Wednesday, 19 June 2013
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|7th Anniversary of GuySuCo workers’ kidnap and murder|
|Written by PARVATI PERSAUD-EDWARDS|
|Sunday, 20 May 2012 20:51|
IN 2005, four GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation) workers were among several persons who either disappeared or were publicly slain aback Buxton during what Tacuma Ogunseye and other opposition leaders dubbed ‘The Buxton Resistance’, but which, in effect, was a crime wave that created unimaginable suffering in that community and the rest of the country, with many innocent victims in and out of Buxton still enduring the consequential effects of that horrific period in the country’s history.
The ripple effect of that horrendous episode in Guyana has left many traumatised and devastated victims in its aftermath. In the wake of these horrific incidents, the saga of suffering of their loved ones and dependants seems unending, primarily because of the irreplaceable loss caused them through the wanton slaying of their life partners and fathers, compounded by the actions of insensitive and power-drunk public officials who deny them public assistance, despite the fact that they are denied NIS benefits through non-retrieval of the bodies.
Kamini became worried when her husband did not return home for lunch at midday, which he never failed to do, and she called her brother-in-law, Mr. Kamo Persaud, who, together with other Guysuco personnel, mounted a search for the missing man, with no success. Only his bicycle and breakfast bag were retrieved from the scene of his disappearance; but highly visible were drag marks leading into the bushes of the Buxton backdam.
Kamini recalled that she stood on the street outside of her home that very afternoon and witnessed a huge fire aback of Buxton. Until today, because no body was found, there is no legal resolution to her plight and she is left alone to fend for her three little girls, aged five years, three years, and six months, when their very loving and hard-working father, who always tended to their needs, disappeared from their lives.
The two older girls, Sunita and Elizabeth, still have memories of their father and are still anguished over his loss. Little six-month-old Divya had cried inconsolably for months when her daddy failed day after day to come home, throw her up in the air, and play with her, even to feed and bathe her as he loved to do.
Since then the family was forced to split up when Kamini could not afford to support all three of her daughters from her earnings as a domestic worker. Second daughter Elizabeth was taken by her brother-in-law and his wife; but now Sunita and Divya still remain with their mother, left alone at home many days while their mother tries to earn enough to meet their needs by cleaning other people’s houses.
Kamini is in dire financial straits because even the Public Assistance that she once received for her older daughter has been halted and she has to provide school essentials for her children.
No bodies, no benefits
Unable to prove their husbands’ deaths because their bodies were never recovered, the wives of these victims were deprived of NIS and other benefits; and although GuySuCo and the NIS (National Insurance Scheme) stand on legal ground on this issue, these were circumstances out of the norm, and should have been exempted from the stipulated framework.
However, one hopes now that the mandatory seven years have expired, that their husbands would be declared legally dead and the women will receive all that was due them and their children, retroactive to seven years prior. And given the travesty that often passes for justice, these four women should get legal counsel from some caring lawyer, who does not place money above human considerations, to ensure they receive their due.
These women are simple, uneducated women who can only find jobs as maids. All of them said that the transition from beloved housewives who ran their own homes, for which their devoted husbands adequately provided, to cleaning other people’s homes was very painful and traumatic, as was leaving their children alone for the first time - rendering them, for all practical purposes, fatherless and motherless.
Four months after the Taranauths and Sawhs lost husbands, fathers, and breadwinners, two other GuySuCo workers disappeared at the same location; one of them was Sookram (Rohit) Dhanai, whose widow, Padmawattie (called Sherry), the Guyana Chronicle also spoke with.
Padmawattie said that despite Minister Manickchand’s instructing that the children of the four GuySuCo victims be given Public Assistance until they reach 18, the service was discontinued when eldest daughter, Shelly, was 13, and only son, Terry, was 14. Public Assistance was also discontinued for the youngest child, Sharon, whose education is being facilitated by the CIOG.
Because Sherry could only find work as a maid in Georgetown, which incurs transportation costs, she was forced to withdraw her two older children from school. She said that every time she tried to speak to the resource person in charge of Public Assistance in her area, the woman became highly-abusive, making her (Sherry) afraid to approach her.
Former President Jagdeo continually spoke of the ‘tin gods’ in the public service, who treat members of the public with great disdain and disrespect. They proliferate in public institutions, and often bring to naught the government’s attempts to empower the vulnerable. People living in rural areas are simple persons, who are afraid to approach public officials because of their customary discourteous behaviour. Jaswantie Sawh, who survives through the produce she reaps from her kitchen garden, says that financial problems are sometimes insurmountable and she cannot pay her bills, especially when heavy rains and flood waters destroy her produce.
Lives at a standstill
Shelly recalls the day her husband disappeared as a day when her family’s life came to a standstill, because all celebrations ceased since then, for the light and joy seem to have gone out of their lives. Describing the reaction of family members on that fateful day, when life turned eternally dark for them, Sherry says that then 9-year-old Shelly flung herself down and crawled all over the yard, pulling out the grass and screaming in agony, while she herself was falling to pieces inside the house, and 10-year-old Terry was crying his eyes out in his uncle’s arms.
The financial demands are many, and currently, both Kamini and Sherry’s eldest daughters need glasses because of problems with their vision. Sherry says that Shelly is plagued with bouts of unendurable headaches that cause her to burrow her head in the pillows and scream in pain, which suggests the need for a CAT scan. But who will provide the wherewithal for these needs?
The facilitators of the President’s recently-launched ‘One Laptop’ programme should look at the needs of the families of victims of the crime wave, including the children of police and Donna Herod, the Buxtonian mother who lost her life in a police crossfire. Kamini’s elder daughter, Sunita, is now in high school, ss is Sherry’s youngest daughter, Sharon. A laptop will help with their research for school assignments, among other things.
Beasts in the jungle kill for food, but only the beasts in human form know why they wantonly take the lives of innocent human beings, on whom the welfare and fate of so many others depend.
Those beasts often cause shame and pain to those who love them; although some relatives encourage such activities for gain.
Today, there is a movement by some right-thinking Guyanese who are merging efforts to halt and reverse that trend so that the soul of the nation can be healed; so even if the souls of the Kaminis and Sunitas, and the Shellys and Sherrys are too traumatised for healing in their lifetimes, maybe Guyana’s future generations would be spared such turmoil caused by a bestial few divisionists in the land. The wolves are still baying at the door of reconciliation; but the guardians of the nation are steadfastly refusing them entry.
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