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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Georgetown Chamber says Police
Chief should be axed

-- shocked at slaying of Minister Sawh

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) came out with a strongly worded statement yesterday in which it called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Winston Felix, whom the GCCI holds personally responsible for the brutal deaths of Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh and his family members and security guard.

In a press release issued yesterday, GCCI extended its condolences to the wife, children and relatives of Minister Sawh and also the family of security guard Curtis Robertson.

The Minister, his brother Rajpat Sawh, sister Pulmattie Persaud and Robertson were mowed down early Saturday morning in a hail of bullets by a heavily armed gang which had invaded the Minister's home at La Bonne Intention.

The GCCI said it is appalled to have learnt that the Minister's wife called the emergency line 911 several times immediately after the killers had left her home, but the telephone just rang out.

“We view this as totally unacceptable and we hold the Police Commissioner totally and personally responsible for this,” the release said. “Over the past few years the Chamber has consistently engaged the Guyana Police Force in good faith, and has extended our support when it was necessary, as well as expressed our dissatisfaction with the performance at times of the police force. Our citizens continue to be robbed and brutally killed, and the police seem unwilling, unable or incapable of dealing with this spiralling rate of criminal lawlessness and terror.”

The GCCI expressed disappointment in the leadership of President Bharrat Jagdeo at a time like this, and called on the Head of State to ensure the safety of the citizens, as there were already signs that crime had reached alarming proportions.

“The Chamber is disappointed that the President is not demonstrating the kind of strong command and urgency that this situation demands.”

GCCI said, while it is understood that businesses must seek to secure themselves, this is a fundamental function of the State and the police.

“The GCCI now wishes to express our absolute and total lack of trust and confidence in the leader of the police force and therefore calls for the immediate resignation of the Police Commissioner,” the release said.

“We demand that all other measures be immediately put in place to ensure that the police operate as an efficient and effective modern police force.”

GCCI stated that the continuous escalation of criminal activity in Guyana has aroused concerns, nervousness and fear in the business community and the wider population.

GCCI said it is worried that unless the situation is dealt with immediately and effectively more citizens will be killed.

“The absurd murder of innocent citizens by cold-blooded criminals, who operate in an unrestrained manner, is unacceptable and must be brought to an end immediately. The image of our country has been badly damaged, and the confidence in the ability of the police force as a whole to maintain peace and security and to protect our citizens against terror is seriously being undermined. This will only further contribute to the mass migration of our citizens and a loss of much needed investments.”

The GCCI is also urging the government to immediately seek foreign assistance to combat the crime situation.

The organisation pledged to ally its efforts with all other umbrella bodies and the general private sector to ensure that the nation is spared of the “cancerous malady” and move a step forward where private businesses and citizens can find Guyana a safe place to live, do business and invest.

Thousands give murdered Minister and siblings a mournful ‘send-off'

Killers will be given the same treatment

- President Jagdeo

President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday announced that the killers of Minister Satyadeow Sawh, his sister and brother and a security guard will be given the same treatment.

The President made the remark at the funeral service for the late Minister, his sister Pulmatie Persaud and his brother Rajpat Rai, who were cold-bloodedly killed early Saturday morning along with security guard Curtis Robertson.

“We have to find these murderers and deal with them the same way. They did not come to rob. We all know what the motive was,” an obviously outraged President Jagdeo told hundreds who had gathered at the late Minister's LBI home.

Earlier at a special service at Castellani House, the President had assured that the 5000 members of the armed forces will get the perpetrators.

The Guyanese leader noted that the brutal slayings hit at the fabric of the country's democracy.

He referred to measures used by the United States and England when those nations grappled with terrorist attacks.

The Guyanese leader noted that, even as the remains of the Minister and his siblings are being sent off, there are persons who are bent on creating trouble at this time.

President Jagdeo described the late Minister's family as a strong one noting that any lesser family would have crumbled.

“Their strength is amazing,” he said.

The Guyanese leader pointed out that his Cabinet will miss the late Minister Sawh whom he described as a man who showed commitment since the PPP's days in opposition.

Yesterday was declared a national day of mourning, and Guyanese from all walks of life turned out in thousands to pay their final respects to the late Minister and his siblings.

The occasion began with a special tribute at the PPP Headquarters, Freedom House, where several party members remembered their colleague and spoke of what they know of his brother and sister.

Expressions of bitterness and anger were the order of the day.

Then the bodies were taken to Castellani House on Vlissengen Road where more tributes were paid.

Among those paying tributes were former President Janet Jagan, Parliamentary colleagues and Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union, Komal Chand.

By this time hundreds had begun to brave a steady drizzle at the Minister's residence where they had assembled for the official funeral service.

Thousands more waited patiently at the Good Hope cremation site.

Although several tents were set up on the Minister's lawns, a number of persons were soaked because the crowd was so large.

As they waited for the bodies to arrive, hundreds signed a book of condolence in honour of the late Minister and his siblings.

When the bodies arrived, a number of persons stumbled on each other's feet trying to get a glimpse of them in the open caskets.

The coffins were first taken into the late Minister's house where only close family members and friends viewed them.

They were then brought out and placed under one of the huge tents where hundreds later filed past for a view.

