Thousands Swarm Albion Ground

by: Nivedta Kowlessar and Wendella Davidson

(Courtesy of the Guyana Chronicle - March 11, 1997)

Albion, Berbice -- Immediate members of the Jagan family, bodyguards, friends and citizens trying to help were last night forced to form themselves into human barricades to try to control a surging crowd at the Albion Sports Club Ground, Berbice.

It happened at 8:45 p.m., shortly after the late President's cortege arrived at the site for the last public viewing of the body.

Thousands who had waited for several hours lost control, defied all orders to queue, stormed the ground and broke several protective wooden barriers placed by the Police.

As pandemonium reigned, members of Dr. Jagan's immediate family, fearing for the safety of the casket, held hands in an effort to block the overspilling crowd.

In the meantime, about four members of the public tried to reinforce the base, on which the casket lat, with pallets.

First Lady Janet Jagan was seen looking around in surprise while daughter Nadira pleaded "Join the line. Please have some respect."

Daughter-in-law Nadia commented: "They were waiting too long, they can't help it; their emotions just...(got the better of them)."

In the stampede, several persons fainted.

Minutes before, officials were heard appealing on a public address system "Do not rush in. Take your time."

But their calls went unheeded and men, women and children jostled each other for viewing space and pushed aside the barriers around the makeshift tent in the ground.

During the process, policemen appeared helpless and according to a senior officer, about 100 more reinforcements were being brought in.

Earlier, it was almost a similar situation in New Amsterdam as the procession began making its way to Albion.

Guyanese of all ages ran behind the truck in which the casket lay.

It was 6:30 p.m. when the MV Makouria pulled up alongside the New Amsterdam ferry stelling escorted by Police and Army personnel in five launches.

The Makouria's horn blared continuously. On the black-painted forwards verandah stood the pall bearers resplendent in white tunics, red berets and green trousers.

Mingling among them were several persons from the...[fax transmission unclear].

On the lower deck, the vehicle bearing the late President's casket was parked east to west.

Around and on it lay thousands of flowers strewn by thousands of grief-stricken Guyanese who had lined the route from Georgetown.

As family members waited for the rest of the procession to arrive from the ferry after it have moored, several members of the public sympathised with the Jagan family at the stelling.

The crowd there had stood its ground despite a heavy downpour about half an hour earlier.

The cortege, consisting of an endless stream of cars, trucks, bicycles and motorcycles began the journey after night had fallen.

However, the roadway from the stelling was illuminated with thousands of candles people held in the palms of their hands.

It was amazing to see the innovative creations of the people in Berbice.

Throughout the stretch to Albion, transformed into a one way, other than in the uninhabited areas, an endless number of lit candles were places in paper bags on the grassy roadside.

In some cases, electric bulbs were extended by drop cords from houses and hung in trees and on bus sheds over photographs of Dr. Jagan.

Diyas (earthen lamps), bottles and emergency lamps were also in abundance as well as plants, posters and banners in tribute to Dr. Jagan.

Some of the banners read: "True, true, true, we believe you. Everything will be alright"; "We love you our dear President, Father of our nation and son of the soil. Now we bid you farewell to an everlasting kingdom. May the Good Lord bless and keep you in His care"; "All Guyanese are thankful to the US Government for helping out late President during his greatest time of need".

Long after 10 p.m., the crowds continued to pour in and vehicles lined both sides of the Albion public road.