February 29, 2008
Helicopter arrives from Trinidad & Tobago
Helicopter BO IO5 arrived in Guyana yesterday from Trinidad and Tobago. The chopper will assist in providing aerial support for the crime fight in the country.
The Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Government yesterday delivered on its promise to the Government of Guyana to render assistance in the pursuit of criminal gangs which have been carrying out ruthless killings and robberies.
Yesterday, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) received the Helicopter BO 105 which was offered by Trinidad to assist in providing aerial support in the crime fight.
Following the two massacres at Lusignan and Bartica, which left 23 persons dead the Government of Trinidad offered to render assistance to Guyana in crime fighting.
Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee held discussions with that country’s Minister of National Security Martin Joseph on the level of assistance that will be provided. It was agreed that the Government of Trinidad will provide Guyana with specialized weapons and a helicopter.
Subsequently, President Bharrat Jagdeo said the security assistance being provided by the T&T government is only temporary, as government is in the course of buying similar equipment.
Minister Rohee, on behalf of the government, expressed deepest gratitude to the Government of T&T for its timely assistance. In the 2008 National Budget, the security and defence sector has been allocated $13.7B, $900M of which will be used for the purchase of two helicopters and other equipment and gear for the Joint Services. (Guyana Cronicle/photo: Courtesy the Guyana Defence Force)'Fineman' in Suriname?
Local police unaware
Police have taken note of reports in a Suriname newspaper which said that wanted man Rondell 'Fineman' Rawlins was in that country and police are "hot on his tail."
Yesterday's edition of the Suriname newspaper de Ware Tijd (dWT) said, "It is suspected that Guyana's most wanted criminal Rondell "Fineman" Rawlins is in Suriname and units of the Surinamese Police Force (KPS) are allegedly hot on his tail."
No official word has been given to the local authorities however. Yesterday, a top-ranking police official told Stabroek News that a civilian contact in Suriname had spoken to a senior member of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
Officially, the KPS's Information Department says it is unaware of the case. However, a source said it was possible that 'Fineman' may have already been arrested and that reports are being denied for safety and strategic reasons.
Meanwhile, the police source told this newspaper that the local authorities are in contact with Suriname but they are still unsure whether the reports were true. The reports are being investigated. According to the source, the GPF did not know exactly where Rawlins was suspected to be hiding. "We don't know exactly where he is now but we have been following many leads and different sources of information," the source said.
It was also noted that there may be some merit to the Suriname reports as police have been able to ascertain that Rawlins has been on the move. The source also said it was understood that Rawlins and other criminals go to Suriname as it is not difficult for them to cross the border.
Additionally, the source said the local authorities have always had a good relationship with the Suriname authorities and if any new information is available the local cops will be informed. "However we will not discard that information unless we are able to ascertain whether the man was at some other location at the same time," the officer said.
Stabroek News understands that the GPF did not receive any information prior to the publication of the dWT article but it has informed the Dutch authorities of its interest. A $50M reward has been offered for information leading to Rawlins' capture. He is suspected to be the leader of a gang that has murdered several persons and is also suspected of involvement in the Lusignan slayings.
GDF Court Martial for missing AK-47
Warrant Officer guilty
Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Warrant Officer Class 2 Torrington L, who was tried by a military court ( court-martial), for the loss of a lone AK-47 weapon which went missing from Base Camp, Ayanganna, Thomas Lands, in November last year, was yesterday found guilty.
Torrington, who had an unblemished 21 years of service with the GDF and is the holder of three medals, including the Military Efficiency Medal (MEM), was sentenced to one year’s loss of seniority, effective November 26, 2007. The sentence is to be confirmed by the Convening Officer.
A four-member jury comprising President, Major Ramkarran Doodnauth and members Captains Lloyd Souvenir, Marvin Chichester and Lancelot Lynch, after deliberating for just over one and a half hours, returned a unanimous decision on both charges, in favour of the Prosecution led by State Counsel Melissa Yearwood-Stewart.
The charges which the non-commissioned officer faced were ‘Conduct to prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline’ and ‘Neglect to the prejudice of good order and military discipline’.
Judge Advocate of the court-martial was retired High Court Judge, Winston Moore who is also a retired GDF officer. The accused was represented by Attorney-at-law, Leslie Sobers, a serving GDF reservists holding the rank of Major.
Particulars of the two charges are that at Base Camp Ayanganna on November 26, 2007, he failed to ensure that AK-47 rifle Serial Number 410416 was returned to the Arms store, a duty which he knew or reasonably expected to know, and, at Base Camp Ayanganna between November 23, 2007 and November 30, 2007, so negligently supervised the Base Arms Store as to cause AK-47 rifle Serial Number 410416 to disappear without his knowledge.
Prior to the jury retiring to deliberate, and as obtains in trials in the High Court, Judge Advocate Moore gave a detailed “summing up” of the all testimonies given during the hearing, from both Prosecution and Defence.
The Judge Advocate then proceeded to give the jury “pointers” on certain essential principles which they should pay keen attention to, in the process of examining the evidence so as to arrive at a verdict. These include burden of proof, which is not for the accused to prove; presumption of innocence, which is the duty of the prosecution to rebut; cross examination and credibility of witnesses; discrepancies, conflict, disagreement between witnesses and in the process checking for explanation in the discrepancies and the drawing of inference.
The latter, the Judge Advocate explained, must be drawn from facts presented in the court, and he reminded that there is no place for sympathy or emotions in the dispensation of their duty as the jury. He explained too, that for the Prosecution to proceed, certain ingredients must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, among them that the conduct and neglect of the accused is so blameworthy that he must be punished; that the neglect was not a slight mistake; that the act was not deliberate.
It was the Prosecution’s contention that Torrington had failed to ensure that the weapon was returned. In reiterating that only the facts must be examined, the Judge noted that, while the genesis of the court martial is because a weapon had gone missing, which was embarrassing (for the Army), it does not mean that someone has to pay.
President of the Court, Major Doodnauth, who presented his findings at approximately 16:10h, said the jury had weighed all the evidence of the Prosecution as against the rebuttal of the Defence. The experience of the accused, along with all that took place resulting in the loss of the weapon, were also considered. Having announced the unanimous verdict of guilty, Sergeant Joseph, who has responsibility for the registry, read the Service Record of the accused, which was subsequently tendered as evidence.
Major Doodnauth pointed out that in arriving at the sentence, he, along with the Judge Advocate and the three members, took into consideration all factors surrounding the loss of the weapon, noting too, that some factors were found to be bigger than the Base Sergeant Major ( Torrington).
Also taken into consideration were a plea of mitigation by Defence Counsel and the fact that Torrington, who is married and has a child under 16, had an “impeccable” service record, prior to the incident. Throughout the handing down of the verdict and subsequent sentencing, the accused remained composed. In court to lend him support were his wife Grace, and father, Rudolph, both of whom had served in the GDF, the latter retiring as a Warrant Officer 2.
Judge Advocate Moore, in closing remarks, said the court martial was an interesting one, which should “serve as a wake up call for those who have to discharge duties in the GDF.” (Guyana Cronicle)
Families want wider effort to find missing fishermen
"Me really worried, me nah know what happen to me son," were the words of Latchmin Jagmohan, the mother of one of the three fishermen, who have not been heard from since leaving for sea on January 23.
Missing are captain of the Palpos III, Mahadeo Ramdeo, 24, of 190 Coldingen Housing Scheme, East Coast Demerara (ECD), Ramnarine Jagmohan, 46, of 356 Craig Public Road, East Bank Demerara and another man, also said to be from ECD and whose identity has not yet been established.
The men left on the fishing vessel on January 23, and were expected to return 21 days later. They have not been heard from since and their families became concerned and contacted the company, which owns the boat, about the men's prolonged absence. The matter was also reported to the police.
Relatives said supplies are only carried for a period of 21 days. On Wednesday, a boat was deployed by the men's employer, Pritipaul Singh Investments (PSI) to conduct a search. Yesterday, the families said that nothing has been found and called for the search to be widened stating that aerial searches should also be carried out.
Khobindi Sanichara, whose only son, Ramdeo captained the vessel said that she was upset at the responses she got whenever she called the company. She said that yesterday a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture called the home and scheduled a meeting with Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud for today. Latchmin Jagmohan said that when she contacted PSI yesterday and "they seh that they nah hear nothing they nah get no answer from nowhere".
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, in a statement yesterday expressed "serious concern" at the incident. The statement said the ministry is "fully engaged with all stakeholders," and is currently examining "several courses of action to assist in this matter". The release also reported and expressed concern at the sinking of a trawler, belonging to Guyana Quality Seafoods, on Wednesday but stated that all the crew have been accounted for and are in good health.
Sanichara meantime expressed her frustration with the search efforts and expressed hope that something more would come out of the meeting with the Agriculture Minister. "I only hope that they gon tell me something good tomorrow [today]," she stated. (Stabroek News)
February 28, 2008
Ten years for man who blasted wife to death with shotgun
Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire sentenced a Lusignan man to ten years imprisonment on Tuesday for killing his wife then reporting that bandits had broken into their home and murdered her.
Roopnarine Singh who shot his wife, Rajdai Sookraj in the face at their East Coast Demerara home on March 31, 2005 following a misunderstanding was charged with murder but he opted to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter when his case was called in the High Court.
His sentencing was deferred to Tuesday after the defence requested a probation report. On Tuesday the report, which was read in court, revealed that Singh, 63, and his wife often quarrelled. It also said that he had been a licensed firearm holder for over two decades. His character was said to be good though he had threatened a few persons in the area in the past.
Singh and his wife were said to have been alcoholics and on the day she was murdered he admitted that they both had a drink. In a caution statement he gave to police and which was read in court on Tuesday by state counsel, Ganesh Hira who was prosecuting the case, Singh said his wife went home around 3:30 pm after visiting a relative in Buxton and was packing to go back out.
He objected to her leaving and a quarrel ensued but it later died down. It was at this stage that she decided to have a drink. Singh said he went out and bought a 'quarter' and returned home to have a drink. He recalled quarreling with his wife about her leaving. He then armed himself with his shotgun and shot her in the face. One side of her face was said to have been blown off. Singh recalled that he stood over her and discharged four more rounds but only two hit her in the back.
After killing his wife, he had a drink and then went to bed. The following day when neighbours asked for Sookraj, Singh told them she was killed by bandits.
Police later arrested and charged him with murder. On Tuesday, defence counsel Peter Hugh told the court that his client is currently taking English, Mathematics, Spanish and Social Studies courses in jail. He said Singh had been imprisoned for some three years now and that he has begun the process of rehabilitation.
The judge took several factors into consideration before passing judgment, among them was the years Singh had spent in prison. She however noted that if his wife wanted to leave that day he should not have stopped her, pointing out that he went as far as to kill her. Singh and Sookraj lived together for two years prior to the shooting. (Stabroek News)
NA prison escapee draws five years
At the New Amsterdam (NA) Court on Monday Magistrate Krishendat Persaud sentenced prison escapee Jermaine Brown to five years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to a charge of escaping from lawful custody. The court heard that on August 25, 2007, Brown, along with 17 other inmates, staged a daring getaway from the NA prison.
Two days later he was shot after police cornered him and three other prisoners, Neville Williams, Arvendra Deonarine and his brother Carlos King who reportedly engaged police in a shoot-out at an abandoned house in NA where they were said to be hiding. Police said that Brown opened fire on them and they retaliated, mortally wounding Williams, Deonarine and King.
Brown was admitted to the NA Hospital and was nursing gunshot wounds to his left wrist and upper back. He immediately faced charges upon his release from the institution late November for being in possession of an unlicensed .32 firearm, five spent shells and five live rounds. Reports are that the firearm and ammunition were used in the confrontation with police on August 27. He is scheduled to return to court on March 31 when that matter would be heard again.
Nine of the prisoners have since been recaptured and were each sentenced to five years in jail while police are still on the hunt for Troy Benn, Alvin Bhola and Anthony Campbell. Police in Berbice had told this newspaper that they were "following all leads" in the capture of the men. At the time of his escape, Brown had been on remand for a robbery under arms charge at the Springlands Magistrate's Court.
Inspector Fazil Karimbaksh, prosecuting, requested that Brown be given the same penalty as the other escapees. Before handing down the sentence, Magistrate Persaud told Brown he was lucky to be alive since his brother was among those killed during the shoot-out. (Stabroek News)
Previously wanted ‘Manu’ freed of $1.2M larceny charge
Manu Durant called ‘Manu’, for whom the Police had issued a wanted bulletin in connection with the disappearance of teenager Tenisha Morgan, appeared in Court yesterday, on a simple larceny charge. The defendant, 33, of Lot 170 Barr Street, Kitty, Georgetown, pleaded not guilty before Principal Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle.
Particulars of the offence said, on December 18, 2007, Durant stole $1,200,000, belonging to Wilson D’Oliviera. But Defence Counsel Mark Waldron said the virtual complainant told Police that it was a case of mistaken identity with Durant, who owns a taxi and car rental service.
D’Oliviera, who is the owner of a restaurant on Alexander Street, also in the city, said he made that statement because, at the time of the incident, he was nervous and confused. Waldron claimed that, after what took place at the victim’s eating house, Durant and others were going there and that is why he was accused.
The magistrate dismissed the case for want of Prosecution and Waldron asked that the cash taken from Durant be returned to him, at this stage, while the issue involving jewellery, also seized, would be dealt with in the High Court. Police Inspector Denise Griffith, prosecuting, said, as the victim did not finger Durant as the person who robbed him, the money the latter had on his person could be returned to him.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has advised that the jewels remain in custody because the ownership cannot be ascertained, the Prosecutor reported. Meantime, when D’Oliviera was ordered to pay $10,000 Court costs, Waldron said, as an act of benevolence, Durant would pay it.
Durant refused to leave the courtroom through the chute used by prisoners and was permitted to go down the stairs. He also threatened the Guyana Chronicle photographer, telling the cameraman: “This might be the last photo you’re taking! I’m marking your face. My case was dismissed. You now want me to go to prison for something.”
Durant had turned himself in, accompanied by Waldron, at Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters, Eve Leary, on Monday, in response to the wanted bulletin. Pregnant teenager Morgan was reported missing while on her way to give birth several weeks ago and her whereabouts are still unknown. (Guyana Cronicle)
February 27, 2008
'Sea Tarzan' murdered
Boat's engine missing
Grief enveloped a North Nootenzuil home early yesterday morning when a 74-year-old pensioner was discovered murdered aboard his family's fishing boat, with the engine missing, near the Nootenzuil foreshore.
According to relatives, ex-fisherman Llewellyn Kissoon, also known as 'Sea Tarzan' of North Nootenzuil, East Coast Demerara left his home at 5 pm on Monday. He was found dead aboard his family's fishing boat yesterday morning by his son Arnold Kissoon.
When this newspaper arrived at the scene yesterday shortly after 8 am, members of the Joint Services were already present and efforts were being made by relatives and members of the community to move the boat, which had drifted a short distance out to sea, closer to shore.
Kissoon's body, covered with a mixture of blood and mud, was removed from the boat by members of the Joint Services team and relatives. As the body was being fetched to shore, relatives began to wail, while curious members of the community stood looking on. One resident remarked that he couldn't believe that such a thing had happened in "this peaceful place".
Rope of half-inch width could be seen wrapped around Kissoon's neck and his body was in an awkward position resulting from his hands and feet being tied together with the same rope. A wound was discovered on the dead man's head.
There was also a deep track in the soft mud of the sea bank which relatives suspect was left when the boat's engine was being dragged to shore by the culprits.
Arnold Kissoon said his father usually went out at night to guard the boat and its engine. The distressed man said he and his brother were supposed to leave for sea yesterday morning, so at 6 am he went out to get the boat.
"I call he and I ain't hear anyone answer," Arnold said. "I went closer to see why he ain't answer and I notice the boat's engine was missing, then I find he dead."
Kissoon leaves to mourn his wife Radikah Kissoon, 13 children, grandchildren and many relatives and friends.
His 70-year-old widow was in shock when this newspaper visited her home a short distance away from the scene of the murder. "all the cruel things they do to he," the woman lamented between deep sobs.
One grandchild asked whether the police had taken her grandfather away. The adults were dumbfounded, not knowing how to answer. Finally, one woman said, "They didn't take grandpa. He's dead." The child said with a blank look, "Dead? Oh, when will he come home?"
The matter is being investigated by the police and Kissoon's relatives hope the culprit/s are found soon and punished for the "brutal killing" of a man they all loved. (Sarah Bharrat/Stabroek News)
February 26, 2008
Wanted men Delroy Jack and Manu Durant turn themselves in
Wanted men Delroy Jack and Manu Durant yesterday turned themselves in to police. The police said in a press release that Jack was wanted with regard to investigations into the two recent killing sprees at Lusignan and Bartica, while Durant was wanted in connection with the case of missing teen Tenisha Morgan of Friendship, East Coast Demerara.
Jack, called 'Pan Head', of Buxton turned himself in at police headquarters on Sunday. He is one of five men, for whom a wanted bulletin was issued from a branch of law enforcement. The bulletin and photos appeared in the two other dailies. The police press release said Jack was wanted for questioning in connection with the 23 murders at Lusignan and Bartica and "a bulletin was issued for him".
