Today marks three years since the usually quiet community of Bartica was invaded by heavily armed gunmen who killed 12 persons, including three policemen and injured others.
Some time around 9.40 pm on February 17, 2008, some 20 gunmen attacked the community. Those who lost their lives were Bartica residents Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian and Irving Ferreira; policemen stationed at the Bartica Police Station, Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir, Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne; Deonarine Singh of Wakenaam; Ronald Gomes of Kuru Kururu; Ashraf Khan of Middlesex, Essequibo; Abdool Yasseen; Errol Thomas of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo; and Baldeo Singh of Montrose, East Coast Demerara. Many were shot execution style at the Bartica Ferry Stelling.
This incident will forever be etched in the memory of not only Barticians but Guyanese at large since unlike the Lusignan incident those killed were drawn from all parts of country.
That night some Barticians were watching the Sanford 20/20 match between Guyana and Jamaica in Antigua. Others were fighting for their lives.
People say that time heals wounds but three years later the memories are fresh; the pain has not eased. For those who survived, the physical scars are constant reminders of that dreadful night. Survivor Raymond White says that his physical scars tell the story of that night when he witnessed the instant demise of a man he grew up with; Dexter Adrian, a taxi driver. Adrian was shot in the head moments after shuttling injured persons to the Bartica Hospital.
Recounting the incident White says the memories are fresh but he doesn’t allow it to get the best of him. Although losing a friend he tries to make the best of his life now. He was shot five times about his body and was the only one of four air dashed to the city that night for medical attention.
“Me and Dexter were heading home and he telling me that the car needed gas so I tell he boy they got shooting so just drive home. If the gas finish we gon walk the rest,”.
While pulling up at the fuel station White said a man dressed in full military fatigue approached the car they were in and started shooting at them. “I throw myself down in the back seat and pretended I was dead I didn’t even realize I was shot until I reached the hospital.”
He recalled that after the gunman walked away from the car he began calling on his friend Dexter to drive not realizing that his friend was mortally wounded.
“I get up and start calling for Dexter saying ‘Boy drive’. When I look in front I see a hole in Dexter head and blood pouring out.”
That site, White said, reminded him of things he only saw in movies. Fortunately for White he was rescued from the car by lads in the community whom he had once helped by offering them jobs in the past.
“Dem boy put me on a bicycle and two times I fall down but even then I really couldn’t understand what was happening it was until I reach the hospital. It was then I knew I was shot.”
Now three years later White said he is burdened with constant visits to the doctor for his injuries. In addition ever since the incident only one of the two surgeries that he is required to undergo has been completed.
White can only use one of his arms to some extent the other is a handicap. White who once earned a living from mining in the interior is now confined to doing little or nothing, work wise. Except for that White said he has managed to reclaim his life and not live in fear, thanks to the support of his wife and other family members..
“That night everybody I was around died and that alone tell me something, so I refuse to live in fear, I go about my daily life now without fear.”
For Debra Gilkes, a Bartician, who lost her husband during the incident, the pain has eased but she is haunted by the memories.
Gilkes lost her husband, Edwin Gilkes on that fateful night. The man was a guard at the Banks DIH outlet. He was shot and killed. Mrs. Gilkes said that over the years she has been able to come to grips with her loss but as the anniversary approaches the pain comes back.
“It hard when I have to talk about it. When I am called upon at any function as a victim it brings back the memories I wish I never have to deal with,”.
She told this newspaper that the incident did cost her but has thought her to appreciate the simple things in life since when her husband left for work that night she never envisioned that it would be the last time she saw him alive.
Like other Barticians she feels that the incident has changed the way people do things in the community and stands as a reminder that life is short. “I lived here for years and we never thought something like this would ever come to Bartica…we would always say we are safe but that night proved us wrong.”
For Barticians a constant reminder of that incident will forever be “The Monument of Hope”. That structure was erected last December in memory for those slain.
The structure is a 13-foot tall black marble memorial sculpture that was commissioned by Guyana Goldfields, designed in Canada and manufactured in India after a year of searching in Guyana.
More than a year later, on July 13, 2009, Sheldon Gorrick was charged with receiving one of the guns stolen from a mining establishment that the gunmen attacked that night. Gorrick, of 146 Titus Street, Agricola, East Bank Demerara allegedly received the stolen pistol between February and July 2008.
Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins who police said led the gang which executed both the Bartica and January 26, 2008 Lusignan massacres was killed during a joint services operation.
In addition Bartica miner Roger Simon, 46, was charged with the murder. He first appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on April 9, 2008. Clebert ‘Chi-Chi’ Reece of Lot 63 Barr Street, Albouystown was the next man to be charged. Reece was also a miner who worked in the Cuyuni area and appeared before the same court on May 28, 2008.
On November 10, 2008 Dennis ‘Anaconda’ Williams, of Lot 35 Waterloo Street, was taken before the same court for the offence. These matters have all been transferred to the Bartica Magistrate’s Court.
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