In an emotional eulogy, one of the late Minister's brothers said he could not explain what has happened as yet.

“Someone has taken the lives of my brothers and sister. ‘Sats' will always be the undefeated heavyweight champion of the farmers of Guyana .”

He described his sister Pulmatie as the live-wire of the family while his brother Rajpat Rai was said to be an avid sportsman.

The crowd then became restless with the outpouring of grief, forcing President Jagdeo to appeal for calm during the funeral service.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Dindyal Permaul recalled that the Ministry went into a state of shock upon learning of the brutal murders.

“On Friday the Minister called a meeting and we sat for two to three hours. He was going to Canada for a medical check-up. No one expected that 24 hours after we would receive news of his death,” Permaul told the large gathering.

He remembered the Minister braving the threat of disease to wade through flood waters, pointing out that the farmers of Guyana have lost a dear friend.

Perhaps the most moving tribute was delivered by the late Minister's elder son Roger, who had flown home from Canada for the funeral.

The young Sawh, who is pursuing studies in North America , explained that at first he had declined to speak at the funeral but was persuaded by an inner sense to do so.

Speaking of his late aunt Pulmatie, Roger Sawh said that she brought energy to the family. He said that his late uncle Rajpat Rai was a master of a man.

“I made a friend eight months ago. He made me learn how to wash my clothes and he was a champion left-arm spinner,” Roger said, referring to his uncle's love for cricket.

Of his late father, the younger Sash Sawh said, ‘He was the biggest teddy bear you would meet.”

The young man said that he spoke to his father only a few hours before his death and was preparing for his father's visit to Canada .

“He was the singer and I was the drummer for the band that would never see the light of day.”

Roger Sawh did not forget the dead security guard, who he said was with the family for a number of years.

“I knew Curtis, he always had a smile on his face,” the late Minister's son stated while paying tribute to the guard, whom he described as a dedicated soldier for the family.

Even Brutus the slain family dog was not left out.

“He died in the line of duty,” Roger Sawh added.

Head of Go-Invest Geoffrey Da Silva in his tribute noted the strength shown by the wife of the late Minister Sawh.

“Sattie has been a rock for all of us,” Da Silva told the gathering.

He said that he first knew the Minister way back in the 1970's when he was campaigning for the return of democracy in Guyana . Da Silva said that while there were detractors, Satydeow Sawh stuck to his task, and even risked his life on many occasions and protested at a hotel where members of the then ruling PNC were staying.

“He had two attempts on his life, but he will live on,” Da Silva stated.

Adrian Persaud, a nephew of the minister and son of the murdered Pulmatie Persaud, said that he was persuaded to visit Guyana by his mother who described her homeland as a beautiful country.

“I say beautiful tentatively. We will live through this,” Adrian Persaud said.

Other friends and neighbours also were loud in their recognition of the contribution the Minister and his siblings had made to Guyana .

During all of this, while other family members could not hold back their emotions, Sattie Sawh and her sons stood tall and showed no outward signs of grief, except when they were hugged by grieving relatives and friends.

The only real visible sign of emotion was shown by Roger Sawh at the cremation site at Good Hope.

There, thousands more jostled each other to get a final glimpse of the bodies of the slain bothers and sister.

Traffic was diverted to the Railway Embankment to allow the procession, which stretched for almost a mile, to travel from the late Minister's home to Good Hope.

As the pyres with the three bodies were set alight, mourners with their clothes soaked began making their way back home, hoping for a solution to the brutal blood-letting that has rocked Guyana over the past years.

Kidnapped taxi driver found dead

- two suspects held

The search for kidnapped driver Deonarine Sukhdeo ended at around 17:00hrs yesterday after his body was found off the Soesdyke/Linden highway.

Police sources said that Sukhdeo's corpse, bearing several stab wounds to the neck, was found in a clump of bushes near Madewini Creek.

His car, a Toyota Ceres, was found about two miles away.

Kaieteur News understands that the gruesome find was made after detectives, acting on information, arrested a suspect who then led them to Sukhdeo's body. A second man was subsequently arrested.

Sukhdeo's body and the vehicle were brought to the city at around 23:45 hrs last night.

Sukhdeo, 22, also called Vishan, was kidnapped last week Wednesday, reportedly while carrying passengers to Kuru Kuru.

The kidnappers contacted Sukhdeo's relatives by telephone the next day and demanded $500,000 for his release. His father, Satnarine Sukhdeo, said that he was instructed to take the money to a location in Diamond New Scheme where he would see a lamp post with a white cloth attached. He was told to leave the ransom there.

Warning him not to contact the police, the caller further instructed that, after placing the money, Sukhdeo should walk a little further to another lamp post with another white cloth attached and there he would see his son.

However, this information was relayed to the police anti-kidnapping unit and they have since taken over the handling of the matter.

After he failed to go through with the deal the kidnappers informed him that the deal was off.

His father said that he was told that persons had hired his son to go to Kuru Kuru. Police subsequently received reports from a woman who claimed to have seen Vishan in his car in the company of two men at Kuru Kuru.

She said that Vishan did not appear to be worried.

The vehicle had been stuck in sand and the woman said that she used her vehicle to pull the car out.