Meanwhile, the police press release yesterday said Durant was accompanied by his lawyer Mark Waldron and presented himself at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters. On February 12, police issued a wanted bulletin for Durant, which said that he was wanted in connection with the disappearance of the 19-year-old Morgan. At the time of her disappearance, the teen was heavily pregnancy and had travelled to the city.
Morgan's mother, Waple Morgan, had told police that her daughter had made telephone contact with her saying that she was near a river, was hungry and the baby was ill. However, Waple Morgan changed her story after she was confronted with telephone records that showed several inconsistencies. A high-ranking police official had told Stabroek News that there seemed to be some irregularities over who first supposedly spoke to the teen and when this was done.
This newspaper was told that Waple Morgan had told the police that her daughter first called a friend and the second time the teen allegedly called, she was fortunate to be next to the friend and when the instrument was handed to her she recognised her daughter's voice. She then said when the call was made the friend was not around and that the call was received on her niece's telephone. Frequent attempts by Stabroek News in the last week to contact Waple Morgan have failed. (Stabroek News)
Joint Services fly in to Enachu
Rapid response to attack on mining camp
A Joint Services team was late yesterday flown into the Enachu River area to investigate reports of an armed robbery attack on a mining camp in the vicinity, at around 15:15h. Colonel Bruce Lovell, third in command of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), when contacted, confirmed that a joint team was dispatched from the city to the area at around 17:15 h.
However, he was not in a position to provide any further information, as according to him, word was still being awaited from the Joint Services team on the ground. Captain Gerry Gouveia, meanwhile, dispelled rumours that an aircraft was transporting casualties from the Enachu River area, sited some 170 miles up the Mazaruni River.
He said that there was a “rapid response” from the Joint Services upon news filtering out of the area about the attack. Speaking with the Chronicle, around 20:00h, Capt. Gouveia said he was unaware that any other aircraft had gone into the area to retrieve casualties. “As we speak, the aircraft which took a team into the Enachu area to investigate the report is on the ground at Timehri and will be returning to Ogle shortly,” he said.
A police release later stated that the Joint Services have responded to a report received of an armed robbery committed on a mining camp at Enachu at about 15:15h. yesterday, but added that it had no other information.
The Joint Services have been on the alert ever since January 26, last, when some 10 heavily armed men invaded the community of Lusignan on the East Coast of Demerara, killing 11 persons, including five children. And less than three weeks later, on February 17, at about 21:45 , the peaceful community of Bartica came under siege from some 20 heavily armed gunmen dressed in camouflage clothing.
The gunmen first attacked and neutralized any form of defense from the police station by killing three policemen and injuring two others. Having raided two strong boxes of weapons, ammunition and cash, the gunmen then took command of a police vehicle which they used to commit other heinous crimes.
At the end of their rampage, about an hour later, 12 persons lay dead – two security guards, three policemen, a taxi driver, and six crew members from two vessels which were moored alongside the Transport and Harbours wharf, all killed execution style. Four other persons, including a 14-year-old girl who was assisting her mother to sell confectionery from a tray were also injured.
Following investigations in to the two attacks, a 19-year-old bus conductor was charged and has been remanded, charged with the massacre of 11 persons in Lusignan. Three other people, a boat captain included, have been detained and are being intensively grilled in connection with the carnage at Bartica. (Wendella Davidson/Guyana Cronicle)
February 25, 2008
St Mary's boat may have been decoy
A grieving Joan Rowe, mother of Dexter Adrian who was killed in the Bartica massacre, being comforted at his funeral service yesterday at the Lyken Memorial Chapel. Ministers Robeson Benn and Manzoor Nadir were also in attendance.
As Barticians sift through the details of the horrific February 17 attack, some are coming to the conclusion that the boat found at St Mary's might have been set adrift to mislead investigators and they also believe that some of their own aided the gunmen in a number of ways including providing vehicles.
Though no specific allegation has been made against the three Bartica men picked up by police following the massacre of twelve persons in the community, serious questions are being raised in Bartica about their prior and subsequent movements, particularly in the case of the boat operator.
The three were flown to the city last week and are being grilled by police. Among them are a boat operator and two men who are said to be self-employed. Reports out of Bartica indicate that the men are well known characters due to their previous brushes with the law, which includes narcotic and gun offences in the case of at least two. Shock was reportedly not among the emotions expressed in the community when police arrested the trio.
Sources say they are born and bred Barticans who have apparently been acting suspiciously in the days leading up to and after the attack. One of the men was described by a resident as "a devoted family man of questionable character".
So far there has been no outcry from persons in the community against the men's detention since many persons feel that inside intelligence was instrumental in the attack. One resident told Stabroek News yesterday that it is crucial that the joint services speak with persons in the community in order to re-trace the steps of certain individuals, adding that a few can hardly give a proper account as to where they were on the night of the spine-chilling raid.
Further, he said that private vehicles right in Bartica were used in the attack noting that the gunmen were aided from the minute they got off at the stelling up until they fled by boat.
It is estimated that between fifteen to twenty men carried out the attack and after several days of going over the escape route, sources in Bartica said they could have fled south down the river in two boats - the 75 horse power engine found drifting at St. Mary's, a hinterland community a few miles from Bartica, and a 200 horse power engine boat, according to sources.
Sources said three of the men were left to guard the river while over ten others assaulted the community in the hour-long attack. When they were leaving, the men reportedly took a few minutes before pulling off in the boats, which the source said, indicates they were doing much of the loading into the bigger boat and were merely throwing a few things into the craft found at St. Mary's.
The gunmen would have continued south to the Sheribana crossing, which is a gateway to the Guyana/Brazil border town of Lethem. A source told this newspaper there are timber trails along the route heading to Sheribana that are used by persons familiar with them, and pointed out that the trails can lead to the Wisroc area where the joint services had carried out an operation shortly after the Bartica attack.
But the source noted that very few persons have expert knowledge of the timber trails area and pointed out that though some are willing to cooperate with the joint services, they are fearful for their lives. "Believing this is exactly where those guys went then more than likely a confrontation will ensue if the joint services are led to these trails. No ordinary citizen wants to get caught up in that though I am sure people would love to volunteer", the source said.
Since the joint services have not stumbled upon any other evidence suggesting that the men fled south along the river in the direction of Sheribana except for the boat at St. Mary's other sources say that the men may have never used that route but instead fled north after leaving Bartica into the Atlantic. This would mean that they allowed one of the boats to drift off in one direction while they went the opposite way, creating a diversion.
The men could have gone north using the west bank of the river to exit the Essequibo River. It is believed someone with precise knowledge of the river aided the men in navigating under the cover of darkness. (Stabroek News)
February 23, 2008
Suspects arrested for Bartica massacre air-dashed to City
........for further interrogations
As the Police continue their probe into the gruesome slaughter of 12 people in Bartica last Sunday, three of five suspects, all males, who the Joint Services had arrested, have been brought to the city for further interrogation.
Sources told the Guyana Chronicle, the men who were being held at the Bartica Police Station, were yesterday afternoon taken by boat to Baganara, a five-minute ride by speedboat from Bartica, from where the suspects were air-dashed to the city.
Among the three is said to be a boat captain with knowledge of traversing hinterland areas. It was from the said location that the injured and dead were transported to the city following Sunday’s heinous crime, committed by a gang of heavily armed men. Meanwhile, the Joint Services are continuing their search on both land and sea in a bid to nab the killers.
The day following the carnage, the Joint Services discovered a 22-ft speedboat adrift in the vicinity of St Mary’s, Essequibo. The craft was equipped with a 75 HP Yamaha engine and also contained fuel, army regulation kits, rain cloaks, toques and a .30 carbine round of ammunition.
Ballistic tests conducted on shells retrieved from the Bartica scene have revealed that the killers are the same that slaughtered 11 people at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, less than a month ago. (Wendella Davidson/Guyana Cronicle)
February 22, 2008
Mini-bus conductor charged.....
.........with Lusignan massacre victims murder
Police have charged 19-year-old mini-bus conductor, James Anthony Hyles nicknamed ‘Sally’, of Lot 70 Friendship, East Coast Demerara with the murder of the 11 people killed in the January 26 massacre at Lusignan.
The accused appeared before Principal Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle yesterday and was remanded to prison until February 28, after the case was transferred to Vigilance Court, also on the East Coast Demerara.
Particulars of the capital offence said, at Track ‘A’ Lusignan, Hyles murdered Clarence Thomas, 48, Vanessa Thomas, 12, Ron Thomas, 11, Mohandai Gourdat, 32, Seegopaul Harilall, 10, Seegobind Harilall, four, Dhanrajie Ramsingh, 52, Seecharran Rooplall, 56, Raywattie Ramsingh, 11, Shazam Mohamed, 22 and Shalem Baksh, 52.
Prior to the prisoner appearing in Court, his relatives and other interested spectators flocked the precinct, screaming and declaring his innocence of the crime. The crowd was warned to be orderly before being allowed in the courtroom which they entered silently.But, after a few minutes of silence, as the magistrate was reading the charge, pandemonium broke out when some persons burst into tears, shouted and threw themselves on the floor.
Relatives and supporters of James Hyles outside the Georgetown Magistrates Court yesterday.
Extra Police, from other Courts, had to be summoned to restore order but, before they did, the magistrate was forced to leave the Bench amidst the din. The courtroom was emptied and the door shut before the proceedings resumed.
As Hyles was leaving under escort, the screams again erupted and armed ranks arrived and took up positions all around the courtyard, while the prisoner alone was whisked away in a prison van that some of the throng ran behind up to Brickdam.
Police Corporal Sherwin Matthews, prosecuting, said Hyles was arrested by members of the Joint Services, several weeks after the 02:00 h attack that left the 11, including five children, dead. A Police wanted bulletin has since been issued for the alleged mastermind of the killings, Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins. (Telesha Persaud/Guyana Cronicle)
Five in custody for Bartica massacre
As relentless hunt continues for gang of killers
The Police, as of late yesterday afternoon, had in custody five men, four of whom are from Bartica and the fifth reportedly from the City, assisting in the investigations of the recent Bartica massacre that left 12 dead and several others injured.
Members of the Joint Services have also found a 22-ft speedboat at St Mary’s, Essequibo, equipped with a 75 HP Yamaha engine. It also contained fuel, army regulation kits, rain cloaks, toques and a .30 carbine round of ammunition.
And ballistic tests conducted on shells retrieved from the Bartica scene have revealed that the killers are the same that slaughtered 11 at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, less than a month ago. Meanwhile, commercial life, which had ground to a standstill in Bartica following the massacre, has begun to return to normalcy, according to Regional Chairman Mr. Holbert Knights.
He said banks and most of the businesses in the community were open for business on Wednesday and yesterday. But fear still lingers in minds of residents who now look at the confines of their homes with a sense of security, even before nightfall, the Regional Chairman pointed out. He said news that the Joint Services had imposed a curfew on the community has reinforced the feeling among residents that danger still lurks around.
But Knights said, as far as he is aware, the Joint Services, which continue to have a visible presence around Bartica and other nearby communities, have not issued any advisory warning residents to stay off the road during any specific period. The Regional Administration, meanwhile, is liaising with the families of the dead as they make arrangements for the burial of those from the area.
Among those killed in cold blooded carnage were Lance Corporal 18632 Zaheer Zakir and Constables 16906 Shane Fredericks and 19886 Ron Osborne of the Guyana Police Force, who were on duty at the Bartica Police Station; security guards Edwin Gilkes who was working at the Banks DIH outlet and Irwin Ferreira, who was working at the home of miner Chunilall Babulall, both premises located on First Avenue, Bartica; hire-car driver, Dexter Adrian of One Mile, Potaro, Bartica Road.
Three of the victims, Errol Thomas of Wakenaam Island, Ashraf Ally Khan of Middlesex, Essequibo, and Lance Corporal Zakir of Tuschen, were interred on Wednesday at cemeteries close to their respective communities. Zakir was accorded full military honours.
Ferreira’s funeral is set for tomorrow in Bartica, while Gilkes will be buried on Wednesday, also in Bartica. The Joint Services, meanwhile, are continuing their relentless hunt for the gang responsible for the killings, along with their accomplices. (Wendella Davidson / Guyana Cronicle)
Friendship man charged with 11 Lusignan murders
James Anthony Hayles in court yesterday
Chaos descended upon the Georgetown Magistrate's Court yesterday morning when a 19-year-old charged with murdering 11 people at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara (ECD) on January 26 appeared before Principal Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle.
James Anthony Hyles, called 'Sally', of 70 Friendship, ECD was not required to plead to the 11 indictable counts of murder.
Long before Hyles arrived at the court, his family, relatives and friends were outside the compound loudly decrying what they said was "an injustice". Passers-by were alerted to the group's presence as Hyles's mother continually let out high pitched shrieks as she stood on the Avenue of the Republic sidewalk just outside the court.
The woman, Hyles's sisters and other relatives condemned the actions of the police and made threats against members of the Guyana Police Force in general and the officer who was responsible for Hyles's arrest.
As Magistrate Robertson-Ogle prepared to read the charge, there was an unusual silence in the courtroom. Hyles sat slumped forward and made barely noticeable left-to-right movements with his head as if to deny the allegations being made against him. His eyes were red and puffed from crying.
The magistrate then began to read the charge, but got no further than the fourth victim's name when chaos suddenly erupted. Hyles's relatives began crying out loudly in the courtroom. His mother, grief stricken, threw herself to the floor and had to be consoled by her husband. Other relatives were behaving similarly and some were seen swiftly leaving the court, sobbing as they went.
The magistrate left the bench and returned to her chambers after the first shriek erupted while the prosecutor took the precaution of protecting the case file. Hyles was then temporarily removed from the court room and additional police officers were immediately summoned to further secure Court One and return it to its former calm.
The magistrate then returned to the bench and Hyles was taken back to the docks and the charges finally read to him. He was charged with the murders of 48-year-old Clarence Thomas, his 12-year-old daughter Vanessa Thomas and his son Ron Thomas; 32-year-old Mohandai Gourdat and her two sons four-year-old Seegobind Harrilall and ten-year-old Seegopaul Harrilall; 22-year-old Shazam Mohamed; 55-year-old Shaleem Baksh; and Seecharran Rooplall, 56, his wife, Dhanrajie Ramsingh, 52, and their 11-year-old daughter, Raywattie Ramsingh.
He was remanded to prison and the case was transferred to the Vigilance Magistrate's Court for February 28. However, this was far from the end of the matter for the day as relatives stood outside the court weeping. As Hyles was escorted to the waiting prison vehicle to be transported back to prison, the shrieks escalated in volume and one relative had to be physically restrained as she attempted to grab hold of the vehicle as it moved off.
Another female relative ran barefoot behind the vehicle, shouting. She pursued the vehicle a few yards up Brickdam before abandoning her chase, as passers-by looked on. Hyles is the first person charged in the January 26 carnage, in which a gang of some 20 gunmen stormed into Tract 'A' Lusignan Pasture and slaughtered 11 people, including five children in a 20-minute blitz.
The bloody massacre left hundreds of residents angry and shocked and for a few days after, there were street protests in which tyres were burnt and some infrastructure destroyed as villagers called on the security forces to protect them. The police had been summoned once the gunshots started but never arrived on the scene until some one and a half hours later.
The killings at Lusignan had come mere hours after gunmen in a car attacked Police Headquarters Eve Leary in an astonishingly brazen manner. Observers believe that that assault was a diversionary ploy to focus the security forces' attention in the city while the criminals created terror on the East Coast.
Prior to the slaughter, there had been reports from the police that a man purporting to be Guyana's number one fugitive Rondell 'Fineman' Rawlins had contacted ranks at the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters on Wednesday threatening to create mayhem if teenager Tenisha Morgan, alleged to be the mother of his unborn child, who went missing several weeks ago was not returned safely.
To date Morgan has not been found nor have the police captured Rawlins despite having offered a $50 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Since then, the same group of gunmen is believed to have participated in the February 17 massacre at Bartica. (Stabroek News)
February 21, 2008
Bartica killers had expert intelligence, skilled sailors
A safe which contained the six shotguns and six pistols gunmen stole after they broke into CB& R Mining on Sunday night. The men also escaped with cash and jewellery.
As Bartica staggers under the trauma of the murder of a dozen persons, residents are beginning to accept that the attackers had gathered expert intelligence on them and used skilled river pilots - possibly from the township itself.
Killed in the attack were Bartica residents Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian and Irving Ferreira; policemen stationed at the Bartica Police Station, Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir, and Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne; and Deonarine Singh of Wakenaam; Ronald Gomes of Kuru Kururu; Ashraf Khan of Middlesex, Essequibo; Abdool Yasin of Good Hope, East Coast; Errol Thomas of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo and Baldeo Singh of Montrose, East Coast Demerara.
Residents puzzled over the well-executed plan by the gunmen and some of them are convinced that the men must have received inside information from persons within the community.
The fact that the men came by boat and were able to carefully select their targets as well as their familiarity with the Essequibo River, which many have said "is not an easy river to travel especially at nights", has also convinced residents that persons in or close to the community may have provided vital information.
A security guard at one of the locations near to where the men created mayhem said he had just locked up and was inside the compound when he heard rapid gunfire which seemed to be coming in his direction. "I didn't realize what was happening but I say to myself it was squibs, but then I heard some shots fired on the roof top and I got scared but by the time I looked around the other guys in the yard had jumped fences and ran for cover," he said.
