By Dale Andrews
Every year the nation remembers the Enmore Martyrs, the Ballot Box Martyrs, the victims of the Lusignan and Bartica massacres, with some sort of ceremony. Even we at the Kaieteur News remember in some way our six colleagues who were slaughtered during the dreaded crime wave of 2002-2008.
But for the eight gold miners, slaughtered at Lindo Creek, Berbice River, only their families seem to care whenever this time of the year comes around.
Maybe this is because there was precious little in terms of remains for them to remember; as a matter of fact, only one family turned up when the remains were entered into their final resting place in the Le Repentir Cemetery three years ago.
At least one woman will forever remember June 21; it was on that day seven years ago that the unidentified remains, inclusive of feet, bones and skulls among other body parts, of Nigel Torres, Bunny Harry, Clifton Wong, Dax Arokium, his uncle Cedric, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes and Lancelot Lee were discovered in their camp at Lindo Creek, Berbice River.
That date is close to the birthday of Jackie Arokium, who lost her son Dax and her brother in law Cedric, in that mayhem which to date is still being considered as one of the major mysteries of the crime wave.
For the police the case died with the notorious gang leader Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins who along with members of his organization was blamed for the gruesome killings.
They say their claims are being supported by the evidence of an eyewitness to the crime, who happened to be a member of the same notorious gang which had its roots in Buxton and Agricola.
That eyewitness happens to be a youth who was found in a trail days after the ‘Fineman’ gang was uprooted from its hideout at Christmas Falls, Upper Berbice River.
“It was a good thing we caught him because we would not have been able to gather the information we have, and the public would have been on our backs,” said a senior police official.
But the police account of what transpired has not been accepted by the majority of the population. They strongly believe that the joint services were responsible.
“This is a mystery that would not go away. It follows me everywhere I go. I kept my son alive by writing all thoughts that would cross my mind in my book called ‘A mother’s diary’,” said Jackie Arokium.
Last year, for the first time, she visited the tombs in Le Repentir Cemetery, where the remains of her son and his other mining colleagues were interred.
She recently travelled from the United States of America to celebrate her birthday, which incidentally coincided with the anniversary of the massacre.
She held a thanksgiving service to commemorate both events, and on Friday last she placed flowers at the two tombs in Le Repentir Cemetery where the remains of her son, brother in law and the other miners who were slaughtered, are interred.
This year, Arokuim who resides in the USA, has decided to stay home, instead of coming to Guyana, where she might be overcome with too much emotion.
She is one of those persons who believe that the matter should not be classified as closed; and she has good reason to be optimistic, since she believes that there is the likelihood that the new government would hold an inquiry that will put to rest all the speculations that are being circulated.
“For me the month of May has heralded a new beginning and hope has been resurrected for justice to be served to those who are responsible for taking my son from me. There were so many leads and tips and yet there was no help from the former administration,” she said.
For instance, she pointed to the person who was in possession of her son’s cellular phone. That person was locked up and released on $10,000bail.
“The late Henry Greene had said that there was an eyewitness and also that army guy who is now on death row (Sherwin Hart). According to Kaieteur News, he said he was at Lindo Creek and was transferred to the Coast Guard,”
For Arokium, all of these things raise eyebrows.
Efforts to ascertain from the police the status of the case have been futile so far.
“The question is why no help from the previous administration? So after seven years have passed, May 2015, I have created my motto ‘HOPE HAS BEEN RESURRECTED ‘,” Mrs. Arokium said.
She still remembers that fateful telephone call she received in June 21, 2008.
It was a Saturday and she was at work in New York.
She knew it was an overseas call and was anxious to answer it. After all, most of her family members were back in Guyana and like many other persons in the diaspora, she longed to hear from them whenever the opportunity presented itself.
But the caller at the other end of the line said nothing and the call eventually went dead.
Minutes later, her phone rang again but this time it was her daughter who was also living in the United States of America–the news had travelled fast.
“I just had this bad feeling because I had missed a call from overseas and now my daughter was calling me…When she called she said, ‘Mommy’ and when I said ‘Yes’, she did not say another word for a while.”
Anxiety was building. “I said to her, ‘what happen… Something happened?’ and she said ‘Yes mom, Dax and Uncle Whitey died’,” Mrs. Arokium recalled.
Even a Guyanese neighbour, who was also in the United States, contacted her with a report about the tragedy.
She was not told of the circumstances under which her son and his uncle met their demise, but at the time, Guyana was in the midst of a crime wave with the notorious wanted man Rondell Rawlins running wild.
Mrs. Arokium was fully aware of the spiraling crime rate in her home country where she had left her husband and sons behind but she never anticipated that it would affect her family.
“I really didn’t know what happened but the thought that somebody killed them, that did cross my mind,” she said.
“When my daughter called with the news, I thought I was dreaming but when the neighbour called, that’s when I exploded in tears.”
Mrs. Arokium said that her employers recognised her grief and mercifully sent her home. It was only then she learnt something about how her son and his uncle met their deaths.
“My eldest daughter told me about this incident with the army killing and burning them and these sort of things.”
Mrs. Arokium explained that at first there was some doubt about the circumstances of the incident as it was reported to her. Then there was denial. “This can’t be true.”
Eventually reality stepped in; there were numerous media reports of how her son and his other crew members met their deaths, each detailing a gruesome scenario.
According to Mrs. Arokium, she never sat down and properly digested what she had heard; she tried desperately to bar it from her thoughts, but of course that was mission impossible.
“I did not want to feel the pain, so for a long period of time I didn’t want to know that part.”
Now, seven years later she can think about it, although it does not feel good at all.
“I try to envision what was taking place with my son; the fear. Maybe he was begging for his life. I can talk to you about it now but at that time I didn’t even want to even think about it,” Mrs. Arokium said.
She recalled speaking to her husband a few days after the incident and asking him, “How did Dax look? Is he peaceful?”
But the answer from her husband was “Dax? You can’t know Dax anymore because he was badly burnt.”
“Of course!” she exclaimed when asked if she would like to see a Commission of Inquiry similar to the one now being held to probe the death of Dr. Walter Rodney.
“I would really love for them to hold a Commission of Inquiry,” Mrs. Arokium said. “This must not be forgotten just like that,” she had stated.
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