into surgery when we arrived. In all, he spent about three hours in surgery and Dr Ramcharan made sure to explain each step to us.”
The Ali’s 11-year-old son will be out of school for approximately one month. He must also avoid exposure to the sun for the next week or two, because his eyes were also injured by flying shards of glass.
Mrs Ali thanked God and the medical staff at Mt Hope that her son will likely make a full recovery, but it remains unclear if he will need further plastic surgery.
“The rock actually removed a piece of his skin (on impact) and gouged out some of the flesh on his left cheek. Dr Ramcharan first had to sew together his inner tissues, then stitch closed the gap where his skin was sliced off. We have an appointment next week, for the doctor to examine how well the wound is healing. Based on that, we will know if further plastic surgery is needed.”
The level of care required by their son over the next few weeks has prompted Mrs Ali to quit her job as a data entry clerk. The priority right now for the family is nursing their son back to health and seeing him smile once again.
In a subsequent email to Newsday, Mr Ali again spoke of the fear he and his family felt that night.
“I could not stop the car, for fear of being beaten, or worse,” wrote Mr Ali.
“My vehicle was damaged, the glass broken,” Mr Ali shared, “but the emotional as well as mental scars inflicted on my family, (particularly) my 11-year-old son, cannot be forgotten or forgiven at this time. Why must the innocent children pay for the deeds of others?”
Mr Ali said his injured son does not understand why they were attacked.
“Right now his smile is gone, and he cannot understand why people would do these things. As a father I will try to encourage him, and I know no matter what happens to children, they will still always be loving, and I await the day when I see that beautiful smile once again on his face,” he said.
Thousands of commuters faced similar danger as they drove into Port-of-Spain, when schools reopened on Monday, as Beetham residents returned to the highway and again set fires and blocked the lanes. They also blocked the Priority Bus Route forcing traffic to be diverted to the Eastern Main Road, and the Lady Young Road causing gridlock into and out of the capital. The residents challenged the police and soldiers called out to quell the disturbance who had to fire warning shots. No one was injured, nor arrested.
Newsday understands two persons reported to the Besson Street Police Station that their cars were damaged as a result of missiles being thrown at their vehicles.
It is reported that many persons whose vehicles were damaged were too afraid to file reports with the police and chose to have their vehicles repaired.
National Security Minister Emmanuel George yesterday said everything would be done within the law to prevent a repeat of the lawlessness by protesting Beetham residents.
“Anarchical behaviour will not be condoned,” George said in a strongly worded statement on the, “Beetham incident.”
He described as a “flagrant violation” of laws the blocking of roads and stoning of vehicles of innocent passers-by.
“There can be absolutely no justification for such rogue behaviour that disrupts and endangers the lives of thousands of commuters who became stranded on the roadway in the midst of the erupting melee,” George said.
He said many people including children, who could not be picked up on time for the first day of school, were inconvenienced, endangered and traumatised.
George said regardless of the circumstances which triggered the episode, “riotous behaviour” perpetrated against the law abiding, innocent, men, women and children was unacceptable and illegal. He advised aggrieved citizens to seek redress for their issues through legal channels and institutions of the State.
“There are established procedures for dealing with these situations if there is an allegation of excessive use of force or an unlawful killing by the police. The correct thing to do would be to make a report to the Police Complaints Authority or the Commissioner of Police.”
George said communities could not be allowed to act in flagrant disregard for the law under the guise of legitimate social protest, endangering lives and creating havoc on the nation’ s highways.
A report on what took place on the Beetham has been commissioned and the ministry awaits prompt completion and submission. “Thereafter, legal processes can be instituted if deemed necessary,” George said.
Police are to view CCTV footage of the protests, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Mervyn Richardson said yesterday during the weekly press briefing at Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. However, he said that at this moment, there was no intention to charge or “punish” persons for their actions on Sunday or Monday.