The man said he managed to look out and saw a police vehicle approaching and two other vehicles. He said he felt many people were fooled by the fact that they saw the police station's only vehicle coming up the street. "But the shots were too much and that's when I realized that something was wrong," he said. The man told Stabroek News that he saw two men dressed in khaki uniforms and two others in camouflage clothing and long boots with huge weapons in their hands.
He said two men were on the vehicle's bonnet and two on its trunk and as it moved along the street they sprayed bullets in the air. "I see a set of people start running and who get shoot along the way, get shoot but them boy was shooting wild as though they wanted the way cleared," he said. According to the eyewitness, the man also wore battle helmets. The man also said the men did not appear to be too young.
The man said he hid behind a water tank and prayed all the time for more than an hour and a half after which he heard the gunfire cease. It was not until Monday morning the man said he ventured out and realized that so many persons had been killed.
Knowing the river
A Bartica boat captain who did not want his name mentioned explained to this newspaper that there was no way that a stranger could manoeuvre his way through the Essequibo River without knowing the area. He said that there were unexpected obstacles in several parts of the river, including rocks which only those boat operators who navigate the area would know.
"This is a funny, funny river, no strange body can't come and know this river soâ€¦ dem men had to get help," the man who has been a boat captain for over 10 years said. He added, "and its not like road where you look for the potholes and you could swerve from it, the river dangerous if you ain't know it good, and in the night is worst yet. Plus you have to know the channels."
He said from information he received the gunmen had carefully split themselves up so that while some were executing the attacks and killing people, they had the river covered as well so anyone seen from that direction could have been engaged. "These men know what they were doing because if they gon come through asking for people and shouting people's names, they had to know what was up," he insisted,
He posited that the men killed on the stelling may have recognized some of the actors in this brutal act. However he questioned if the motives were just to kill eyewitnesses why were the men made to lie flat and shot in their heads. "That is brutal, real brutal," he said.
It's only God
Two days after the attack on their home, Gurudat Singh and his family are still shaken by their near-death experience. Singh, his daughter, wife and two sons hid in a prayer room as the bandits ransacked their home and left after taking a safe.
Singh, who is a gold dealer and licensed firearm holder said on Tuesday that he had given up but was cajoled by his two sons and then they went into hiding as they heard the men coming closer. "One of them had passed their hand close to my daughter's foot and almost caught it but then after they got the safe they left," the still shaken man recounted.
The man said he was so afraid and though he had his weapon in his hand he was not sure if he should use it. "It was not easy and so I turned my gun on me because I had given up, but it's only God that saved us," he said before breaking down in tears. President Bharrat Jagdeo met with residents of Bartica on Tuesday. (Heppilena Ferguson/Stabroek News)
Trinidad to provide Guyana with security assistance
Helicopter, specialised weapons
The Trinidad and Tobago government has offered Guyana specialised weapons and a helicopter to help in fighting crime here, following two separate massacres in three weeks which left a total of 23 persons dead.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said Guyana accepted the offer following discussions with Minister Clement Rohee and Minister of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago Mr. Martin Joseph.
The statement from the Home Affairs ministry said the government of Guyana had been making every effort to procure the specialised weapons from other sources but without success. “The Government of Guyana expresses its deepest gratitude to the Government of Trinidad & Tobago for this timely assistance,” the Home Affairs Ministry said.
President Bharrat Jagdeo recently announced that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) will receive $1B this year to purchase helicopters to improve its air patrols which will aid in the fight against transnational crime and serve as a deterrent to the establishment of illegal airstrips.
The President said the funds will be facilitated in the 2008 National Budget which, according to the Government Information Agency, will be presented tomorrow (February 22) in the National Assembly.The Head of State made it clear that while government is committed to fighting crime and using the necessary resources for the security forces, Guyanese must understand that sacrifices will have to be made to assist in this regard.
“This year we just put in the budget close to $1B to buy a few helicopters with spotlight and a whole range of equipment, but the money is limited too…,” President Jagdeo said. Government has explained that the National Budget will reflect provisions for other areas which the United Kingdom/Government of Guyana security action plan and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Citizens’ Security programmes would not cover.
Citizens’ security programme must deliver fast
Forensic lab part of US$22M programme
The construction of a forensic laboratory and a fully functioning crime observatory to allow for data analysis and policy decision are among the many aspects to be addressed under the US$22M Citizens’ Security Programme that is part of government’s security plan to fight criminal activities.
The rehabilitation of 12 police stations across the country, the provision of a pool of international experts to assist in the force’s modernisation, and computer training for police ranks are also areas to be covered under this programme as government continues to implement measures to boost crime fighting in the face of changing criminal activities.
The programme, funded by the Government and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), was yesterday launched at the Grand Coastal Inn, East Coast Demerara, in the presence of government and IDB officials.
“This programme could not have been launched at a more appropriate time in our country, having regard to recent developments on the East Coast and at Bartica, over the last few weeks. The significance of the launching of this programme for the security sector rests in the fact that security is on the front burner and once again top priority for the government of Guyana,” declared Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee.
Socially, the programme will strengthen the institutional capacity of government institutions and civil society to address the direct effect of violence on vulnerable populations, and on long-term health and prosperity. The Home Affairs Minister said the programme’s implementation must be delivered with urgency.
“The CSP must contribute quickly and effectively to the fight against crime. The changing face of crime requires a change in the face of the institutions that have been set up to fight crime. There is a symbiotic relationship in this regard. The objective must fit firmly with the context of the CSP and the security reform action plan,” Minister Rohee said.
IDB country representative to Guyana Mr. Marco Nicola, speaking at the launching, commended the government for requesting the Bank’s assistance in developing a programme that focuses on crime and violence prevention. He noted that the implementation process would require strong leadership.
“I would like to call for a strong leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs in coordinating the different donor activities in the security sector, avoid any possible duplication and maximise the resources made available by the Treasury and the International Community,” Mr. Nicola said.
The programme will employ a multi-dimensional approach towards preventing, reducing and fighting crime. It will target disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Regions Four and Six and cater for capacity-building of the Police Force and the Home Affairs Ministry. Four communities have been selected for pilot surveys: Rose Hall, Tain/Port Mourant, Buxton/Annandale and Sophia.
“The overarching expectation is that citizens’ security programmes will in effect contribute significantly, not only to the consolidation, but the expansion of the comfort level of our people to live in peace and a secure environment. The task of the project implementation unit and all the national counterparts, together with our partner, the IDB, therefore is to live up to these expectations.”
He said if the CSP fails to provide an expected comfort level to Guyanese, it means that the resources would have gone to waste and what it was aimed to do was not achieved. Meanwhile, as part of the programme, the Bank handed over an accident investigation vehicle to boost the capacity of the Traffic Department of the Force.
On January 31 last, Minister Rohee, Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh and the then representative of the Inter-American Development Bank, Sergio-Varas Olea, inked the US$22M contract for the three-component programme at the Ministry of Finance.The CSP, which will create greater police/community relationships to fight crime and boost the Guyana Police Force’s (GPF) capacity is a major component of the Government’s Police Reform programme.
AFC, GAP-ROAR, PPP, TUF, Govt sign crime communiqué
PNCR still to sign
Leaders of several parliamentary political parties who met in caucus with President Bharrat Jagdeo two days ago on the country’s prevailing security situation, have agreed and signed on to a crime communiqué, effectively committing them to work together in support of the local crime fight.
The political parties that signed-on to the communiqué were the Alliance For Change (AFC), Guyana Action Party-Rise Organise and Rebuild (GAP-ROAR), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), The United Force (TUF), and the Government.
The main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), even though it participated in the caucus at which several of the party’s executive members were present, has so far declined from signing-on to the six-point agreement.
The Chronicle was reliably informed that the political parties (with the exception of the PNCR), desirous of collectively expressing their profound concern about the current security situation in Guyana in the wake of the massacres at Lusignan last month and Bartica on Sunday night, have individually and collectively agreed to:
unequivocally condemn crime in all its forms especially the recent Lusignan and Bartica massacres commit to work together in support of the Joint Services as they fight crime professionally and within the confines of the law agree to work with major stakeholders in reviewing the national security plan and in accelerating its implementation agree to approach the media in a more responsible manner and so promote greater social cohesion support efforts by the administration in garnering assistance in the fight against crime from the international community, and call on the international community to respond positively and urgently to the requests for further assistance.
Meanwhile, in another committed response to recent attacks on innocent lives and the Joint Services which have undermined public safety, the representatives of Civil Society that have also met in a separate caucus with President Jagdeo over the past two days, have agreed and pledged themselves to: commit their full and unqualified support of the joint services in confronting crime in Guyana, and in securing the safety of citizens under the law; work in collaboration with the Government and all of the parliamentary political parties to jointly review the national security plan for its urgent and comprehensive implementation with the ultimate goal of cementing inclusive democracy, peace and justice in Guyana initiate and support confidence building measures in the society at large, and amongst communities and organisations, in order to continue to move the country forward call on all political parties to seek in good faith a unified position on law and order and public safety.
Greene says Bartica police were not alert enough
Appeals for public calm, support
Police Commissioner, Mr. Henry Greene, yesterday said the Police in Bartica were not as alert as they should have been and he hopes the attack will send a strong message to other Police. “We never expected such thing…they were not in line as the rest of the force because they are in the interior,”
Greene said, after visiting two injured ranks who survived Sunday night’s attack that left 12 persons dead, including three Policemen. “I guess some of them who did not want to put on their bullet-proof vests will have to now; but let me tell you, (every time) an incident occurs, ranks put it on and a few days after they do not want to wear it,” Greene told members of the media yesterday.
“We have bullet-proof vests and other things they can use,” Greene added, after a visit to the Mercy Hospital where he saw Mark Campbell, 29, of One Mile, Wismar, Linden and Chester Benjamin, 28, of Lot 16 Goed Fortuin Housing Scheme, West Coast Demerara. Three of their colleagues were gunned down when the marauding gunmen stormed into the Police station and then went on a wild shooting spree that left the nine others dead.
Mr. Greene is at the same time calling on members of the public to be calm amidst countless rumours circulating regarding the whereabouts of the criminals and the operations of the Police and Army to get them. “We want to ask the public not to be scared and remain calm. If something happens, we will respond,” the Top Cop urged.
Mr. Greene said that for persons who are not confident of sharing information with ordinary ranks, they would be given the opportunity to contact the hierarchy of the Police in their divisions or even at Police headquarters. “…We will be giving them numbers and names of all Divisional Commanders and others,” he said. “If persons want to deal directly with senior officers, they can do so; people will have no excuse in this society; they will have to come out and support us,” he declared.
The bloodbath at Bartica followed the Lusignan massacre of January 26, which left 11 persons, including five children, dead. Mr. Greene said that after the Lusignan mayhem, a re-assessment of stations was undertaken, and ranks who form part of the “Enquiries” section of Police stations were designated for training similar to that received by those who make up the Tactical Service Unit (TSU). He said this was decided on so that these ranks would be able to respond fully to any situation.
Regarding the disposition of ranks currently, the Police Commissioner said that they have been urged not to be afraid and to do the job they are paid for “without fear and favour.” Mr. Greene said that the motive in the slayings at Lusignan and Bartica were the same. “We were told that police will be killed; I am saying the motive looks the same to me… if not we should not speculate now to cause fear,” he said.
“They are aimed at terrorising the police and getting guns for themselves; we were told that policemen will be killed and now ranks were killed,” Greene added. The gunmen broke into the Police strong boxes at Bartica and escaped with five rifles, four revolvers, a shotgun and a quantity of ammunition. (Michel Outridge/Additional reporting by Neil Marks)
February 20, 2008
Bartica, Lusignan hit by same gang - President
Suspected getaway boat found
President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said the killers of the Lusignan 11 were also behind Sunday's slaughter of 12 in Bartica and last night police were chasing leads after a suspected getaway boat was found, resulting in some Linden residents being told to stay indoors as security forces swarmed the area.
Speaking in Bartica after cutting short a visit to New York, Jagdeo told Barticians at the New Modern Hotel "From what I was told there seemed to have been a dual motive: robbery and to kill and create terror. We know it is the same group that did it in Lusignan", the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported. Ballistic information has not yet been released by the police on the Bartica attack and the President did not elaborate in the GINA report.
President Jagdeo said that the only way to "end this" is to pursue the bandits and find them "since you can't reason with people who commit these types of crimes". He assured that the Joint Services would work day after day to find the killers and noted that with the army clearing the backlands of Buxton they do not have that safe haven anymore.
"This is a small group of persons who will strike and move, this is not widespread, but because it is a small group it is easy for them to move around and do this anywhere. As President I can only give the resources and encouragement to the security forces. They â€¦are the people who have to go after the criminals and in this regard they have my full support".
Promising that the army and police presence will be maintained in Bartica while the criminals are hunted, the President said "clearly from what I saw, these people were working with inside knowledge which may indicate that they would have had help from people in Bartica".
The President added from the way they went into the police station they knew exactly where everything was. The discussions with the persons who were robbed revealed that they knew where things were even the light switches and the cameras. This was not random they had a lot of intelligence this was carefully planed.
Security officials on Monday night recovered a speedboat along with ammunition and military-type clothing in the Essequibo River, some 20 miles from Bartica. The security forces had rushed more troops into the crime-besieged hinterland community of Bartica on Monday evening following Sunday night's bloodbath.
A top joint services official told Stabroek News yesterday that during a search in the Essequibo River on Monday night they found a wooden speedboat with a 75-horse power engine drifting in rough waters at St Mary's, another hinterland community. According to the joint services official, inside the vessel were a .30 carbine round, a toque, two yellow coats, two black long-sleeved shirts, one camouflage hammock and a pair of Guyana Defence Force trousers with the batch number 20361.
The law enforcement official is of the view that the gunmen after wreaking havoc in Bartica escaped via the Sheribana crossing, which is a gateway to the Guyana/Brazil border town of Lethem. The official also admitted that from all indications the gunmen have already cleared out of the Bartica area. Meanwhile, a large Joint Services operation took place yesterday in Linden and was focused on the Wisroc backlands and the road trail linking Linden and Bartica.
Eyewitnesses told this newspaper a large contingent of military personnel surged through Wisroc, leaving some three hours after. Persons were being advised to stay in their houses to allow the security personnel to do their work. According to information this newspaper received, a number of men robbed a truck that came out of the interior on Monday night. The men took cash and jewellery from the persons in the truck but no shots were fired.
But speculation is rife that the men might be some from the Bartica massacre. According to information reaching this newspaper, the Joint Services are establishing a presence in the Region Ten community with a view to preventing the gunmen from moving through the area using either river or road networks.
Using speedboats around 20 gunmen on Sunday night stormed the southwestern township of Bartica, located some 80 miles from Georgetown murdering three policemen and nine civilians. The gunmen first attacked a police outpost killing three officers and seriously wounding two others. The gang of gunmen carted off several firearms and ammunition from two strong boxes at the Bartica Police Station and also from a private security firm. The Bartica Police Station was overrun by the gunmen during the rampage and several business places robbed during the hour-long mayhem.
Killed in the attack were Bartica residents Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian and Irving Ferreira; policemen stationed at the Bartica Police Station, Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir, and Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne, and Deonarine Singh of Wakenaam; Ronald Gomes of Kuru Kururu; Ashraf Khan of Middlesex, Essequibo; Abdool Yasin; Errol Thomas of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo and Baldeo Singh of Montrose, East Coast Demerara, who were shot execution style at the Transport and Harbours Stelling.
The slaughter came mere weeks after a similar attack at Lusignan where the number killed was 11, including five children. So far the lawmen have recovered 165 spent shells mainly used in high-powered rifles. (Stabroek News)
February 19, 2008
13 DEAD IN BARTICA BLOODBATH
SHOCKED: Hundreds of Barticians converge at the river side yesterday to view the dead bodies as they are transported from the area into a boat.
Barticians were yesterday still reeling in shock and disbelief at the senseless bloodbath by a rampaging group of heavily-armed gunmen who cold-bloodedly slaughtered 13 persons, including three policemen, in the mining community around 21:45 h Sunday evening.The carnage occurred even as residents of the hospitable community, home of Bartica Regatta, were like other Guyanese countrywide, glued to their television and radio sets and rooting for their countrymen playing cricket in Antigua to win their Stanford 20/20 cricket match.
Sunday night’s massacre is reminiscent of a similar attack by armed gunmen on the East Coast Demerara community of Lusignan three weeks earlier that left 12 persons dead and four injured, two of whom are still hospitalized.Dead in the Bartica bloodbath are Lance Corporal 18632 Zaheer Zakir; Constable 16906 Shane Fredericks and Constable 19886 Ron Osborne, all of the Guyana Police Force.
Security guards Edwin Gilkes who was on duty at the Banks DIH outlet on First Avenue, Irwin Ferreira who was working at the home of miner Chunilall Babulall, also of First Avenue, Bartica and hire-car driver, Dexter Adrian, 38 years of One Mile, Potaro, Bartica Road were also killed. Adrian was on his way to purchase gasoline.
Injured are Constables 20219 Mark Campbell, shot in the upper left side and 20231 Chester Benjamin who was shot in both hands and the right hip; Melrose Allicock of Bartica Housing Scheme who was in the company of Gilkes; 15-year-old Lisa Narine – who was shot in her left foot while assisting her mother to sell and, Raymond White who was a passenger in Adrian’s vehicle.Yesterday, residents with a solemn look etched on their faces, converged in their numbers at the riverside as police officers using bed sheets as makeshift stretchers, fetched the dead into a boat to be transported to a mortuary.
