Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, desperate to deflect disapproval of his stewardship of public security over the past six years, embarked on some criticism of his own. He told the recent Police Officers’ Annual Conference, “I have noted, with dismay, the long list of ‘unsolved’ serious crimes, particularly ‘execution-type’ murders, that remain on the records of the Guyana Police Force.”
The Police Force employs an informal classification of murders – disorderly, domestic, execution, felony and undetermined. ‘Execution’ murders are usually assumed to be “drug-related” and Rohee must know the reasons why they remain ‘unsolved.’
Blame for Guyana’s high murder rate and the number of unsolved crimes lies squarely with the 20-year long People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration which has failed consistently to implement a comprehensive counter-narcotics strategy. The 12-year Bharrat Jagdeo presidency, more particularly, will be remembered in this country’s history for the extraordinary number of murders which occurred. There were 1,432 deaths arising from gruesome massacres, gory executions and other assorted murders – an average of about 143 per annum – during Jagdeo’s first decade:
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
133 125 142 206 131 142 163 115 158 117
Source: Guyana Police Force Annual Reports, 2000-2010
More murders were to come. There were 139 in 2010 and 130 in 2011 – bringing the total number to 1,701 under Jagdeo. The worst aspect of the murders was the incidence of ‘massacres’ – defined as “…the murder of four or more victims at one location, within one event.” There were at least thirteen massacres during the Jagdeo era – a record for any presidency.
Massacres and murders escalated as a result of the surge in narco-trafficking and gun-running between 2000 and about 2010. This illicit trade spawned a plethora of armed, drug-driven gangs, death squads, bounty killers and bandits who carried out the slew of murders during the Troubles.
The ‘Kitty massacre’ occurred at Natoo’s Bar where four persons were shot dead and eight others, including the then Director of Public Prosecutions and two senior police officers, were injured, in September 2002. The ‘Lamaha Gardens massacre’ occurred the next month, October 2002, in the wake of a certain businessman’s escape from his kidnappers when seven persons were shot dead in various places, reportedly related to the same incident. The ‘Bourda massacre’ took place in what might have been the sequel to the ‘Lamaha Gardens’ incident when five more persons were slaughtered the following week on Diwali night in November 2002.
The ‘Friendship massacre’ and the ‘Prashad Nagar massacre’ occurred during joint Defence Force-Police Force law-enforcement operations in June 2003. Nine persons, all said to be ‘wanted’ men, were slain by the Police.
The ‘Agricola-Eccles massacre’ took place in February 2006 when a gang of bandits besieged the villages and slew eight persons. The ‘La Bonne Intention massacre’ took place in April 2006 when a gang slaughtered a government minister and his siblings and security guard. The ‘Bagotstown-Eccles massacre’ in which eight were killed took place in August 2006. The security forces, in another lethal law-enforcement operation in the Black Bush Polder in August 2006, took no prisoners, slaughtering seven ‘suspects.’
The ‘Lusignan massacre’ claimed 11 lives in January, the ‘Bartica massacre’ claimed 12 lives in February and the ‘Lindo Creek massacre’ claimed seven lives in June – all in 2008. The last mass murder, the ‘Cummings Lodge massacre’ of five members of one family, took place in September 2010.
The PPPC administration has refused to establish a commission of inquiry into the massacres and murders that occurred during the Jagdeo presidency. The administration seemed determined not to allow independent investigations or to offer explanations for the large number of executions and other murders during this period.
Public outrage usually greets every gruesome murder, but there has been no trace of political will to do what is necessary to bring this type of crime to an end. There has not even been an independent inquiry to investigate the causes of this extreme form of violent criminal conduct which became so frequent, claimed so many victims and persisted for so many years under Bharrat Jagdeo.
Guyana is bleeding. The administration has failed to enforce laws which protect life or even to ensure that the killings are investigated. It has failed to introduce measures which could prevent recurrences.
The Police Force at Eve Leary, the townsfolk of Bartica and the villagers of Buxton-Friendship have constructed monuments to honour their residents who were murdered during the troubles. The PPPC might choose to ignore the country’s massacres and the high murder rate. The general public and the relatives of the victims, however, will always remember the Jagdeo presidency for its one thousand, seven hundred and one murders.
Essequibo is we own, can we say the same about the oil?
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