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Stabroek News

Living on the Rock's gritty edge - Residents of Rocky Point, Clarendon cry for help
published: Sunday | April 29, 2007

LEFT: Fish vendors sit in their stalls on the Rocky Point Beach waiting and hoping for a customer to make their day. RIGHT: A smelly trench carved between the board-zinc stalls carries waste water filled with garbage from the beach to the sea. - Photos by Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Gareth Manning, Sunday Gleaner Reporter

Its name echoes the plight of its residents. Life is tough as a rock in Rocky Point. The match box-shaped zinc-board houses and grimy, littered beach tell us enough.

There is plenty of freshly caught fish on the beach, as fishermen and women clean their catch in hope of a buy. But only a few come to buy, leaving one mother to wonder how she will send her five children to school the next day, and a child at odds as to how he will support himself for the rest of the week.

The beach is far cleaner than the last time this reporter visited it, but the muck was still hard to stomach. Immediately outside its walls, open trenches filled with smelly sewage and garbage flowed on to the beach and into the sea.

To the west of the beach, the portion that is used for bathing, excess dunder from Monymusk Sugar Factory overflows into the yard of some squatters, carrying with it garbage, mosquitoes, and frequently, crocodiles.

There are children living on this land, but they can take care of themselves, the adults say. When the crocodiles come too close, the children just throw stones at them, chasing them away. No child has ever been hurt, though the reptiles often attack goats and chickens.

But apart from the muck, crime makes it hard to live and work in this fishing community.

The drugs-for-guns trade is rampant in this little fishing village, and from it may be stemming other forms of violent crimes that often leave the community raped and desolate. The fishermen suffer the most. Their boats are stolen or they are held up at sea by bandits and their engines and compressors taken away. Only last month, there were four such robberies, Michelle a fish vendor disclosed. Those engines value as much as $360,000 each and the compressor $100,000.

The little stalls on the beach are robbed too. One man has been robbed all of three times already this year. Another woman was also robbed in her stall one night, only two weeks ago. She escaped the gunmen by running off into the sea. They shot at her but she got away.

Too loose

"Rocky too loose. A jus one-way drive we have so them come in a day time and them walk and map out [the area]," Michelle said.

She, too, was robbed at gunpoint about a year ago, she recalled. They took everything.

"They kick off me door and beat me," she told me. "The 19th of November gone a one year." They took the US$100 her father had recently sent to her from America.

The police are not so responsive. It's not because they don't care, the residents say, but because they are some miles away in another community called Lionel Town. There is only one vehicle there, Michelle said. Most times when they are called they are out on other assignments.

Crime is not all these people grapple with. In a community as poor as this there are, of course, other social problems. There is a cry for housing and simple things such as regular garbage disposal service. The trucks don't come regularly and when they do, they don't go to all the houses.

"We need a garbage bin, we don't have any bin in this community," Fay, another vendor on the beach, said. Just a large central bin, she suggested, would make garbage collection a little bit easier.

"This district is like we have nobody here. The place need some little upliftment. It need to improve," she continued.

There are very few jobs here for both the old and the young too. The only livelihood that exists here is the sea.

"We have a whole lot of young people here. No work. Dem no have no other work fi do but in the sea," Fay said.

Almost everybody here has to work, including children. Nineteen-year-old Kevinwas one of them. Abandoned by his parents at birth, he had to make life for himself. And he did it all on this beach, catching and selling fish.

"Me haffi stick round the ladies fi eat a food most of the times," he told me as he scaled his latest catch.

No jobs

"Nutten no really a gwaan. The place hard you nuh. No job. Bare wicked tings a gwaan, man a shoot man, and man a stab and a rob man."

The life story of 13-year-old Marlonwas no different. He wouldn't say much to this reporter but the five-word answer he gave when I asked him about his parents said a lot.

"Them no response fi me," he said, holding down his head shyly as he answered my questions.

"Him used to go to school you know, but him time fi primary up and him mother nuh carry him up a [the school] wey him fi go. So him put on him clothes and him hustle him money," one woman explained.

He is one of 14 children belonging to both his parents, but his father only claims three as his own. With neither parent looking after him, he lives with his grandmother in Rocky Point where he catches and sells fish. He makes good money he said, which he uses to support himself and his grandmother. But he was shy to answer any further questions, so I let him go back to his job.

Name changed.

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