Afterwards, pockets of residents could be seen grouped almost everywhere obviously discussing the horrible events that unfolded.
“Bartica never had anything like this before”; “I can’t believe this is happening in this peaceful place!”; “Ah wonder where next?”; “When will this end?”, were among the comments that some residents expressed to this reporter.Reports are that the gunmen who were dressed in foreign camouflage and khaki type wear, first attacked the police station, killing two policemen, one of whom was spotted hiding behind a cupboard, and injuring three others in the process.
One of the policemen is said to have succumbed while being transported to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, where they were air-dashed for medical attention. Upon killing the policemen and injuring the others, the marauding gunmen proceeded to break into a ‘steel strong box’ which housed weapons and ammunition, and carted away five rifles, four revolvers, a shotgun along with a quantity of ammunition.
One of the firearms is said to have been recovered. Another strong box at the station in which cash was placed for safe keeping was also broken into and $65,450 stolen. In addition, the gunmen took the keys for the Police jeep which they then used as their mode of transport as they continued to create havoc along First Avenue.
One businessman is ever grateful for the cricket which, according to him, saved his life. The man said on realizing that the game was becoming tense, he opted to “close shop” before the normal midnight timings, so he could “take in the cricket” without interruption. “That saved the day for me or I would have been dead,” he declared.
From the police station, the gunmen who by then were shooting indiscriminately at anyone in their sight, set eyes on Gilkes who was on duty at the Banks DIH outlet and chatting with Allicock. The gunmen dragged him from the cubicle he was in and shot him at close range.It was around this time that Narine who was helping her mother to sell at a nearby condiment tray, was shot in her left foot. She had sought refuge behind the tray.
The gunmen then proceeded to the home of Chunilall Babulall a miner who lived on First Avenue, where Ferreira, father of popular football referee Dianne Ferreira-James, was on duty. Babulall and family were not on the premises at the time. The gunmen, declaring that they were ‘Police’ and with their mode of dress, fooled the unsuspecting man who proceeded to open the gate to the premises.
Once inside, they pounced on him, broke into the home and took Ferreira to a freezer stocked with meat where they shot him too, execution style. The gunmen then turned their attention to a security camera sited close to the ceiling to the right and shot and damaged it. In a room on the lower flat was a iron safe in which were two other safes containing gold jewellery and cash. These were taken along with a weapon.
Proceeding upstairs, the men entered a room where they stole a third safe with a number of weapons and ammunition and also ransacked the room. A vital component from a monitor attached to the camera and which was on the upper flat was also removed. Sources told the Chronicle that a total of six shot guns, five revolvers, 50 x 32 ammo and 25 x 12 gauge ammunition were stolen. Upon leaving the miner’s home, the armed men discharged shots at a passing taxi, killing Dexter Adrian, the driver and injuring White, a passenger.
Continuing their rampage, the next target for the gunmen was the home of Gurudat Singh, also on First Avenue. A tearful Singh recalled hearing a commotion outside and initially thought it was as a result of a drive-by shooting. However, as he was about to move towards the front of the house for a view outside, he heard someone saying “Hey this is Buddy Mangru place”. The man, who is licensed to carry a shotgun and whose business was previously attacked in 1992 when he and his family were tied up, said he immediately armed himself with his shotgun.
However, the gunmen who were determined to gain entry used a sledge hammer to shatter a window and break out some concrete blocks. Upon gaining entry to the lower flat, they broke the lock to the door leading upstairs but by then the family had firmly secured themselves in a secret hiding place in the house. Each of the three rooms upstairs was ransacked and the gunmen took away two brief cases with documents.
Meanwhile, one resident said the persistent barking of their pet dog caused a male householder to venture outside, and he saw the gunmen lying in bushes nearby arguing among themselves. It was while on their exit that they attacked the crew on two vessels, ‘Davie II’ belonging to the conglomerate, Banks DIH Limited and ‘Little Giant’, which were moored alongside the Transport and Harbours Stelling.
The men who were sleeping in their hammocks were hauled outside, made to lie on the wharf and each shot execution-style, in the head. One of the ‘Little Giant’ crew survived because he had stepped out to make a purchase, the Chronicle was told. Reports are that six persons, including one female, had travelled to Bartica Sunday afternoon. It was observed that some men were on hand to receive them.
Immediately following the attack, police and joint services ranks were air-dashed to Bartica and have fanned out to outlying communities in a bid to capture these heavily armed and extremely dangerous criminals.
A high-level team of Government ministers, including Mr. Clement Rohee, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, Ms. Priya Manickchand, Dr. Jennifer Westford, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues and Mr. Robeson Benn, were visible in the community from very early Monday (yesterday morning) to lend support to the victims and other residents of the community and the security forces. Also arriving at Bartica yesterday were Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin and Raphael Trotman of the Alliance For Change (AFC). (Wendella Davidson/Guyana Cronicle)
February 18, 2008
12 PERSONS SHOT DEAD IN BARTICA
Five Policemen, seven civilians killed by marauding gunmen
Several others hospitalized
Heavily armed gunmen wrecked havoc in Bartica last night, killing five policemen and seven civilians. Unconfirmed reports indicated that a gang of heavily armed gunmen stormed the Bartica Police station shortly before mid-night, killing five Policemen.
The gunmen then went on a wild shooting spree along First Avenue, Bartica killing at least seven civilians. Several other Barticians are reportedly hospitalized at the Bartica hospital. The joint services have since responded - using air, ground and river support.
Meanwhile, the reading of the 2008 Budget in the National Assembly, scheduled for today, has been deferred to a later date, the Finance Ministry announced this morning. (More information in tomorrow’s edition of the Chronicle). (Guyana Cronicle)
Gunmen murder 12 at Bartica
Large gang came by river, attacked police station,...
...... fired wildly, three cops among dead
Gunmen last night slaughtered around a dozen persons in a major assault on Bartica reminiscent of the Lusignan massacre and the dead included at least three policemen, reports this morning said. The hour-long strafing which saw the criminals overrunning the Bartica Police Station and residents locking up in their homes raises major questions about the aims of the gunmen and the ability of the security forces to respond.
While it was difficult to obtain precise information on the chaos that ensued, Stabroek News has been able to confirm as best as possible the names of some of the dead. They are: Edwin Gilkes of Banks DIH/Citizens Bank's premises on First Avenue; Mervin Ferreira, a guard of CBR Mining and Marcus Gonsalves, a teller of Citizen's Bank whose body was found in his car on First Avenue. The surnames of the dead policemen have been given as Osbourne, Zakir and Fredericks.
Also among the dead are five persons who had slung up their hammocks on the wharf reportedly awaiting transportation to go about their business. They were gunned down in the wild firing that occurred as terror gripped the gateway to the interior. The five are believed to be employees of Budhoo's General Store. Two policemen and several other injured persons were to be transported this morning to the Georgetown Hospital via Baganara.
Commander of E&F Division, Gavin Primo told reporters last night that his information at the time was that sometime around 9:40 pm gunmen stormed the police station located at First Avenue, Bartica. At around 10:45 pm when he was contacted, Primo said that the gunmen had by then moved down several streets and were shooting indiscriminately.
A resident of Second Avenue told Stabroek News via telephone that he and several of his friends were on the road liming when the gunmen attacked. The man said that they fled the scene, some of his friends lodging at his home as fear and panic swept the community.
"They moved from the police station to different streets. It was sheer gunshots here," the man who asked not be named said. Another resident of Second Avenue told Stabroek News that it was chaos. "Everybody locked down right now I am not sleeping on my bed tonight," the female resident told Stabroek News around 10:30 pm. She said in the general vicinity of First, Second and Third Avenues there are about 1000 residents.
The attack forced the government this morning to postpone the reading of the national budget today and Chairman of Region Seven, Holbert Knights said that his constituency is shocked at the scale of the massacre.
A joint services team was rushed into the area late last night and at around midnight they were said to have secured the community but it appeared that the gunmen had long escaped. Sporadic gunshots were heard several hours after the gunmen had completed their attack, but it was unclear as to who was involved.
Stabroek News was told that the gunmen arrived in the area around 9:40 pm by boats and they departed in similar fashion. According to reports once the gunmen touched down in Bartica they stormed the police station, shooting to death three policemen. They also escaped with the police's firearms and reportedly freed prisoners who were locked up in the station's lock-ups.
They also took away the vehicle assigned to the police station after which they went on a rampage terrorising the community which is normally quiet on a Sunday evening and more so by a steady downpour while residents were watching the 20/20 match between Guyana and Antigua
Once the men had subdued the police station they proceeded to rampage through the community, letting off a barrage of gunfire at persons on the streets. Knights told Stabroek News this morning that the gunmen moved down the streets of First, Second and Third Avenues and also the housing scheme.
Knights said that eyewitnesses counted around 20 gunmen - similar to the band that stormed Lusignan. Asked about the impact of the carnage on his constituency, Knights said that it was impossible to assess at the moment. "We can't even begin to pick up the pieces, this is most incredible. No one would have thought about this," the Regional Chairman commented.
Meanwhile, the joint services last night rushed troops into the area from Ogle Aerodrome. Stabroek News was told that the ranks were dropped off at Baganara Island and ferried across to Bartica by speed boat. A businessman in the community told Stabroek News last night that it was impossible for any aircraft to land at the Bartica airstrip because of its deplorable state.
Residents, including the PNCR-1G MP Judith David said that since the ordeal started everyone stayed indoors, fearing to go outside. Neighbours telephoned and exchanged bits of information and shared their own experiences.
Through this networking, she said that reports were that 12 persons were shot dead and a number of persons injured. Reports, too, were that many people had been making their way to the hospital but she said she was unable to contact the medex. Residents said they also heard when a boat pulled out and everything was quiet thereafter. At about 11:40 they said that they heard aircraft circling the township. The hospital was also very busy when this newspaper called shortly after mid-night.
One resident said she was in the Voice of Faith Miracle ministries church at about 9:30 pm when she heard a commotion and thought that Guyana had won the cricket match and people were celebrating. However, someone telephoned telling her that the police station was being shot at. Worshippers hurriedly left for the safety of their homes and wherever they could find refuge.
With everyone warned she said they heard people screaming as shots were fired and smoke and light from the shots were visible coming mainly from the First Avenue area. She said that bullets grazed the roof of her home as well. Neighbours telephoning each other in the aftermath of the shooting said that a number of windows were smashed.
"Look where they come now. It sounded like when they got war. You hear the machine guns rattling off. I never frighten so," she said adding that "when the bullets go off I lie down on the floor." She was alone at home at this time.
A man who lived at Fourth Avenue who was also watching the 20/20 match with his family said that they heard the exchange of gunfire and heard it coming closer to them. They turned off their lights and all hit the floor. Commissioner of Police, Henry Greene could not be reached for a comment last night or early this morning on the attack.
A statement released by the Government Information Agency this morning said that Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds performing the functions of President, has announced that today's sitting of the National Assembly, at which the Minister of Finance was scheduled to present the national budget for 2008, would be postponed until further notice in light of the tragic events in Bartica last night.
The Prime Minister also indicated that the security forces had mounted an immediate response to the situation and that a number of Ministers and Members of Parliament would be travelling to the Bartica shortly to assess the situation. The new date for the reading of the budget speech would be announced later.
In a subsequent statement GINA said that the Joint Services have launched an air, sea and land operation in response to the murderous shooting spree at Bartica while noting that a high level team of government officials is preparing to leave Georgetown early today for the community.
The attack on the Bartica community has come amidst supposedly heightened security across the country following the slaughter of 11 people at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara three weeks ago. Just hours before the Lusignan slaughter gunmen in a car had attacked Police Headquarters, Eve Leary where two policemen manning the western gate were shot in their legs.
That attack was the most brazen assault on a security base in recent history. Police have blamed wanted man Rondell Rawlins and his followers for the attacks. (Nigel Williams and Miranda La Rose/Stabroek News)
February 16, 2008
Army to receive $1B to up air patrols
Gov’t ready to receive suggestions from political parties on security
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) will receive $1B this year to purchase helicopters to improve its air patrols which will aid in the fight against transnational crime and serve as a deterrent to the establishment of illegal airstrips.
President Bharrat Jagdeo, who made the announcement yesterday, said the funds will be facilitated through the 2008 National Budget slated to be presented in the National Assembly on Monday. The Guyanese Head of State said while government is committed to fighting crime and pouring the necessary resources into the security forces, Guyanese must understand that sacrifices will have to be made to assist in this regard.
“This year we just put in the budget close to $1B to buy a few helicopters with spotlight and a whole range of equipment, but the money is limited too…,” the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces declared. “I can understand sometimes the frustration but, people have to make sacrifices -- if they want security they cannot say to me they want 50 roads and then spend money on helicopters too,” President Jagdeo contended.
Government had explained that the National Budget will reflect provisions for other areas which the United Kingdom/Government of Guyana security action plan and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Citizens’ Security programmes would not cover. This will be facilitated through the Guyana Police Force’s capital projects budget and some of the provisions are expected to take care of the marine wing of the force to tackle piracy. More high powered weapons will also be purchased.
The security and defence sector received a record high budgetary allocation of $9.3B in last year’s budget. Meanwhile, the President in response to calls by opposition political parties for government to present a comprehensive security plan has made it clear that his government is open to suggestions for the current plan.
“We are open to any new suggestions that are not part of the security plan. We are not getting the suggestions; what we are getting from the opposition is a new security plan.” He said, “It’s not the new plan on paper we need. We need the physical people, more people in the security forces. We need better intelligence but intelligence just doesn’t drop from the sky.”
Government’s anti-crime strategy is fitted into its comprehensive security plan that will serve to enhance the work of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) through government’s financial support, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded Citizens’ Security Programme and the Government of Guyana/United Kingdom Security Reform Action Plan (SSRAP)
Several aspects of the SSRAP will be implemented be month-end. Among these are the establishment of a new and expanded criminal intelligence unit that will be fully furnished and equipped with a communication system and commencement of training of local police officers. A British expert is expected in the country by month-end to begin the training aspect. (Guyana Cronicle/GINA)
Student stabbed in neck on UG campus
A 24-year-old University of Guyana (UG) student and army reservist is currently a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital after being stabbed in the neck and abdomen by another man at the university's campus last evening. Denis Edghill of Haslington, East Coast Demerara was rushed to the hospital after the incident and is in a critical but stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery at the medical institution.
According to reports, the incident occurred at just about 7:30 pm while Edghill, who is pursuing a Communications course at UG, was on the university's campus. The reason for the assault was not clear but reports state that his assailant approached him and stabbed him two times in the neck and abdomen with a broken bottle.
The assailant, who is said to be known at the university campus then fled in his car but later stopped and got out of the vehicle. A friend of the man reportedly then entered the car and drove it away and Edghill was rushed to the hospital.
When Stabroek News arrived at the hospital a group of Edghill's university colleagues was there discussing the incident. They were very upset at the incident. Edghill was taken to the operating theatre soon after arriving at the institution and up to press time was still in surgery. (Stabroek News)
February 15, 2008
Missing Army AK-47 recovered in Berbice
Two persons in custody
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has reported that the AK-47 that went missing in December last year has been recovered and two persons have been arrested in connection with the missing weapon.
The Army said: “At about 06:00 h (yesterday), acting on information, a Joint Services team was deployed to the county of Berbice to investigate the loss of the GDF AK-47 rifle that went missing in December 2007.
The team, in their effort, arrested two persons in the Corentyne area. Further information confirmed that the weapon was hidden in the Adventure seaside area.
The team proceeded to the area led by one of the arrested persons and the weapon was recovered at about 15:30 h at the side of a trench wrapped in plastic and strapped by electrical wire. It was submerged in water. The weapon, service no.418, was lodged at the Albion Police station.
The GDF added that investigations are continuing to determine the movement of the weapon since its disappearance, and those who facilitated its removal. The Joint Services also expressed its gratitude to those who have assisted in providing information that led to the discovery of the missing weapon.
The weapon was discovered missing on November 30, 2007, but the standing orders provide for daily checks at the arms store and it was evident that those checks were not done because if they had been, then the weapon would have been discovered missing earlier. Some army personnel involved in the fiasco leading to the missing weapon were court martialled.
The army said quite clearly that the missing weapon was not as a result of a system failure, but a clear case of army ranks at all levels failing to adhere to the standing operating procedures that govern their duties. There was clear evidence of officers and ranks using short cut methods to curtail their duty requirements as the evidence shows that serious breaches and short cut methods are very prevalent in the force.
The army had announced that its task is two-fold; one to recover its missing weapon and second to weed out from its ranks those who are bent on being unprofessional and whose actions may be calculated to cause mischief and embarrassment to the force as a whole. The force also reiterated its commitment to being accountable to the public and civil administration, and must enjoy the confidence of the public at large.
It added that the matter was a top priority for the force as it is evident that standards have eroded significantly over the years where officers and ranks were used to receiving pats on their backs for wrongs done as opposed to swift and fair justice. (Guyana Cronicle)
In Berbice operation
Joint Services find stolen AK
Ex cop, buyer held - sale had been set for $ 80,000
The recovered AK 47
A Joint Services operation near Alness, Corentyne yesterday recovered the army's AK 47 rifle which went missing last year December and two men were nabbed in what sources say was a deal to sell the weapon for $80,000.
