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By Mark Devonish
It is part of our history. Our dark history. Our dark and painful history. Betided in 1964. Surely not our independence for that represented the luminous celebratory period of 1966. But both dates predated most of us. My birth. Your birth.
But many did witness it. Painful memories they are. For two races that have so much in common but rather dwell on their differences. For one- the descendants of Indentured labourers. The other the descendants of slaves. But both suffered under the British Colonisers. For the British used and abused us to enrich their Empire. From our sweat the British Empire was built. From our resources the British Empire was enriched. Our blood was the price paid to defend the British Empire. For the British West Indies Regiment payed with their lives but never gained their respect.
But rather than value on our commonalities we dwelt on our differences. Exactly what the Colonisers wanted. Divide and conquer. Divided us and conquered us by our differences. Widen the racial chasm the only weapon in the coloniser’s armoury since slavery was outlawed. And that chasm they did widen which culminated in a race riot. February17th,1964 was bright but yet dark. GAWU demanded recognition as the bargaining agent for the sugar workers. GAWU was PPP and PPP is GAWU. And PPP held the reins of power hence did what PPP does. Made political pawns of the sugar workers. But GAWU take over was met with one major obstacle.
A formidable obstacle. MPCA, a pro-Coloniser union, was the sugar workers established recognised industrial relations voice. GAWU disregarded this and proceeded to demand that the sugar workers should have a vote to elect a union of their choice. Dr. Jagan, the then British-Guiana Premier unsurprisingly supported GAWU. The MPCA leadership responded, over our dead bodies. The Governor, Sir Ralph Grey supported MPCA and in so doing indirectly let Dr. Jagan know that Great Britain are still bosses so he is undisputed boss. An impasse the result. An industrial relations dead end. A bitter sugar cul-de-sac. The ball, but no power, was now back in GAWU’s court. Illegal countrywide strike was their ace. A strike without the support of the big boys meant that their ace was outside the baseline. So now the negotiation ball was back in MPCA hand to serve. For sugar was 1960’s oil. Guyana and the British Empire needed it. As a result the illegal strike had to be broken by any means necessary. And those means were non-sugar workers. Afro-Guyanese non-sugar workers. Indo-Guyanese felt betrayed but failed to recognise that they cannot go on a strike without the support of their union. And there it was, the two major races set against each other. A deadly race riot the result. The first move in this deadly game of ethnic chess was by the hands of the apoplectic Indo-Guyanese sugar workers. An Afro-Guyanese met their cane-cutters cutlass. Murdered! And as his blood drained from his mutilated body, a X was carved on his forehead. This murder and mutilation was the catalyst for more murders and reprisals.
March 2nd, 2020 was Election Day. Heated it was. Both sides felt cheated. International Community once again divided the races. This time their eyes were on the oil. Yes oil. The elections impasse went on for 5 months. Came to a sudden end on August 2nd. One side felt they won. The other side cheated. The evidence was on public display under the recount. Illegalities and irregularities too many to outline here. And once again the International Community maximised the massive chasm between the two major races. Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese.
The Henry cousins
Joel and Isaiah Henry left their home on the 6th September. As ebullient boys they likely had plans for following days. The following weeks. The following months. The following years. But that they were denied. For when they left home on that fateful day, something they would have done hundreds of occasions, without ever having a doubt about their safe return. But unsafe they were. Their mutilated bodies found on a coconut plantation at Cotton Tree Village, WCB one day after they left their Number 3 Village, WCB home.
