Bartica in Guyana turns into ghost town after massacre

February 19th, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by admin  

By Paras Ramoutar
Port of Spain, Feb 19 (IANS) Unprecedented bloodshed in neighbouring Guyana has shocked the Caribbean nation and the once bustling town of Bartica, where 13 persons were killed Sunday, has turned into a ghost town. Two dozen innocent lives have been lost in just three weeks. Panic gripped Bartica town after gunmen attacked the local police station and killed three officers. The gunmen moved from the police station to different streets where they indiscriminately opened fire. The residents in the river-island community shut doors to ward off potential attacks.

In an earlier incident, 11 ethnic Indians were gunned down in the agricultural hamlet of Lusignan Jan 26. A group of gunmen attacked five houses, opened the doors, shot at people and killed 11 people, including five children in Lusignan, about 15 km from Guyana’s capital Georgetown.

About 43 percent of the country’s 750,000 population are Indo-Guyanese, descendants of indentured Indian workers who were brought here by the British.

Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo - who is of Indian origin - has cut short a visit to New York and returned home to hold a national dialogue with the business, civil society and the opposition People National Congress.

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said in a telephone interview that this was an unfortunate act. “Security forces will take on the armed criminals who committed murder, robbery and spread panic among the people.”

According to reports, the security forces are yet to nab the criminals. There has also been no headway in the Lusignan Jan 26 incident.

A former soldier, Rondel Rawlins, has claimed `credit’ for the Lusignan incident. Police are making efforts to capture him and a reward of US$250,000 has been announced for granting information about him.

Rawlins is also wanted in the December 2006 assassination of agriculture minister Satyadeo Sawh. The Guyana Defence Force have stepped up the manhunt for Rawlins and air and land patrols were intensified. His girlfriend, Tenisha Morgan, has not been found.

The criminal acts are suspected to have their origin in the black dominated village of Buxton, who are supporters of the opposition People’s National Congress.

Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister Martin Joseph termed the murders as, “senseless killings and loss of lives through this dastardly act by cold-blooded killers”.

He said the government of Trinidad and Tobago stands ready, “to determine what assistance, if any, may be needed at this time.”

Guyana’s consul general to Trinidad and Tobago, Ernie Ross, said that Guyanese are angry over the recent massacre. He termed the criminals, “a terrorist group bent on creating havoc by killing innocent people.”

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