The loss of the AK 47 had resulted in a shake-up of the base command structure at Camp Ayanganna and the alleged torture of several soldiers who were implicated in the theft of the weapon.
In a statement, the Guyana Defence Force yesterday said that at about 6 am, acting on information, a Joint Services team was deployed to Berbice to investigate the loss of the AK 47 rifle.
The team, in their effort, arrested two persons in the Corentyne area. According to the statement further information confirmed that the weapon was hidden in the Adventure seaside area and ranks proceeded to the area led by one of the arrested persons and the weapon was recovered at about 3:30 pm yesterday at the side of a trench wrapped in plastic and strapped by electrical wire.
The rifle was also submerged in water, the army statement said, adding that the weapon, Serial no. 410418, was lodged at the Albion Police Station. "Investigations are continuing to determine the movement of the weapon since its disappearance, and those who facilitated its removal," the statement said, adding that the Joint Services wished to thank those persons who would have assisted in providing critical information that led to the recovery.
Meanwhile, police in Berbice unaware of the operation to recover the weapon had responded to reports from residents that a man was kidnapped by gunmen. They were later told that it was the Joint Services who had made the arrest. Stabroek News was told that an army reservist residing at Eversham on the Corentyne Coast had reportedly stolen the weapon from the army last November and together with an ex-policeman, arranged the sale of the rifle for $80,000. Sources said the man who confessed to purchasing the weapon led police to a clump of bushes where it was stashed.
The man who arranged the sale is said to be a former member of the Guyana Police Force who was interdicted from duty after being charged with stealing a horse. The man according to reports was picked up at his Alness, Corentyne home at around 9:30 am yesterday by the members of the Joint Service. After he was arrested his family contacted ranks at the Whim Police Station and officers there quickly informed the Tactical Services Unit at the Albion Station of what they thought was a kidnapping.
Sources say there was mass confusion and panic in the area and the roads in the area were blocked off. Parents started to collect their children from schools and there was a lot of tension. The Joint Services ranks were later intercepted in a vehicle during a roadblock exercise. It was at this point that the police in Berbice were made aware of what was taking place.
Michael Dunn, Sharth Robertson, Alvin Wilson and several soldiers were allegedly tortured by members of the Military Criminal Investi-gation Department over the missing rifle. The rifle was assigned to Robertson who along with Wilson is still being held by the army. Last month the military commenced court martial proceedings against Warrant Officer Torrington who was the base sergeant major at the time of the loss of the weapon.
A series of events had occurred following the loss of the single rifle with several officers being relieved of their duties and some being handed over to the police during investigations. Following the disappearance of the weapon on December 2 last year the GDF announced that it had removed several officers from their posts and remanded another eight soldiers into police custody.
A number of soldiers had been reduced in rank as a result of the incident while some salaries were cut. The loss of the AK 47 was seen as a major embarrassment to the new GDF high command coming in the wake of the shocking disappearance of 30 of these weapons the previous year and a shake-up in the GDF hierarchy. (Shabna Ullah/Stabroek News/GDF photo)
February 14, 2008
Luncheon: No talks with criminals
Kwayana backs Rodrigues proposal
Dr Roger Luncheon
The government has no intention of engaging criminals in any dialogue and will continue to take an aggressive approach to those hiding out in the East Coast backlands.
Jesuit priest Fr Malcolm Rodrigues had put forward a proposal for the political directorate to engage in dialogue with the criminals or domestic terrorists to get to the root cause of why they were engaging in criminal activities.
Asked about this proposal, as reported in Monday's edition, Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon said, "We have to be resolute and reject this positionâ€¦ We are unprepared to engage in any discourse with these criminals."
He said if the dialogue was to tell the criminals to surrender and face the law that would be appropriate but if it was to engage in philosophical approaches to crime and defence and counter defence for criminal events and actions, the proposal would have to be seen in what would be parallels. In this instance, he said there was no parallel.
He feels that those advocating the dialogue were taking the issue and putting it on par with what was taking place with hostages and rebels in Colombia and in other parts of the world.
At a press conference yesterday, Dr Luncheon added that professionals and others with social status were trying to make the issue one of social discontent by referring to discrimination and marginalisation as being the root cause and politicising what were purely criminal intentions.
Political activist Eusi Kwayana, a Buxtonian now residing in the USA, told the Stabroek News in an e-mail that after seven years the proposal by Fr Rodrigues for the political directorate to talk to the criminals or their representatives, those labelled criminals, was "right on".
Kwayana said that in his "humble opinion" the proposal was timely. "It is the only commonsense thing to do. PPP supporters, residents of Buxton-Friendship and the gunmen themselves should see it as the best possi-ble alternative," he said.
Reiterating that he has condemned the whole operation by the criminals in the backlands and its effects on human beings, he said he began the call for the gunmen, or by whatever name they are called, to be addressed by someone in the state. "I did not dare to go beyond that as it would get nowhere in the early stage, with rulers full of their own authority and what they would and would not do," he said.
Another thing that gave him hope, he said, was the report in Frederick Kissoon's column in the Kaieteur News that the controversial, resourceful soldier, Oliver Hinckson had offered to negotiate with the gunmen. "Regarding the main confrontation," he said, all people of justice and goodwill should welcome the proposal by Rodrigues. "It is central and without it the others will get nowhere quickly."
Meanwhile, AFC MP David Patterson said the AFC would support a dialogue with the criminals as the current approach was not succeeding as it should; people continued to lose their lives and livelihood. He said the problems of discrimination and marginalisation were being aired openly in and around 1997/1998 in Buxton, now described by the administration as a haven for criminals, and nothing concrete was done to alleviate the grievances of the people there.
The situation, which he said has been festering since then, has been getting out of hand with many losing their lives in the process. The government, he said, failed to nip the problem in the bud and the situation was now bordering on insurgency in a community which has been affected on account of being stigmatised.
The AFC, he said, has maintained that the root cause of the violence must be addressed even if it means talking to the criminals to get to the bottom of it and to stop future attacks to save innocent lives. "No ideas should be excluded," he said, even if it meant asking the criminals why they became criminals in the first instance.
With this situation going on in Buxton for some 11 years and now developing in other communities, he said that without dialogue it could continue for another decade with more drastic consequences and as such the AFC's objective was not to grandstand and take a rigid position but to be as flexible as possible to find long-term solutions to the problem.
"We can clear as many lands and the gangs could move from one point to another. Are we going to clear indefinitely? That does not address the cause," he said, adding that dialogue was one method of conflict resolution. (Miranda La Rose/Stabroek News)
Gunmen open fire on police vehicle
Gunmen at Riverview, Ruimveldt, last night opened fire on a police vehicle and within a matter of minutes the entire area was cordoned off and crawling with heavily armed ranks. Reports reaching Stabroek News are that the men opened fire on the vehicle shortly before 9 last night in the street just before the Ruimveldt Police Station. No rank was injured during the brazen assault, this newspaper understands.
When this newspaper arrived on the scene, many curious persons had flocked the scene and ranks were busily carrying out their investigations. As news of the incident spread, more and more police officers arrived at the scene. Stabroek News saw no visible bullet holes on the vehicle that was said to be involved in the incident.
This newspaper could not ascertain much on how the incident actually occurred but the police left the area after spending close to an hour. Residents living close to where the incident occurred were tightlipped but a few recounted hearing rapid gunfire. The area where the incident occurred is dark and not far from the Demerara River. Up to press time last night, police were still looking for the gunmen. (Stabroek News)
Bandits raid Canal houses
Two armed bandits sparked terror in Canal Number Two early yesterday morning when they broke into two houses on the Conservancy Dam, assaulting occupants including small children, before escaping into the thick bush with a quantity of items including jewellery. The area where the incident occurred is very dark at nights and the residents of that area issued a call for street lights and the clearing of the thick bush that surrounds the community.
One of the victims, Rookmin Dilip Hinds told Stabroek News last evening that they are still tramautized after being choked, gun butted, threatened and robbed by the gunmen. At the time of the incident which occurred around 1 am, Hinds and her three children where sleeping at her mother's house which is located a few metres away. The woman explained that she was there because her husband and father were away at sea.
Reports reaching this newspaper are that one of the bandits had a `long gun' while the other had a `small gun'. The men first broke into Hinds' home and ransacked it before bundling up some clothing and other items. They then broke into the other house which is a few metres away where Hinds, her children, mother and grandmother were asleep and collected a bag in which they packed the items.
The bandits then invaded the house with the sleeping occupants where they tied up the six occupants and placed them in one room. Hinds' told Stabroek News that gunmen rapped netting around her 72-year-old grandmother's mouth while demanding cash and jewels. (Stabroek News)
February 13, 2008
Miner mistaken by cops for 'Fineman', missing hotelier's ex
Demands public apology
A Linden man, who the police arrested after they mistook him for `Fineman' and the ex-husband of Alpha Hotel owner Roseanne Hall, is demanding a public apology from authorities saying he was embarrassed and his family shamed.
Randolph Baker of 726 One Mile, Wismar was released on Monday after more than eight hours in custody. He was arrested in Linden when he turned up at the station to renew his driver's licence and according to him, he was initially mistaken for Guyana's most wanted.
"The police had a newspaper in he hand with a photograph of 'Fineman' [wanted man Rondell Rawlins] and he keep asking me to look at it, but I refuse," Baker said. "Then everyone in the station started looking at me as if I am a criminal. This thing had me confused because one of the police know me from the mining work I do."
After he refused to look at the newspaper, Baker said, the police roughed him up and put him in the lock-ups at the Mackenzie station. He was allowed one phone call to his family before he was transported to the city and placed at Brickdam lock-ups. While there he repeatedly asked why he was being held and was later told about the missing hotelier.
Baker said he was usually in the interior working as miner and was not following the story of the woman's disappearance. He was also not aware that police were looking for her ex-husband, Alex Barker who apparently bears a slight resemblance to him. The man said he was only clear on one thing which was that the police were holding him unlawfully.
Hall's husband who was in police custody at the time was called to identify Baker and he told police that Baker was not the man they were looking for. He said the police were not satisfied and two women were called to look at him. They, too, said he was not the man. Baker said the women appeared to be relatives of the woman and on seeing him, they immediately said no.
However, the police still kept him in custody, only telling him that they had a valid reason for his detention. He said they never gave a reason after the persons failed to name him as the man but he was locked up for hours.
Baker's sister, Ohio Thompson told Stabroek News yesterday that she abandoned her duties at work after receiving a call that her brother had been arrested because he looked like someone the police were looking for. The woman said she visited the Ministry of Home Affairs to have a word with the minister, but was referred to the Office of the Commissioner of Police. She travelled there and spoke with an officer who directed her to a commander. She said Commander Primo spoke with her and after making some calls he offered an apology. Commander Primo could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Thompson said the Commander apologized for the mix-up and told her that the police were releasing her brother. She then went to Brickdam and Baker was released. She said the Commander blamed poor policing work for the mix-up and promised that it would not happen again. However she is not happy.
The woman said the police shamed her brother and her family by arresting him and claiming first that he looked like 'Fineman' then saying he had something to do with the hotelier's disappearance. She said if Baker was a rash person he could have reacted differently and the outcome might have been different. "If my brother was not a calm person he would have lashed out at them with anger from the beginning and who knows what action they might have taken," she reasoned. "They might have shot him dead and then said he was involved in something."
Baker said he has worked in the interior for 21 years as a miner and is known by many police officers. He said the whole thing was strange because he was walking around Linden when he was at home and the police had an opportunity to pick him up then. The man said the incident has confused his 16 children who are now wondering why the police held their father.
The man said the police force owes him a public apology and that they cannot go around playing with people's lives. He said the force needs to do better work than what they are currently doing. Police had issued a wanted bulletin for Alex Barker called "Amkabima", the ex-husband of Hall. (Iana Seales/Stabroek News)
February 12, 2008
Five inmates wounded in prison fight
A fight among prisoners in the capital offences section of the Camp Street prison last evening left five of them bloodied, two of whom had to be admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Those taken to the hospital for medical attention were Noel Adonis, Azim Khan, Gary Moses, Christopher Dhanraj and Calvin Bailey. Adonis and Moses were listed as critical but stable and were admitted while the others were treated and sent away. These prisoners were all allegedly beaten with pieces of wood.
Prisons Head Dale Erskine told Stabroek News last evening that it was around 7.15 pm when officers heard noises coming from the "capital division" of the prison. When they started to investigate, the lights went out. He said that from the sounds they were hearing, the officers realized that someone was being beaten. According to Erskine, the sirens were turned on, everyone went on high alert and the joint services responded immediately.
He said prison officers were able to manoeuvre themselves into the area where they found a number of injured, bloodied prisoners. He said it was hard to figure out whether the men had actual punctures to their bodies or just lacerations. However, he said, they established that the men had been beaten with pieces of wood.
It was pandemonium at the hospital when the prisoners arrived amid sirens and under heavy police guard. Dozens of persons assembled and hospital personnel were forced to close the doors to the Accident and Emergency Unit, barring off curious onlookers. Meanwhile, the usual cordon around the prison was widened and heavily-armed policemen and ranks from the Guyana Fire service remained vigilant outside the building.
The issue of prisoners being able to avoid the scrutiny of prison officers and take implements, which could be used as weapons, to their cells had been raised before and Erskine had pointed out that the more experienced officers could easily realize when this was the case. He had admitted though that the prisoners were crafty and found different means to secure these implements and carry them back to their cells.
Meanwhile, the six prisoners who allegedly beat the five injured inmates, have since been placed in isolation, Erskine said. He said officers were able to take control of the situation quickly and things were back to normal. Questioned as to whether the prisoners were actually in the prison yard as was being rumoured, Erskine denied this and insisted that there was there was no damage to the building adding that everything took place behind the walls and there was no breach.
He was not sure if any of those placed in isolation were well-known prisoners. However, he confirmed that Moses, Dhanraj and Bailey were being held for murder. The prisons head was not sure what might have caused last evening's fight, but explained that this was a frequent feature among prisoners.
Erskine said the police would be involved in investigations and if there was enough evidence, those who had done the beating could face additional criminal charges. While there was complete calm at the prison within an hour, Erskine said that officers remained on alert. (Heppilena Ferguson/Stabroek News)
February 11, 2008
BRINGING CLOSURE TO A LOST HOPE, SHATTERED DREAMS
Almost three years since sugar workers disappeared
Wives, children look to backlands clearing for answers and possible closure to their never-ending search for missing loved ones.
‘HOPE vs. ANSWERS’: Jaswantie Sawh (at right) with her daughter-in-law, Nanda, and grandchildren, Anesha and Amesha Sawh, displaying a photograph of their missing loved one, Maikhram Sawh, at the family’s home at Non Pariel, East Coast Demerara yesterday.
It has been almost three dark, desolate, distressing years since Maikhram Sawh and Sampersaud Taranauth mysteriously disappeared in the volatile and dangerous East Coast Demerara backlands
It has been almost three dark, desolate, distressing years since Maikhram Sawh and Sampersaud Taranauth mysteriously disappeared in the volatile and dangerous East Coast Demerara backlands. But family members and other close relatives of the two sugar-workers have still not given up hope of seeing them again, either dead or alive.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, their spouses continue to hope and pray that someday they will be found. While not giving up on their loved ones, the deeply distraught women are now saying with resignation, that if indeed their husbands are dead, even the discovery of their bodies or skeletal remains would bring some form of closure to their ongoing grief and uncertainty.
News Saturday that ranks of the Joint Services, while on patrol in the backlands of Buxton, East Coast Demerara, had found the skeletal remains of a man sent the ‘antennas’ up high within these two families and even the public.
The Police, in a press statement late on Saturday, said the skeletal remains appeared to be of a male of African descent, and were spotted floating in a swamp about 60 yards north of the Lamaha Conservancy in the vicinity of Brushe Dam.
‘WHERE IS MY DADDY?’: The children of missing sugar worker, Sampersaud Taranauth, - seven-year-old Elizabeth, three-year-old Divya and eight-year-old Sarah at their Enterprise, East Coast Demerara home yesterday.
The release said a three-quarter navy blue denim pants with a leather belt and a Rastafarian bead chain (coloured in red, black, green and yellow) with the name “Ishmael” were found among the remains.
The find is important for the Joint Services who, along with looking to “restore order” in the backlands of Buxton and other communities on the East Coast of Demerara, are mindful that the clearing currently underway could unearth new information about cases of murder and disappearances that have rocked the country over the past few years.
Along with the combined forces, relatives of missing persons, including those of the two sugar workers - Maikhram Sawh called ‘Bharrat’, 45, of Nonpariel, and Taranauth Rampersaud, 37, of Enterprise, also on the East Coast Demerara - are also looking for possible closure to their disappearance.
The two sugar workers were at the time cleaning a Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) drainage canal aback of Vigilance. Today, nearly thirty-three months later, there is still no trace of the men in spite of several searches of the East Coast backlands by both the Police and the Army.
Though still visibly distraught and hanging on to an as yet never waning glimmer of hope, the wives of the two missing men whom the Chronicle visited and spoke with yesterday, are still dreaming of a ‘reunion’ with the men they vowed to spend the rest of their lives with. Deep down, however, they have started a long time ago to accept the harsh reality, and a life without them.
