The murdered Berbice teens Joel, 19, and Isaiah Henry, 16, were yesterday laid to rest in a memorable, grand and primarily peaceful manner.
A little over a week ago Guyana was rocked by the news that the butchered bodies of the teenagers were found dumped in clumps of bushes next to a coconut Estate in Cotton Tree Backdam West Coast Berbice, Region Five.
The boys had left their Number Three Village homes to pick coconuts in the area where there mutilated bodies were found.
Their tragic deaths gained nationwide attention which led to intense protest action demanding justice and eventually escalated in to violence in several Berbice villages.
Yesterday at the boys’ heroic farewell service, cries for justice continued but in a tone of peace and unity. Politicians from both sides of the political divide shook hands in unison as together they paid tribute to the boys. Thousands of Guyanese both overseas and local tuned in online just to witness what is being described as a historic event in Guyana.
Hundreds more left the confines of their home and made their way down to Parade Ground, Middle Street, Georgetown just to pay their respects. Scores even followed the funeral procession from Georgetown all the way to Berbice where they joined hundreds of Berbicians in saying a final goodbye to the teens.
The grand funeral procession began at around 08:00Hrs with a private viewing ceremony at the Sandy’s Funeral Home in Chapel Street.
There both President Irfaan Ali and the Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon along with A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance for Change’s (APNU+AFC) joined Members of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan, Raphael Trotman, and Karen Cummings to pay tributes and console the family members of the slain boys. The private viewing commenced with a prayer by the father of Isaiah Henry, Gladston Henry.
President Ali afterward laid wreaths on the boys’ caskets and stood for a while in silence with his head bowed looking at their bodies. He then offered his condolences to the family and said that it was a sad day for Guyana. He further stated that his entire country should lift the grieving family members in their prayers. Ali continued by calling on Guyanese to reflect on the life and tragic death of the two young men as a way of understating how peace and unity is unique for the country. He then concluded by iterating the call for justice in a peaceful and swift manner and reminded the teens’ life should be considered a legacy for the people of Guyana.
Ali then hugged and consoled Isaiah’s father before leaving and making way for the opposition leader to enter and pay tributes to the boys.
Harmon who was accompanied by his party comrades also laid wreaths on the boys’ caskets. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Karen Cummings said a prayer for the family and sang a hymn in honour of the slain teens. Harmon then made a brief speech expressing condolences to the family and paying tribute on behalf of himself, political party and country at large.
He told the family his party stands with them in solidarity during their tragic moment. Harmon also said that no one must rest or relent until justice is served, concluding that should anyone be inconvenienced for justice to be served then so be it.
The caskets were then shut and the funeral procession headed to Parade Ground for a public viewing organized by the International Decade of people of African Descent Guyana (IDPADA).
At Parade Ground, scores of Guyanese gathered together dressed in T-shirts with the boys’ photos and a phrase which has become a household name “Justice for Joel and Isaiah Henry” while others held placards that stated “No Justice No Peace”.
Former Minister of Education Nicolette Henry, a close relative of the slain teens, was driven to tears as she reflected on their lives. She recounted that Joel and Isaiah had dreams and aspirations. She spoke of their love for music and recalled that they would often sing their hearts out to entertain family members especially their mothers.
She reflected that their gruesome murder is proof that there are “evil and demonic” persons living in the society. The former minister echoed the calls for swift justice and reminded the public that justice delayed is justice denied.
Meanwhile, Attorney -at-law Nigel Hughes called on the leaders of Guyana to unite in fighting for justice and working together to eradicate racial prejudice in the Guyanese society.
Their tributes were followed up echoing calls for justice and reflective remarks made by Former Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine, Trade Unionist, Lincoln Lewis and representatives from Red Thread and the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA).
After the Parade Ground viewing the funeral procession then headed to the teens’ hometown, Number 3 village in West Coast Berbice. Along the way they were met with villagers from Buxton who drummed, sang folk songs and danced as a way of paying their respects to the boys.
Their bodies were taken to their residence where hundreds of Berbicians turned up to pay their last respects. The final service was filled with emotions of sadness and anger alike, with the sole disruptive incident of the day occurring when Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd was interrupted while trying to make a tribute on behalf of the government. He was booed and chased out of the funeral proceedings. Angry persons began surrounding the minister and police had to intervene by escorting him out.
Nevertheless, family members along with police ranks and members of the APNU+AFC were able to keep the situation under control. Things were soon back to normal and scores of people were seen sitting on the grass as they listened attentively to a sermon preached by a local pastor. Some were also seen dancing and crying as popular gospel singer Samuel Medas sang a special tribute in honour of the murdered teens.
While this procession was ongoing thousands of overseas based Guyanese marched in the streets of New York as well to pay tribute and respect to the boys as well. Photos and live videos surfaced on the internet of many carrying placards and chanting “Justice for the Henry Boys, No Justice No Peace”.
As the historic funeral came to an end the boys were finally laid to rest just before sunset.
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