Kaieteur News – The magazine section titled “Weekend” in last Sunday’s Stabroek News featured a photograph of the four artists that were employed by the government of Forbes Burnham to set up an art gallery to house the paintings of participating countries in the creation of Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts (CARIFESTA) in 1972.
In the photograph was the image of Brazilian artist, Cletus Henriques who lived in Guyana at the time. Years after his role in CARIFESTA, Henriques was found murdered in his home at the apartment complex at the junction of Church and Irving Streets. His head was bashed in and covered with a pillow and sheet.
I don’t have the time to research if Henriques’ killer is still alive so I cannot name him. But he was the gay lover of Henriques. The killer was a close friend of President Burnham and worked in a high position within the government in the sphere of culture.
At the time of his murder, the society was well aware of the gay relationship between Henriques and his lover and circumstantial evidence pointed to him. But this man was very close to Burnham and there was absolutely no police investigation.
I remember a group of us at the time, highly charged political youths, were enraged at Henriques’ killing because one of our friends, Ronald Gordon, knew Henriques well. Ronald is still alive, is still my friend, but is the kind of person who shies away from public discussion so he may not want to talk about Henriques’ killer.
I remember in those days, Gerald Perreira was part of our group. Gerald is the leader of the political party, Organization for the Victory of the People. I don’t know if Gerald can remember our discussion of Henriques’ murder at the time and if he would want to comment on it.
The Brazilian embassy in Guyana made discreet enquiries into Henriques’ death but was told it was a robbery/murder. It was not. Nothing was taken from the scene and Henriques was still wearing his expensive watch which in those days would have been worth a fortune.
Some of the details we got from the investigation came from Ronald’s father who in the 1970s was a sergeant in the police force. It was an open secret at the time that Henriques’ killer was being protected by the Prime Minister, Mr. Burnham.
Of the four artists in the photograph, two are still alive – Dudley Charles and Zaman Ali – and should be aged around 72 to 76. They owe it to history to talk about their friend’s murder and how the Prime Minister ensured that a killer got away with a heinous crime.
The story of Henriques’ homicidal death is yet one more untold dimension of the sordid life of Forbes Burnham. Henriques’ murder was not the only homicide that Burnham brushed under the carpet. Sadly Henriques was not nationally known as then murdered Minister of Education, Vincent Teekah.
When they found Teekah’s body at what is now known as Industrial Site, rigor mortis had already stepped in, meaning he was not killed at that site. I met Teekah’s son on the Berbice ferry one Saturday afternoon in 2020 while I was teaching at the Berbice campus of UG.
He related to me the circumstances of how his father was killed. They have been much speculation about the death of Teekah with fingers being pointed to a particular strong man in Burnham’s government whom Burnham relied on to preserve his power and thus became an untouchable beyond the reach of Burnham himself.
When the PPP came to power in 1992, I think it was so hard-pressed with running the country that it paid no attention to researching the files on Teekah’s murder. Plus I don’t think the PPP was interested because Teekah had defected to Burnham and had revealed to Burnham sensitive information on the PPP’s biology.
For my research into Teekah’s death, see my two columns of 2005: “Did Burnham kill Dr. Walker” and “Who killed Forbes Burnham?” See also two replies in that same year to former PNC minister, Rashleigh Jackson who recently passed away. The first one is titled: “Frederick Kissoon responds to former PNC Minister, Rashleigh Jackson on the Teekah case.” The second one is captioned: “When do I make sense Mr. Jackson?”
As I wrote above, Henriques was not as prominent in the society as Teekah so whereas the suspicious death of Teekah will forever be talked about, gone forever will be the name – Cletus Henriques. Of course what will never go away from the public eyes is the demonic nature of the hegemony Forbes Burnham.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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