Commenting on the loss of her husband, Jaswanttie Sawh who had shared a 28-year union with Maikhram, put together a poem in his memory, and tearfully reading from it yesterday she asserted: “My husband means everything to me, without him my life is useless ... Until today, my eyes keep watching and hoping that he will return. Some are very fortunate to find the bodies of their missing relatives, but we are so unlucky, not even a strand of his hair we cannot find.”
Maikhram and Jaswanttie have two adult children -- who both share the loss of their father, and play a great part in bringing comfort to her and helping her retain her sanity.
Jaswanttie is insisting that if her husband is dead then she wants to see his remains. For this reason, when relatives heard of the discovery of the skeleton last Saturday, they said that they would feel a sense of relief if the backlands of Vigilance is also graded since their loved one and his colleague were working aback of Vigilance on the morning that they disappeared.
And Taranauth’s wife of seven years – Kamini was even more vocal, adding that the news of the discovery of the skeletal remains angered her. “I think that’s what they shoulda do first, they doing last...” The distraught woman was questioning why the grading of the backlands was not done much earlier – or thirty three months ago when her husband disappeared.
Kamani said to make matters worse, she is struggling, and at her wits end to eke out a living for herself and three young children aged 8,7 and 3. The woman said she approached the National Insurance Scheme for her husband’s benefits, but they informed her that she has to tender a death certificate before they can pay her any money.
Outraged, she questioned how could she get a death certificate when her husband’s body was never found. This reinforces the need for a search to be mounted for the two missing sugar workers, Kamini contended. She said the NIS informed her that seven years would have to elapse before her husband can be considered to be dead.
She said she sought a part-time job to earn some cash and at the same time, keep her from being submerged in grief while the children are at school. “Being at home watching these four walls woulda send me mad,” the widow snarled. Kamini acknowledged that she received a lump sum of money from GUYSUCO, but that has since finished.
The grieving woman said she always felt that if a serious search was done, the remains of her husband and his workmate, Sawh, would have been found a long time ago, and that would have made her feel that ‘somebody cares’. For Kamini and her three daughters, life would never be the same. Kamini said her youngest daughter, who was just three months when her father went missing, is now three years old and is not yet speaking (forming words clearly).
The woman admits to ‘crying night and day’ since the loss of her husband, and feels that the child’s inability to speak at three, is all part of the deeply traumatic effect the loss of the father figure has had on the family’s life. She is consumed by grief, has since been turned inward, and so did very little for the socialization process of the children. When the two older sisters are at school, the youngest is at home with her, and there is virtually little interaction -- let alone communication going on between the two.
On the other hand, the two older sisters become upset at hearing the neighbours’ children talk about their daddies; see them hug and play with them; buy them gifts for their birthday and at Christmas time, and they have no one to call dad. (Guyana Cronicle)
February 8, 2008
Mon Repos residents tell ethnic relations body:
'We are living in fear'
Mon Repos residents during a meeting with members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) yesterday said that they are still living in fear following the massacre of 11 at Lusignan and they were urged to promote harmony and good relations among themselves so that they can overcome it.
The commission was addressing the residents at its first of a series of community dialogues slated for Lusignan and surrounding communities over the next few days. Clearly lacking during yesterday's three-hour-long meeting which was held at the Mon Repos Primary School was a thorough engagement between the commissioners and the approximately 150 residents who were gathered.
Less than ten persons expressed views yesterday and it was evident that many were unwilling to speak publicly although they shook their heads in agreement with the views of their fellow villagers who were brave enough. Chairman of the ERC Juan Edghill during the meeting could be heard repeatedly pleading with the residents to air their views.
Edghill earlier told residents that they needed to find ways to deal with conflicts stressing that there is a great need for the community to recognize leadership. He stressed too that their respect for one another must never change adding that if there is no respect there can be disaster and more conflicts. He later said that he was saddened by the level of fear that exists in that community and appealed to the Ministry of Human Services to make all of its resources available to help the children and the families who are being affected.
Residents told the commission that they have to keep watch at night especially those living at the back of the village which is bordered by cane fields and grasslands. Residents also agreed that the base of their fear is politics as opposed to race. One resident said that he believes that the ethnicity issue starts at the political level.
He said that the opposition does not recognize the government of today and that's a major problem. The resident opined that that is how the conflicts start in the country adding that at this point he would like to see improved relations between the two sides. Another resident also pointed out that government is always appealing for peace but it seems to him that one particular ethnic group is always being made the victim.
The man repeatedly said "I don't want to be nasty" and referred to 1962 when protestors were burning down Georgetown. He added that before long, telling one set of people to be peaceful will be like throwing "water on duck back". The resident said that it is known that Indians want peace and they make progress in life and pointed out that he wants it to remain that way.
Another Mon Repos resident said that "Indian people are being treated like white fowl" adding that the white fowls are just caught and slaughtered. He told the members of the ERC that the residents have to stand up for their rights because they will all be treated like white fowls.
Residents said that they fear that they could be suffering like Lusignan. "In de night you can't sleep because we frighten. Last night I heard that deh lying down in de backdam", a resident who lives at the back of the East Coast village said yesterday. The woman said that this fear that has gripped the village has also spread to the children who are afraid to go to the washroom or even into their bedrooms alone.
The resident said that she had to take her children to sleep at their grandmother. Another added that when 6 o'clock passes, everybody is scared. She said that while everyone in the community is calling for protection there needs to be some level of cooperation and communication between residents. The resident used the forum to thank the government for clearing the backlands of Buxton and stressed that there needs to be frequent community meetings in Mon Repos.
The level of fear
Meanwhile Pastor Patrick Findlay, who is also a member of the community, said that the slightest noise instils fear among villagers. He also pointed out that the area bordered by grasslands and canefields is very dark at night since there are no street lights there. Pastor Findlay told residents that they have to be careful that people don't get scared because "this thing can cause us to lose our minds".
Residents repeatedly asked why is it that they have to be living in fear of people coming to their homes to kill them. A resident said that love is what is needed. He told the ERC that government has made promises but he cannot live by that. He recalled that in 1987 bandits kicked down his door, shot his son and stabbed his wife before beating him up and when he called the police for help there was none.
The resident said that there should be peace regardless of religion and race. He said that his wounds will never be healed and he pointed out that they cannot fight the criminals with cutlasses and sticks and that men who have worked all day cannot continue to watch all night. Asked by Edghill if they believed that the bandits who carried out the attack on Lusignan were Afro Guyanese, the residents said that they did not believe so.
The ERC will be holding their next community dialogue at the Annandale Secondary School next Monday. They will be at Lusignan Primary School the following day and at the Friendship Primary School next Thursday. Mon Repos was the scene of protests over the Lusignan massacre last week. (Zoisa Fraser/Stabroek News)
February 7, 2008
Police receive calls on ‘Fine Man’
But nothing so far that could lead to his arrest
In response to the police wanted bulletin for Guyana’s most sought after fugitive, Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins, police said they have had some calls so far.
However, the police said that some calls were checked out and did not come up with anything that may lead to his arrest but is urging members of the public to continue calling and report any sightings of the fugitive.
A few citizens told the Guyana Chronicle that they were upset when they telephoned Police Headquarters, Eve Leary recently, on the numbers listed in the wanted bulletin and their calls went unanswered.
Eight days after 11 people including five children were shot dead in their homes in Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, the police issued a wanted bulletin for the wanted fugitive who has managed successfully to evade capture.
The Police have increased the reward for information leading to the capture of Guyana’s most wanted man, Rondell Rawlins, called ‘Fine Man’.
The sum of $50M was announced following no response to the $30M previously offered. Rawlins, of Buxton, East Coast Demerara and Agricola, East Bank Demerara, has been accused of a series of murders and armed robberies.
Police said, in view of the number of matters of a serious nature to which he is linked and the amount of damage caused, the Force has reconsidered the amount of money on offer for information that may lead to his arrest.
Anyone with such information is asked to contact the Police on telephone numbers 225-6411, 226-6978, 225-8196, 225-2227, 225-3650, 225-7625, 911 or at the nearest station. All information will be treated with the strictest confidence, the announcement reiterated. (Guyana Cronicle)
Murdered taxi driver's car found
The taxi driven by Mohamed Rasool who was killed and left on the road at Penny Lane, South Ruimveldt was found abandoned at Guyhoc Public Road on Tuesday night.
Police said yesterday that no arrests have been made but investigations are ongoing into the taxi-driver's murder. A post-mortem examination was conducted on Rasool who was shot in the back. He was buried yesterday according to Muslim rites. Speaking with Stabroek News a relative from Essequibo said the family is finding it difficult to accept the news of his death.
The man said they were informed just after midday on Tuesday and he along with one of Rasool's sisters travelled to the city immediately. He said they like Rasool's Muslim brothers are troubled by his death and have no idea why someone would harm him.
According to the relative, Rasool was in Essequibo late last year to observe Eid ul-Adha. He added that Rasool was very religious. Relatives remained in contact with Rasool, he said, over the years that he has been living alone in the city. The man related that the family would remain in contact with the police until the investigations are complete.
Rasool formerly known as Trevor Munroe is believed to have been the victim of a hijacking. His taxi was missing for around a day before police located it at Guyhoc. He was last seen alive around 7 pm on Monday night at the Ruimveldt mosque where he worshipped. (Stabroek News)
February 6, 2008
Taxi driver murdered
Was shot in back, car missing
A popular taxi driver who is believed to have been the victim of a hijacking was found dead at Penny Lane Street, South Ruimveldt early yesterday morning.
The body of Mohammed Rasool, 42, of 45 Third Street, Alberttown was discovered around 5:45 am with gunshot wounds to the left side of his back along with an injury to the back of his head. Up to press time last night the car HB 3222, a navy blue AT 192 had not been located.
Rasool formerly known as Trevor Munroe lived alone at his Alberttown residence and was last seen alive around 7 pm at the Ruimveldt mosque where he worshipped. He was a regular face at the Berbice car park but was well known around the downtown area.
Yesterday he was positively identified by his Muslim brothers who were alerted by the police when one of them telephoned him and the officer answered the cellular phone. Prior to identifying the body, reports had reached the Muslim community at the Ruimveldt mosque that a man was found dead clad in a blue Muslim-type gown, a pair of black pants, white vest and a pair of brown sandals.
Imam Khaleal Wahab told Stabroek News yesterday that Rasool was a peaceful, religious man who worshipped on a daily basis. He said Rasool often did out-of-town trips and pointed out that no matter where he was when the hour came for worship Rasool found a mosque and prayed.
"This news has shocked all of us and has brought us much grief for brother Rasool was devoted to the faith and he lived a peaceful life. He stood out as a person because he was so quiet and he went about his work in an admirable way. This is a difficult time for us", Imam Wahab said.
He recalled that Rasool started driving a taxi two years ago after he purchased a car. He worked privately and would usually close off at around 9 pm. Before he had the car Rasool was a nut vendor and for years he walked around selling nuts.
Wahab recalled that recently Rasool spoke of two incidents where persons attempted to rob him but he managed to flee before being attacked. When pressed for more information on the incidents, he said, the incidents were isolated and that Rasool never really complained about anything. Wahab said the community to which Rasool belonged views the incident as a hijacking and murder based on the information they have received.
Rasool was said to be originally from Essequibo but for some ten years he had been residing in the city at Albertttown. According to Wahab, Rasool's relatives in Essequibo were contacted. Rasool had no children and he was also not married. (Iana Seales /Stabroek News)
Progress made in ongoing operation to clear East Coast backlands
Joint Services set up special desk to deal with compensation, other issues
The Joint Services have set up a ‘special desk’ at the Office of the Police Commissioner, Eve Leary, to deal with residents on the lower East Coast of Demerara, on the matter of compensation and other issues relating to the ongoing operation by the Police and Army to clear the backlands of several villages in that area.
The operation entails the removal of all vegetation in the identified areas aback of the villages on the East Coast so as to provide a clear line-of-sight for villagers and security forces, the Office of the President announced in a statement.
‘CLEARING OUT’: This composite photo shows work being done yesterday to clear the drainage canal that runs parallel to Brushe Dam, Friendship and a section of the Dam that has already been cleared.
The Joint Services operation began Monday to clear the East Coast backlands of criminal hideouts, starting with the area aback the violence prone and volatile villages of Buxton/Friendship, where the authorities believe criminal gangs with high-powered weapons are hemmed in.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon, noted that the commencement of the operation to clear vegetation aback of the villages on the lower East Coast of Demerara should be seen in the context of:
** The regular resort of criminal elements to the protection offered by the dense vegetation and cane fields aback of those villages.
** the persistent call by the affected communities to remove the dense vegetation, and
** the commitment by the Joint services to enhance security of those in vulnerable communities.
Luncheon said the aim of the operation is to “create line of sight clearance of a perimeter that extends from as far east as Enmore and as far west as BV/ Triumph area by the time the operation is completed”. It will commence with clearing dams in the Friendship area to provide access to those areas that are contiguous with the housing settlements aback of the Buxton/Friendship/Vigilance on the east and Annandale on the west.
Luncheon said the operations would coincide with arrangements being put in place by the administration to address issues of compensation for those whose holding, whether free hold or lease hold, would be affected in pursuit of the operations. “Those arrangements would not, however, be allowed to forestall or delay the onset and the completion of the operations,” he declared.
The Government of Guyana has also requested support for the efforts of the Joint Services involved in this aspect of ‘Operation Restore Order’ as they intensify efforts to provide enhanced security to the vulnerable communities on the East Coast of Demerara and all Guyanese. When news broke of the Lusignan massacre, which left 11 persons dead, including five children two Saturday’s ago, President Bharrat Jagdeo, announced that the gunmen came from Buxton, the village long associated with murderous gangs.
The Joint Services began with Brushe Dam Friendship as they attempt to flush out criminals thought to be hiding out in the jungles aback Buxton. They first need to clear Brushe dam and the central navigational canal to mow down dense vegetation where it is believed the gangs set camp after assaults on East Coast communities. A large section of Brushe dam was reportedly cleared yesterday, allowing smoother access by the Joint Services into the volatile backlands of that community.
The operation to clear the backlands has long been called for by residents, especially since February 23, 2002 when five dangerous men escaped the country’s main prison and used Buxton as a base for the carrying-out of a series of brutal slayings that left the country in terror and sent the crime wave spiralling out of control.
With their deaths arose Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins, who has claimed responsibility for the Lusignan massacre. The Police have placed a $50M reward on his head. Some residents who survived the Lusignan attack recalled seeing the men proceeding in the direction of Buxton across the grasslands and then into the cane-fields. They said their footwear, as seen from prints left on sand, were “safety boots”.
‘Operation Restore Order’ began on January 27, and was first concentrated in the backlands last Wednesday evening, resulting in immediate success for the Joint Services with the killing of two men, one of whom was identified as Troy St John called ‘John Eye’, who was reportedly the second in command of the gang headed by ‘Fine Man’.
The other man killed in an exchange with Police and Army in the Buxton backlands was Vibert Harris also known as ‘Bholo’ 29, of 125 Friendship, East Bank Demerara.
The operation moved to house-to-house raids last Thursday, when the Police confirmed that the AK-47 assault rifle, recovered during the armed confrontation between the Joint Services and gunmen in Buxton, matched the spent shells found at the scenes of the recent massacre at Lusignan on Saturday last, when 11 persons were killed.
Tests also showed other links including the robbery/murder at Triumph, East Coast Demerara on December 16, 2007, where Fazal Hakim and Rajesh Singh were killed, the armed robbery/murder on the Professional Guard Service (PGS) security van at Agricola, East Bank Demerara, the armed robbery/murder on the Mazda Mining Company (MMC) Security personnel at Sheribana , and the robbery at Canal No. 1 in 2006.
Expanded Police Intelligence Unit to be set-up by month-end
Under UK funded SSR action plan
The British High Commission in Georgetown, yesterday, announced that before the end of this month, the capacity of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) will be strengthened by the provision of equipment, and the arrival of UK police to advise, train and mentor GPF personnel in key areas.
This is part of the implementation of the Government of Guyana Security Sector Reform (SSR) Action Plan, funded by the United Kingdom (UK). The implementation of these immediate steps was agreed to in December 2007 by Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, Acting Commissioner of Police Henry Greene, and British High Commissioner Fraser Wheeler, following agreement between the two governments on the overall SSR Action Plan in August 2007.
“One of the early steps is to set up a new and expanded criminal intelligence unit as part of the Police Force,” the British High Commission said in a statement. Under the SSR Action Plan, it said the new unit will be fully furnished and equipped with a communication system and a computerised data collection and management system.
A UK police adviser will be in Guyana by the end of February to work with the Guyana Police Force to further develop crime intelligence, and provide training, the High Commission disclosed. It said protective gear for use by ranks of the Anti-Crime Unit while in the line of fire is also being purchased, together with radio equipment to help them communicate more effectively when on crime scenes.
GPS units, high resolution binoculars, and cameras will also be provided. Tactical training for this unit is also expected to be delivered shortly. Also to be delivered this month, according to the British High Commission, is enhanced communications equipment for the Force Control Room at Eve Leary and the Operations Room at the Brickdam Police Station that handles 911 calls.
A trainer from the United Kingdom will arrive by the end of the month to deliver training in the use of the new equipment and to advise on improving service delivery to the public. The British High Commission pointed out that in the context of building improved police/community relations, some initial steps involving the media are also underway. This weekend, reporters will be engaged in a media workshop aimed at improving their skills on crime reporting, and facilitating police-community relations.