And their mutilated bodies told a brutal story. Torture! Their last hours of suffering etched in their innocent faces. Very harrowing. Very painful. Excruciatingly harrowing. For both had their spinal cords transected at the level of their necks. Decapitated. Multiple penetrative and laceration injuries perforated their disfigured bodies attestation to a frenzied attack. Hate. Overkill. And the demonic hands had more mutilation for the dead bodies. For by their devilish hands Joel’s chest was cracked opened, not dissimilar to a crude thoracotomy incision of a cardiothoracic surgeon. His internal organs left on full display. His lacerated heart. His lungs deflated with penetrated injuries. Ribs broken as if he underwent a Coronary Artery Bypass Surgeon(CABG). And the gruesome mutilation of Joel continued. His hands displayed multiple defensive wounds, evidence that he fought as he was being savagely butchered. Desperately fighting for his life, was he. Tortured. Persecuted. Terrorised. What was their crime? Why such a brutal end? Race? Politics? And then the unambiguous political statement. Their intent is that it must not be missed as it was placed both on at the front and the back. And it was a X carved on the forehead and occiput of Isaiah. A reminder of the race riot of 1964. A potential catalyst for another race riot. A despicable political statement in a country fractured by five months of an elections impasse. Two mutilated bodies, drained of their blood, to infuse anger.
The Afro-Caribbean communities were understandably angered by the heinous murders of these two innocent boys. For they were both decent with bright futures. Many cried. Many mourned. Many protested. But the government showed no empathy. For as the people painfully protested, President Irfaan Ali insensitively labelled them as rapist and terrorist. And those that mourn were instructed to await the completion of the police investigation. A police force with zero credibility. But the intent was clear. And that police investigation. What an investigation it turned out to be. For the Crime Chief presented himself at a news conference to announce that the crime was not politically-motivated. Such a comical statement would have been funny if it was not this serious. For such foolery cannot be made up. How did he come to that conclusion? What evidence informed that conclusion? Since when the police make legal rulings on the nature of a crime? The police role is to gather evidence and institute charges. The courts will look at the evidence and statements to come to an informed conclusion. And since that statement he has gone silent. For as far as his political masters and him are both concerned, the crime is solved. Crimes solved since his political masters were “excluded.” But questions still remain. What have the police done? Absolutely nothing. For there is more to solving that crime. Something I will briefly outline for comparative purposes.
In a crime of this nature the first priority of the detectives is to secure the crime scene. For the crime scene must be protected and cordon off from foreign DNA. A tent placed around the bodies as forensic detectives examine them with their naked eyes and microscopic lens. Fibres, skins, foreign material underneath fingernails, foreign hairs and particles are all of evidentiary value. Outside of the tented area, Forensic Detectives on their knees, examine the area looking at every inch of the crime scene. Skid marks from tyres. Shoe prints. Foreign leaves. Then the forensic pathologist arrives. Post mortem undertaken on site. Gross pathology may shed light on the cause of death and mechanism of injuries. Occasionally, histopathology and histochemistry may provide clarity to gross pathological conclusions. Critically, the post mortem can estimate the time of death. Forensic radiologist can also play a critical role since their images provide an insight as it relates to the trajectory of bullets or stab wounds. Forensic anthropologist may not be that useful in this case since there are no questions about the identities of the deceased. And as the above is being done, about 100 detectives scour the neighbourhood interviewing neighbours for any sounds or sightings. This a comprehensive process by the detectives. They recognise that the first 48hrs is critical. Evidence can decompose and be blown away with the wind.
Crime scene not protected
So what likely happened at the location where the Isaiah and Joel were found? Bodies found but left for an inordinate period for curious onlookers to contaminate the crime scene. Police notified but their role is to call the undertakers. The funeral home was contacted with great urgency. Not sure why the urgency. I’ve never seen a body ran away from a crime scene. The undertakers deposited the bodies in a cold fridge, destroying evidence and to be contaminated by other dead bodies. Incomplete post mortem undertaken with 19th century technique.
Friday 6th November marked the second month since Isaiah and Joel were last seen alive. Many questions are still unanswered. The Crime Chief who is clearly under political directive failed to do his job. He should hang his head in shame that his only conclusion from this crime is that it was not political motivated. From the outset it was clear that the intent of the Police was never to solve this crime. And they have been successfully at that. And now the police shamelessly announced that the DNA results do not match any of the suspects arrested. So whose DNAs are they? Are they the DNAs of two of the incompetent police officers who were at the “crime scene?” RIP Isaiah and Joel.