Grassroots Talk

By Jagnarine Somwar

Having discussed the atrocities of the “Fineman” gang at Lusignan on January 26, 2008, where eleven persons were murdered in their beds, including four children, the Grassrooters reminisced on the onslaught of the same gang at Bartica a few weeks after, on February 17, 2008, in which another twelve persons were brutally murdered, including three policemen.

The gang’s modus operandi at Bartica, in many ways, remind the people of insurgent movies and in some cases real action, as publicized by the media, that keep happening in some East and West African countries. It would be difficult to remember if ever any Police Station was overrun by criminal elements, prior to the Bartica incident or the Bartica Massacre, as it is now called.

On night of Sunday February 17, 2008, Rondell Rawlings and his gang of murderous marauders attacked the mining community of Bartica, killing twelve persons and injuring several others.

The group of about twenty armed gunmen arrived at Bartica by speed boat. They landed at the Transport and Harbours Wharf around 21.25hrs on that fateful night. Upon arrival, they attacked the Bartica Police Station, where they killed Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir, Constable Shane Fredericks and Constable Ron Osbornes and freed some prisoners. After which, the gang stole cash, arms, ammunition and a vehicle from the police station and using the stolen police vehicle, they drove through the streets of Bartica shooting at civilians, fatally wounding Irwin Gilkes. T
hey then proceeded to CBR Mining, where they killed Irving Ferreira, stole arms and ammunition, and removed two safes containing cash and gold. Next, they shot and killed Dexter Adrian before returning to the wharf. At the wharf, they executed Abdool Yassin Jr, Deonarine Singh, Errol Thomas, Ronald Gomes, Baldeo Singh and Ashraf Khan. After their almost one-hour rampage, the gunmen left the mining Town by boat.

The brutal slaying of there individuals without cause or reason had been recorded in this Country’s annals of history, like the Lusignan Massacre, as the most dastard act of cold blooded murders.

The Bartica Massacre had been linked with the Lusignan Massacre, while some initially questioned the link; the Police have attributed all of the murders to Rondell Rawlins and his criminal gang. In the immediate aftermath, the then Opposition (PNC/R) and some of their supporters decried the apparent inability of the government and the security forces to deal with the extended crime wave.

The same PNC/R membership that earlier labeled those criminal elements as Freedom Fighters and supported the actions of those marauders, begun to question the inability of the ruling PPP, to fight crime. Talking about double standards!!

During June 2008, the Joint Services attacked a number of gang members at a camp near Christmas Falls, killing one and recovering weapons and ammunition. On July 17, 2008, two other members of the Rawlins’ gang were killed by the police near Aroiama after hijacking a bus travelling from Aroaima to Linden. Police then recovered weapons, ammunition, literature and the personal property of slain Former Agriculture Minister Satydeow Sawh, they also arrested a teenaged member of the gang.

In August, 2008, Rondell Rawlins and another gang member, Jermaine Charles, were shot and killed by the Joint Services. Rawlins and Charles were killed after a seven-hour standoff, which left one other person dead.

During March 2011, five men were committed to stand trial for the murders at Bartica. One of the accused, Clebert Reece, has implicated three of his fellow defendants, along with Rawlins and other dead gang members.

A few months ago, Clebert Reece, one of the men who pleaded guilty to killing the 12 persons at Bartica was sentenced to 420 years – 35 years on each count of manslaughter. Reece and his co accused, Michael Caesar was originally charged with 12 counts of murder.

He pleaded guilty to the lesser offence when he appeared before Justice Roxanne George, in November. He had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter.

Earlier he was sentence to 65 years for each of the 12 counts of murders but the Judge deducted 10 years for the guilty plea; 12 years for the mitigating factors and eight years for the time Reece spent in prison pending the High Court trial. However, she ordered that the sentence run concurrently hence Reece will only serve 35 years in the prison.

Earlier this month, Mark Royden Williams called ‘Durant’ and ‘Smallie’, one of the accused in the Bartica Massacre, was sentenced to death by hanging before Justice Roxanne George after a 12-member jury returned seven guilty verdicts for murder, and five guilty verdicts for manslaughter.

Dennis Williams, called ‘Anaconda’, was also sentenced to death by hanging after seven guilty verdicts for murder were returned by the jury.

Roger Anthony Simon called ‘Goat Man’, was acquitted of the 12 counts of murder, and 7 counts of manslaughter. However, he was not freed since there is a second indictment against him. Simon’s other charges include three counts of breaking and enter/larceny, one charge of unlawful wounding, and one for terrorism.

Of almost twenty persons who attacked the Bartica Township and brutally murdered those twelve persons, only five stood trial for their involvement and five were killed by the Joint Services, including Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins, the mastermind, but certainly not the intellectual author of the crimes.
What has happened to the others?

Are they still out there committing heinous crimes?

What about the millions of dollars worth in gold bars and cash that were looted during the attack?

Why has the trace of the cash gone cold?

Was the monies placed in special funds for the family of the murderers or was the monies been used to finance more ‘Freedom Fighters”?

Was the stolen funds used for lobbying and campaign efforts in 2011?

The list goes on and numerous questions will remain unanswered.

Has justice been served?

The lives of those that were snubbed out would always be remembered by their loved ones. Justice could never be served because those gone could never be replaced.

If justice is to be completely served then the families of those innocent persons that were slaughtered at Lusignan and Bartica should be heftily compensated just as the many families and friends of the Freedom Fighters are enjoying the loot.