The workshop will be conducted by UK-based media consultant John Beverley. The High Commission also indicated that a UK adviser will be arriving shortly in Guyana to work with the Police Force to strengthen the GPF's Office of Professional Responsibility. In addition, the High Commission is looking at providing further training in the maintenance of public order. This would complement training provided by UK trainers just before the Guyana 2006 general elections.
Ways of strengthening the Force's forensic capabilities and traffic policing are also being developed for early implementation. The agreement between the Governments of Guyana and the UK on a Security Sector Reform Action plan reflects an understanding that crime and security can only be effectively tackled in a comprehensive and holistic way.
The above early actions should therefore be seen in the wider context of the four-year SSR Action Plan, aligned to the Citizen Security and Justice Reform programmes, which is designed to:
** Build the operational capacity of the Guyana Police Force, from the provision of a uniformed response to serious crime, to forensics, crime intelligence and traffic policing;
** Strengthen policy-making across the security sector to make it more transparent, effective, and better co-ordinated;
** Create substantial parliamentary and other oversight of the security sector;
** Mainstream financial management in the security sector into public sector financial management reform
** Build greater public participation and inclusiveness on security sector issues.
In January, Prime Minister and Member of Parliament Mr. Samuel Hinds, was named by the National Assembly as Chair of the Special Select Committee on the SSR Action Plan. (Guyana Cronicle)
February 5, 2008
BUXTON BACKDAM CLEAROUT
Joint Services commence operation to clear East Coast backlands
of dense vegetation, criminal hideouts
Soldiers guide three bulldozers into Brushe Dam yesterday when they commenced an operation to clear the backlands where criminals are thought to hideout.
The Police and Army yesterday began an operation to clear the East Coast backlands of criminal hideouts, starting with the area aback the violence prone and volatile villages of Buxton/Friendship, where the authorities believe criminal gangs with high-powered weapons are hemmed in.When news broke of the Lusigan massacre, which left 11 persons dead, including five children two Saturday’s ago, President Bharrat Jagdeo early announced that the gunmen came from Buxton, the village long associated with murderous gangs.
Yesterday, the Joint Services began with Brushe Dam Friendship as they attempt to flush out criminals thought to be hiding out in the jungles aback Buxton.
They first though need to clear Brushe dam and the central navigational canal to mow down dense vegetation where it is believed the gangs set camp after assaults on East Coast communities.
This make shift fence on Brushe Dam had to be graded yesterday ahead of an operation to clear the criminal hideouts in the backlands of Friendship/Buxton
The cultivated sections which will be bulldozed are surrounded by water and therefore bridges need to be built to get the bulldozers across.
The operation to clear the backlands has long been called for by residents, especially since February 23, 2002 when five dangerous men escaped the country’s main prison and used Buxton as a base for the carrying-out of a series of brutal slayings that left the country in terror and sent the crime wave spiralling out of control.With their deaths arose Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins, who has claimed responsibility for the Lusignan massacre. The Police have placed a $50M reward on his head.
Brushe Dam, with vegetables planted illegally, had to be graded yesterday ahead of an operation to clear the criminal hideouts in the backlands of Friendship/Buxton.
Some residents who survived the Lusignan attack recalled seeing the men proceeding in the direction of Buxton across the grasslands and then into the cane-fields. They said their footwear, as seen from prints left on sand, were “safety boots”.
The operation which started yesterday entails the removal of all vegetation in the identified areas aback of the villages on the East Coast so as to provide a clear line-of-sight for villagers and security forces, the Office of the President announced in a statement.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Defence Board Dr. Roger Luncheon, noted that the commencement of the operation to clear vegetation aback of the villages on the lower East Coast of Demerara should be seen in the context of:
** The regular resort of criminal elements to the protection offered by the dense vegetation and cane fields aback of those villages.
** The persistent call by the affected communities to remove the dense vegetation, and
** The commitment by the Joint services to enhance security of those in vulnerable communities.A section of Brushe Dam after it was graded yesterday to allow an operation to clear the Buxton backlands.
Luncheon said the aim of the operation is to “create line of sight clearance of a perimeter that extends from as far east as Enmore and as far west as BV/ Triumph area by the time the operation is completed”.
It will commence with clearing dams in the Friendship area to provide access to those areas that are contiguous with the housing settlements aback of the Buxton/Friendship/Vigilance on the east and Annandale on the west.
Luncheon said the operations would coincide with arrangements being put in place by the administration to address issues of compensation for those whose holding, whether free hold or lease hold, would be affected in pursuit of the operations. “Those arrangements would not, however, be allowed to forestall or delay the onset and the completion of the operations,” he declared.
The Government of Guyana has also requested support for the efforts of the Joint Services involved in this aspect of ‘Operation Restore Order” as they intensify efforts to provide enhanced security to the vulnerable communities on the East Coast of Demerara and all Guyanese.
Operation Restore Order began on January 27, and was first concentrated in the backlands last Wednesday evening, resulting in immediate success for the Joint Services with the killing of two men, one of whom was identified as Troy St John called ‘John Eye’, who was reportedly the second in command of the gang headed by ‘Fine Man’.
The other man killed in an exchange with Police and Army in the Buxton backlands was Vibert Harris also known as ‘Bholo’ 29, of 125 Friendship, East Bank Demerara.
The operation moved to house-to-house raids last Thursday, when the Police confirmed that the AK-47 assault rifle, recovered during the armed confrontation between the Joint Services and gunmen in Buxton matched the spent shells found at the scenes of the recent massacre at Lusignan on Saturday last, when 11 persons were killed.
Tests also showed other links including the robbery/murder at Triumph, East Coast Demerara on December 16, 2007, where Fazal Hakim and Rajesh Singh were killed, the armed robbery/murder on the Professional Guard Service (PGS) security van at Agricola, East Bank Demerara, the armed robbery/murder on the Mazda Mining Company (MMC) Security personnel at Sheribana , and the robbery at Canal No. 1 in 2006.
Fixing damaged house:
Between Saturday and Sunday, the Joint Services said they conducted searches and special operations in Brushe Dam, Buxton; Friendship North, Mon Repos and Bare Root. A total of fifteen (15) houses were searched. During the search of several houses earlier in Buxton/Friendship, the Joint Services found it necessary to damage the floor of a house belonging to Gloria Thomas of 151 Friendship, ECD.
The damaged area is some 8’ x 14’ with a 2” thick concrete. However, since the sand was not well compacted this produced a hollow effect when the ranks tested it and prompted them to dig it up. The Joint Services have since effected repairs to the floor of the house costing some $75,000.
“The Joint Services reiterate the commitment to be professional in conduct in the execution of our duties with full respect for the rights of the public; but the nature of the operations is such that some amount of collateral damage may be occasioned,” the Joint Services said in a statement.
The Joint Services said it has been made aware of the allegation that ranks mixed kerosene oil in rice at a shop in the Buxton/Friendship community during one of its operations. “No report of any such unethical behaviour by the ranks was made to the Joint Services and it appears that this only surfaced during a visit to the community by the Opposition Leader Robert Corbin, among others,” the Joint Services said.
The Joint Services emphasised the support being given by the members of the Buxton/Friendship and neighbouring communities with Operation Restore Order “and are prepared to accept and deal with any and all reports of misconduct on the part of its ranks.”
The Police and Army also urged that residents do not allow themselves to be swayed away from their so far positive attitude. The Joint Services noted that the shop where the incident is alleged to have taken place is known for the harbouring of criminal elements and has been the target of several searches before. It was from this very shop that armed gunmen opened fire on the Joint Services ranks on Wednesday, January 23, 2008, during which army Corporal Ivor Williams was killed, the Joint Services said.
Deon Newton, 24 years, and Mike McLean, 14 years, both of 151 Friendship, ECD, who were arrested by the Joint Services during search operations conducted in Buxton/Friendship, were charged with acquiring military stores and unlawful possession of four (4) cell phones, respectively. They appeared before Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle yesterday, where they pleaded ‘not guilty’ and were placed on self bail to return to Court at Vigilance on February 22, 2008.
February 4, 2008
Father of two killed outside wedding party
A 36-year-old father of two was stabbed to death on Saturday night during an altercation outside a wedding party in Canal Number 2, West Demerara.
Dead is Farzan Khan of 36 New Aanlegt, Canal Number 2. According to the man's wife Nadira Khan, the man left the house sometime around 11 pm and told her: "sit here and wait for me. I coming back just now."
Police have placed two brothers in custody at the La Grange Police Station and they are assisting with the investigations. The two were taken into custody shortly after the incident.
When this newspaper visited the house, relatives and friends of the deceased were erecting a shed in preparation for a wake. The man's wife and other close relatives spoke to this newspaper.
"I was sitting down at the back and then I get a message saying something happen with Farzan and that I must go to the hospital," Nadira said. She told this newspaper that as she prepared to leave, she heard that the car with her husband was in front of the house. When she went out to see him, he was almost totally covered in blood.
She said that she had no idea of the circumstances of the incident and couldn't understand how and why someone would do this to her husband. Nadira described her husband as a very quiet person.
Nadira said that her husband had left driving a friend's car and another man was in the car. It was the man who was in the car as a passenger who drove the car back to the house after Khan was wounded.
An aunt of the man told this newspaper that her nephew was a very quiet person who would pick up fish vendors every morning and who would look after his wife and children.
On visiting the wedding house, one of the persons setting up the bar told this newspaper that the man was stabbed in the neck while on the road outside of the wedding house. But he said that during the music and merry making, hardly anyone heard or saw the incident when it occurred.
He showed this newspaper the spot where the stabbing took place and said that early morning rains from yesterday washed away some of the blood, which he said was clearly visible on various spots on the road. Khan was the father of two children ages 12 and 14. The man worked as a bus and taxi driver and did farming also, relatives stated. (Johann Earle/Stabroek News)
Police, army have to be more alert to crimes - Mrs Jagan
Former President, Mrs Janet Jagan says that the police and army have to be more alert to crimes. In her column in the Weekend Mirror of February 2-3 addressing the Lusignan massacre, Mrs Jagan said "..we expect the police and army to be more alert. Notification of crimes as they begin are not getting the attention and response needed.
That must change." The late police response to the Lusignan attack two Saturdays ago enraged residents of the East Coast. A report is expected on the time the first call was made to stations on the East Coast about the attack.
In a column entitled `Time for unity against cold-blooded killers', the former President said that every police station needs to have better equipment to deal with emergencies. She added that there were too many unfilled vacancies and more cops are needed. Mrs Jagan said that President Bharrat Jagdeo was right when he asked why more people were not joining the police force.
The former President also said that community police need more training, equipment and better liaison with the police. "They can do a lot by their very presence in the community, particularly equipped with firearms and cellular phones and have mobility".
Stressing the need for peace, Mrs Jagan, who served as President between 1997 and 1999, said that some sections of the media were fanning flames and "playing dirty games with the delicate situation that exists in our country". She cited the February 1 edition of Stabroek News as an example of "how our frequently disgusting media operates", nothing that it did not highlight on the front page the information that all of Guyana wanted - the report that the security forces had "killed two of the gunmen of the Lusignan Massacre, one being the No.2 killer and arrested five in the Buxton backlands" but consigned it to page 18.
In a comment, Stabroek News Editor Anand Persaud said almost the entire front page of that day's edition was devoted to honouring the memory of the 10 victims of the massacre who were buried the day before. Persaud said the original front page of the edition carried a blurb on the report of the joint services operation referred to by Mrs Jagan but this was replaced after a murder occurred in Campbellville after 10 pm.
Persaud noted that the previous day's edition had front-paged the joint services operation referred to by Mrs Jagan. Furthermore, the joint services press conference had been held very early in the morning and the information had already been widely dissemination by the time the February 1 edition was to be printed. A full report was however carried on the joint services press conference on page 18.
Persaud also added that the police provided no information to substantiate the claims that the two men killed had participated in the Lusignan massacre and that one of them was Rondell Rawlins' deputy. (Stabroek News)
February 2, 2008
$50M reward for capture of Guyana’s most notorious criminal Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins.
The Police have increased the reward for information leading to the capture of Guyana’s most notorious criminal and wanted man, Rondell Rawlins called ‘Fine Man’.
The greater sum of $50M was announced yesterday following no response to the $30M previously offered.
Rawlins, of Buxton, East Coast Demerara and Agricola, East Bank Demerara, has been accused of a series of murders and armed robberies.
Police said, in view of the number of matters of a serious nature to which he is linked and the amount of damage caused, the Force has reconsidered the amount of money on offer for information that may lead to his arrest.
Anyone with such information is asked to contact the Police, with all information being treated with the strictest confidence. (Guyana Cronicle)
$50M for 'Fineman'
Police standing guard outside one of the homes that was searched at Bagotstown last evening.
Amid a series of explosive disclosures and claims, police have upped the reward for information that might lead to the arrest of wanted man Rondell Rawlins called `Fineman' to a staggering $50M (around US$250,000).
This is the highest reward the force has ever offered for one man. Police interest in Rawlins has been rekindled since a heavily pregnant woman, Tenisha Morgan, went missing two weeks ago. A man purporting to be Rawlins telephoned the police and issued threats if she wasn't safely returned.
Just after the threat police headquarters, Eve Leary was attacked last Friday and hours later 11 people were massacred at Lusignan. The police have since said they believe that `Fineman' has claimed responsibility for the Lusignan murders. The police also say that `Fineman' is wanted for a series of murders and robberies under arms.
In a statement yesterday the police said that the reward was increased in view of the number of matters of a serious nature to which he is linked and the amount of damage caused.
The police are asking anyone with information to contact the police on telephone numbers 225-6411, 226-6978, 225-8196, 225 -2227, 225-3650, 225-7625 or 911 or the nearest police station. Meanwhile throughout yesterday the volatile East Coast corridor was quiet as persons went about their usual activities one day after the remaining ten Lusignan massacre victims were cremated and buried.
Ninety-three-year-old Bagotstown resident, Julie Fraser sitting outside a nearby shop last evening after her door was kicked down in Operation Restore Order.
At the time this newspaper visited, army and police patrols were not visible. Traffic was also flowing freely and Lusignan was buzzing with activity. There was no talk of resuming the protest action which turned that village into a hotbed of protest for several days following last Saturday's killings, with people lighting tyres and blocking the two main East Coast Highways.
Villagers had attempted to walk peacefully to the city in protest over the Lusignan killings on Wednesday but they were stopped by the police who noted that they had no permission. Police eventually fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Attorney-at-law Vic Puran had written a letter to the police on the villagers' behalf for permission for a walk but to date no information has been forthcoming as to whether approval has been given.
Meanwhile, joint services ranks yesterday swooped on several homes in Bagotstown, East Bank Demerara, and searched them as 'Operation Restore Order' continued. However, residents said while they understood that the lawmen had to get their job done, they were dissatisfied with the way the officials carried out their duties.
A 93-year-old resident of the area has been left traumatized in the wake of the officers' methods, which was to kick doors down. According to residents, the servicemen kicked down several doors of houses where occupants were not at home. Several homes in the area were searched and this newspaper observed that about six men were taken to the Ruimveldt Police Station following the exercise.
Julie Fraser, 93, who spent time with neighbours all day yesterday, was returning home close to dusk and was almost in her yard when she said she saw the officers kick down her front door. She told Stabroek News that she lives at the 27 Bagotstown public road home with her granddaughter and grandson who were both still at work when the searches were carried out.
"I frighten to go home," the old woman told this newspaper. She was not able to utter another word as she was still trembling. Neighbours who were comforting the woman yesterday while the searches were still being conducted were furious that some doors were kicked down and insisted that the behaviour of the lawmen was improper.
"We understand that things bad right now and they have to do their job because they have to protect the nation, but that is not the way. No one is saying they can't search. They must because it's their duty, but they have to do it better," argued Barbara Dos Santos.
Dos Santos told Stabroek News that when she saw the lawmen she knew right away that there would have been searches but was surprised when the men kicked down the door to her bottom flat which is occupied by her son who was not at home at the time.
She said the men asked for a key and when she said she did not have one they broke down the door. The house was still open when this newspaper visited the area. "Look we know they can't publicise the thing too much, but it's the way they did it. They have to be more responsible if they expect to get people's co-operation," she said.
An elderly couple, who said they usually sit outside every afternoon, told this newspaper that they saw a few young men who would usually lime on the public road, running through a yard and they wanted to know what was happening.
"But then we saw the police run behind them and then we saw the other soldiers but we had no idea that the men were there for a search," the woman said. They also pointed to another house where the door was kicked down and the interior searched. The residents argued among themselves, but there was full acknowledgement of an understanding of the lawmen's position. Still, they called for more respect from them.
"They could have given that poor old woman a heart attack. They could have told her 'well granny we doing a search and you need not worry but we must do our work', and explain to her. She not stupid to not understand them," another resident said at the top of her voice as a soldier who stood guard listened attentively.
At a joint press conference on Thursday, army Chief of Staff Commodore Gary Best and Acting Police Commissioner Henry Greene had said that as part of 'Operation Restore Order', several homes would be searched.
Last evening, the Joint Services expressed appreciation to the residents of Buxton, Friendship and neighbouring communities for the "excellent level of cooperation and support they have given over the past two days during Operation 'Restore Order'".
It said this has enabled members of the Joint Services to conduct their operations in a professional and effective manner. The release added that the Joint Services will continue to conduct themselves "professionally, displaying due respect for the rights of the public and look forward to their continued support." (Heppilena Ferguson)
Mazaruni miner murdered
Police are investigating the murder of a Mazaruni miner which occurred at about 6 pm on Thursday. Dead is Leroy Fields, 40, of East La Penitence, Georgetown who was killed at Isseneru Backdam, Mazaruni River.
Police say investigations have so far revealed that Fields works in a mining camp and is alleged to have been involved in an argument with a man during which he was chopped on the head. The suspect has not yet been arrested but police are continuing investigations. (Stabroek News)
February 1, 2008
Hunter charged over Kilcoy murder
The hunter who is accused of shooting a cane harvester to death was remanded to prison when he appeared at the Reliance Court yesterday before Magistrate Geeta Chandan. It is alleged that around 5:30 pm on January 24, 30-year-old Wazim Bux of Kilcoy, Corentyne murdered Ahmad Razack, 45 of 'Kilcoy Front.'
Bux, who was unrepresented stood emotionless in the dock as the charges were read to him. The case was transferred to the Albion Magistrate's Court where Bux is scheduled to appear on January 24 for report. Reports are that Bux who was previously involved in a relationship with the wife of the deceased, shot him in his right ear at close range and he appeared to have died on the spot.
A post-mortem report proved that Razack died from shock and haemorrhage due to gunshot wounds. Razack and his wife had allegedly gone to his in-laws' yard at 'Kilcoy Back' to pick up bricks when he was shot.
The suspect then reportedly snatched the wife from behind and attempted to flee with her through an abandoned rice field behind the house - from where he apparently entered - while threatening to shoot her. According to reports the woman managed to overpower the accused during a struggle and escaped while he turned back and bolted through the rice field. (Stabroek News)
Biker shot dead in Campbellville
A motorcyclist was shot dead in Campbellville last night just after 10pm. Up to press time he was unidentified. Residents say they heard one gun shot and then raised voices not far from the Post Office. Two more shots were then heard. Residents tried contacting the police on 911 but did not get through. The police arrived 29 minutes later.
The man was found dead and had been riding a silver-coloured motorbike. He had on a silver helmet. After the shooting two men were seen running along First Street. Later, two vehicles passed the spot and stopped for a few moments and drove off. (Stabroek News)
JOINT SERVICES IN ‘OPERATION RESTORE ORDER’
‘We are prepared to fight at night and during the day in urban terrain’
Commissioner of Police (Acting) Henry Greene is flanked by from left, Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Commodore Gary Best and Assistant Commissioner Ivelaw Whittaker, Police Public Relations and Press Officer at yesterday’s joint news conference at Police headquarters, Eve Leary.The second phase of the operation would entail the use of more forces in an intensified house-to-house search for bandits and members of the `roving’ gang, who have been identified in the Lusignan massacre of Saturday morning.
One of two bandits killed in Wednesday’s operation said to be Second-in Command of the gang headed by wanted man Rondel Rawlins called ‘Fine Man’
A second phase of ‘Operation Restore Order’ was launched early yesterday morning in the Buxton community, following Monday night’s offensive which left two bandits dead, the Police and Army chiefs announced yesterday.
The announcement came from Army Chief-of-Staff, Commodore Gary Best, and Acting Commissioner of Police Henry Greene, at a press conference at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary. It was their first official meeting with the media since last Saturday’s massacre.
The offensive launched by the Joint Services to seek out criminal elements creating mayhem on the lower East Coast, resulted in the killing of two men Troy St John called `John Eye’, no address given and Vibert Harrisalso known as `Bholo’ 29, of 125 Friendship, East Bank Demerara, on Wednesday night in Buxton, the violence-prone community the authorities have long-believed to be a safe haven for criminal gangs.
St John is reported to be the second in command of the gang headed by wanted man Rondel Rawlins called ‘Fine Man’. The men were killed when a Joint Services patrol operating in the troubled village of Buxton, engaged a group of about 10 armed gunmen who opened fire on them in the vicinity of Pond Dam, Buxton.The Joint Services, which have cordoned off the target area, also recovered an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9-.38 special, four magazines with 110 rounds of 7.62 by 39 ammunition; 200 more 7.62X 39 rounds of ammunition more in a bag, nine rounds of .38 special calibre; five x 9mm rounds and two Army pouches, clothing and other paraphernalia.
This composite photo shows the weapon, ammunition, magazines, clothing, first-aid kit and other paraphernalia found by the Joint Services following a shoot-out with armed bandits in Buxton, Wednesday night. At top left is a Holy Bible. ( photo courtesy of the Guyana Police Force)
The men were killed when a Joint Services patrol operating in the troubled village of Buxton, engaged a group of about 10 armed gunmen who opened fire on them in the vicinity of Pond Dam, Buxton.
During yesterday’s operation a number of houses were searched in the Buxton/Friendship Area, resulting in the arrest and detention of eleven persons.
In a synopsis of the events that transpired over the last week, the Police Commissioner said it began with a report of a missing teenager, Tenisha Morgan, said to be pregnant.
This was followed by a series of calls made to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the form of a report and threats to unleash violence to persons if Morgan was not found.
VOICE OF RAWLINS
The Top Cop noted that Police ranks have confirmed that the voice is that of Guyana’s most wanted man, Rondell Rawlins also known as ‘Fine Man’, for whom the Police has a $30M bounty.
The Police subsequently launched an investigation and search for the missing girl as well as an enquiry into the telephone calls. The latter has, however, proved futile while the search for the missing girl continues, Greene told reporters.
Vibert Harris Bholo Troy St. John - John Eye
The Commissioner also noted that the Immigration Department records do not have Morgan as leaving the country. He disclosed that the Police have since issued a call for a minibus driver who allegedly assisted the missing Morgan into a car, and are also looking for the men who can assist in the investigation.
The wanted man, Greene said, continued his threats by telephone to the Police Operations Room, Brickdam and on the evening of January 23, a GDF unit from the administrative department was ambushed, resulting in the death of a soldier.
Corporal Ivor Williams, who hailed from Dartmouth, Essequibo Coast, was interred yesterday at the Eliza Cemetery, Essequibo Coast following a funeral service at the Seventh-Day Baptist Church in his home village.
He was accorded a military funeral.
In more developments, the Police Headquarters guardroom at Eve Leary came under attack last Friday by unknown bandits in a car. Two policemen sustained injures in the drive-by shooting, with one being hospitalised for a brief period.
Both ranks have since returned to the job.
On Saturday last, January 26, a group of armed gunmen unleashed a brutal attack on the community of Lusignan, killing 11 persons and wounding three others. This attack, described as “terrorist activities”, have been publicised wildly, both locally and internationally, and has left several Guyanese terrified and still in shock. Rawlins, the Commissioner confirmed, has since admitted to the slaying of the 11 residents of Lusignan.
The slaying of the innocent residents led to protest activity involving lighting of fires, burning tyres and blocking roads, starting on Saturday and continuing until Monday at Lusignan and Mon Repos, both villages on the East Coast of Demerara. It subsequently spread to Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice.
Police were on Monday and Wednesday forced to fire teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters of the three separate communities. Pellets were fired at the crowd at Bath Settlement. A total of 51 persons who were arrested (13 on the East Coast and 38 from Berbice) will be charged and placed before the courts next week, Commissioner Greene disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner, in responding to a query at yesterday’s media conference, said the picture of Rawlins on a wanted bulletin issued by the Police is not a recent impression of the wanted man. He said the Police, however, have some impressions with which they are working to develop a sketch “that is much closer to what he looks like at this point in time.”
At the time of the presser, Commander Best said it was still not known whether the AK-47 found during Wednesday night’s encounter aback Buxton was one of those missing from the GDF. Best was also unable to confirm whether Rawlins was ‘cornered’ in the cordoned off area during the operation.
Yesterday, both Best and Greene were asked whether in the face of this murderous attack which occurred four days after Rawlins allegedly issued threats, the Joint Services are sufficiently prepared. Best was reminded of a statement he had made on another occasion that the Joint Services is prepared for urban warfare, to which he responded that urban warfare is a continued battle and fight and that the Joint Services ranks are prepared to fight.
“We are prepared to fight at night and during the day in urban terrain … we are trained for it,” he assured, noting though they have to minimise civilian casualties. It was on this note that he spoke of Wednesday night’s operation which was deliberate, so as to avoid any disturbance from the community. Greene noted that the ‘roving bandits’ have been creating mayhem in our beautiful land.
And while both the Commissioner of Police and the Army Chief would not be drawn into disclosing too much of their plans on the drawing board to fight the bandits for security reasons, it was pointed out that ‘Operation Restore Order’, as well as the formation of a Joint Special Operations Group, are all part of the offensives aimed at searching for the persons committing armed crimes.
A subsequent release from the Police Wednesday night said the Joint Services were informed that the armed confrontation with the gunmen disrupted a commemoration symposium, at which some key figures , including Opposition Leader Mr. Robert Corbin and the Mayor of Georgetown Mr. Hamilton Greene, were in attendance.
The function in observance of the second anniversary of the death of journalist Ronald Waddell was being held at the Friendship Primary School. The Joint Services has apologised for any inconvenience caused. (Wendella Davidson / Guyana Cronicle)
THOUSANDS ATTEND MASS FUNERAL
“We have been shaken but Guyana will prevail”
PM Hinds told mourners
The community of Lusignan was converted into a giant field of mourning yesterday, when thousands of Guyanese from all walks of life, converged to pay their last respects to the relatives of 10 of the 11 persons slain in last Saturday’s brutal massacre that has left a nation in utter shock and mourning.‘Tract A’ Lusignan, where gunmen went on a house-to-house slaughter, saw a steady stream of sympathisers, most of whom had no friendship or kinship with those massacred.
The stories of those whose lives were brutally snatched from them, were enough to weigh upon the hearts of the strangers who had come from far and near to pay their final respects. It was hard for them to hold back tears. They went to show support to Rajkumar Harilall who lost his wife Mohandai Gourdat and their sons, Seegobind, 4 and Seegopaul, 10, while he was in a foreign land seeking a “better life” for them.
Then there was the Thomas family. The wife, Gomattie, survived the attack in which her loving husband, Clarence Thomas, 42, was killed in the sporadic gunfire that also left his aspiring air hostess daughter, Vanessa, 12 and his golf caddie son, Ron, 11, dead.
The thousands also poured in at the Seecharran family home. The man, Rooplall Seecharran, 56, his wife, Dhanrajie Ramsingh, 52, together with their daughter, Raywattie, 11, suffered death simultaneously at the hands of the gang.
There was yet still the Baksh family to sympathise with. Shaleem Baksh, 55, was mowed down with bullets as his wife and daughter peeped from under the security of the bed they managed to scramble under. Next door, 22-year-old accountant Shazam Mohamed was gunned down. He was laid to rest on Tuesday.
Yesterday was declared a ‘National Day of Mourning’ in Guyana for the victims of the January 26 massacre in Lusignan, perpetrated by a ruthless marauding gang of gunmen, who combined hearts of steel with weapons of steel, leaving five families in deep grief and a nation in anguish. As the count down to the burial and cremation of the victim narrowed yesterday, thousands of Guyanese turned up in the humble countryside village to sympathise with the families, and pay their last respects.
There was deep anguish, and pain and tears flowed freely, but nevertheless, throughout the day, an incredible measure of peace and tranquility prevailed, in direct response to, and out of respect for the wishes of the bereaved families. Albeit, the emotions were shared not only by the relatives and close friends of those whose lives were lost, but all Guyana decried and condemned the dastardly act.
As thousands from across poured into the village, the homes and yards of the homes of those whose loved ones had been killed, were filled to overflowing. Mourners and sympathisers dressed in black and white, lined the roadways, braving the sweltering heat to get a glimpse of the caskets and coffins, or otherwise participate in the proceedings. They came out in their numbers – the very old to the very young; the visually impaired, the feeble and infirm were all there.
Never before had so many hearses bearing caskets and coffins travelled through the streets of Lusignan as they did yesterday.
President Bharrat Jagdeo and several of his government ministers joined the families of those saying their last goodbyes. Prominent opposition politicians, civic society leaders, and top businessmen were also among those who visited the homes. Even after attending moving funeral services at the four homes, and at the nearby Lusignan church, in the case of the Thomas, family, the thousands yesterday ventured to the public road.
The site is usually the scene of a bustling market on Saturday’s where thousands gather to buy and sell. However, it was transformed into a sea of black and white, with spots of blue from the tents which provided shade from the blistering afternoon sun. The crowd was uncontrollable. None wanted to return home without getting a glimpse of the ten persons, moreso, the five children.
A pensioner of 22-years in wheelchair was among them, as well as Guyanese who came as far as Berbice, Essequibo and other outlying regions to pay respects. All ten bodies were placed in a line on the market tarmac to allow for a viewing, but it was unimaginable that all would get to see the bodies.
TORN APART, BUT NOT BROKEN
Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Bishop Juan Edgehill, tried to create an orderly procession for the viewing of the bodies. Often times he succeeded, often times he failed. His words, “we are torn apart, but we are not broken,” rang true. Those who had come out with their husbands, wives, mothers, children, even babies, were all bandied together, even as the incident has created fear in their own lives.
Edgehill was confident that Guyana is a place of “peace, love, and harmony,” that would rise out of the gruesome murders. The crowd cooperated with the calls for calm as Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders along with representatives of the Bahai Faith and the Brahma Kumaris, offered prayers for peace, calm, and justice. The families also wished that the country’s political leaders be allowed to speak at the mass funeral.
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform – One Guyana (PNCR-1G), Mr. Robert Corbin, said it was hard to find words to comfort the families whose relatives were slain, and to heal the nation. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, representing the government said “we are all painfully wounded but not defeated”. He said all Guyanese have been “tested by that slaughter” but have “survived so far.”
Mr. Hinds said those who perpetrated the attack wanted to piece a “sword between our people”. “We have been shaken but Guyana will prevail,” the Prime Minister declared, saying “we will build a more comfortable society”. The end of the Prime Minister’s speech paved the way for a further viewing of the bodies, after which they were taken away for either burial or cremation. (Neil Marks and Shirley Thomas / Guyana Cronicle)
President calls on PNCR to publicly....
...acknowledge Buxton as safe haven for criminals
President Bharrat Jagdeo, during his visit to Lusignan yesterday, where he joined in mourning the loss of the slain massacre victims, was asked by a member of the media whether he will engage the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) on the Lusignan tragedy.
President Jagdeo’s response was as follows: “I will not engage with the PNCR on this matter until its leaders publicly acknowledge that Buxton is a safe haven for criminals.
Their ambivalence on this point puts to doubt the sincerity of their expressed condolences and of their support for the security forces. The best way to honour those who were so brutally massacred is to hunt down the responsible killers. I have given instructions to the security forces to do this. We will not rest until we achieve this objective.”
On Saturday last, a gang of heavily armed men invaded the homes of Lusignan residents and murdered 11 persons including five children, most of whom were asleep.
During a Joint Services operation on Wednesday evening, the ranks came under fire and a battle ensued with gunmen, two of whom were shot and killed. An AK 47 rifle and ammunition among other items were retrieved. (GINA/Guyana Cronicle) )
Soldier killed in Buxton ambush laid to rest in military funeral
Secretary to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon, and Army Chief-of-Staff Commodore Gary Best, comfort a relative of the slain soldier.The “fallen hero”, as he was referred to by his mourners, was given a military funeral which was attended by, among others, Secretary to the Defence Board Dr. Roger Luncheon and Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Commodore Gary Best. Williams succumbed after coming under gunfire in an ambush at Buxton, East Coast Demerara, on January 23.
Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Corporal Ivor Williams, was laid to rest yesterday at the Eliza Cemetery in Essequibo amidst calls by relatives and other mourners for early justice to be served.
Addressing a massive crowd at a funeral service at the Dartmouth Seventh-Day Baptist Church, Dr. Luncheon expressed heartfelt sympathy to the grieving family members and residents of Dartmouth community, on behalf of President Bharrat Jagdeo and the government on the loss of “a brave and courageous son of Dartmouth village, who served the country well as a soldier.”
The slain soldier, who was born on October 1, 1983, grew up in Dartmouth village. A relative, who wrote the eulogy, said as a little boy, Williams walked the dusty streets of Dartmouth bare-footed. He attended the 8th of May Primary School and after writing the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE), he secured a place at the 8th of May High School where he achieved a fair level of academic qualification.
He joined the GDF at a very tender age and through perseverance of hard work, rose to the position of Corporal. The soldier was much loved by his grandparents with whom he grew up. While growing up, he loved fishing and always carried a bird cage with him. The relatives said Williams had great plans for his future and was working towards those plans when his life was snuffed out by criminals. He was the breadwinner for his family.
Pastor of the Dartmouth Seventh-Day Baptist Church, Mr. Ewart Caeser, in his brief message said the slain soldier had attended old year’s night service at the church. Exactly one month later he was in church again, but this time for his funeral service.
Accompanying Dr. Luncheon were Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud, Regional Chairman of Region Two, Mr. Alli Baskh and Parliamentarian Mr. Parmanand Persaud and other top officers from the GDF and the Guyana Police Force. (Rajendra Prabulall / Guyana Cronicle)