GEORGETOWN, Guyana, – The Guyana Police Force (GPF) Tuesday said it had detained seven people so far for questioning in relation to the brutal murders of two cousins over the lasr weekend that have sparked widespread protest in the Hopetown, West Coast Berbice area.
“Relative to the murder of Joel and Isiah Henry, please be advised that seven suspects have been arrested so far. Further the GPF would like to assure the general public that it is aggressively investigating this crime to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the GPF said in a brief statement on its Facebook page.
Acting Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie in a video posted on the GPF Facebook page, said that the post mortem examination on the bodies of the two teenagers will be done on Wednesday. He also urged protestors to end their action and allow law enforcement authorities to fully investigate the murders of cousins Isaiah Henry, 16, and Joel Henry, 19.
Their bodies bore several chop wounds. Isaiah had the letter ‘X’ carved on the back of his head and forehead, while Joel’s chest was cut open, exposing his organs and also suffered several broken bones
Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn,, Tuesday appealed for calm fearful that the protest actions which began soon after the bodies were discovered on Sunday, could descend into further lawlessness.
Benn said the police are now being forced to investigate a number of illegals acts including robberies, urging “persons to desist from unlawful practices,” adding “we now have a joint services operation to restore calm and order to the affected areas.
“Unfortunately, there are repeated incidents where motorists and others are attacked and their property damaged and robberies of those persons and other unlawful and unruly incidents which in occurring do not bring calm to situation and runs the risk of bringing the general descent into lawlessness,” the Security Minister said.
“I note with regret the statements from some leading political persons and some agitators who are characterizing the incident of the death itself without any evidence that it racially motivated and even worse that certain villages have to take steps to protect themselves in a vigilante mode,” Benn said.
On Tuesday several, pro-African groups called on the various leaders, as well as the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to help the country grapple with political race relations worsened by the recent killings.
The African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), said the “callous race-driven” murders of Orlando Jonas as well as cousins Isaiah and Joel Henry suggests the need for the ERC to find solutions to the political race problems facing the country.
“We call on the Ethnic Relations Commission, whose constitutional mandate compels this entity to engage and work for racial harmony and justice,” said ACDA,, adding that the growing tensions resulting from those murders must be addressed by condign actions that demonstrate adherence to the Rule of Law and its decrees on justice.
ACDA, a 27-year-old organisation, said it is hoping also that the police would be able to conduct a thorough investigation to arrive at incontrovertible evidence that would not be thrown out by a court of law and so free those who would be charged and prosecuted.
“We do hope that the Police Force will be allowed to conduct an independent investigation to bring to justice all those who were involved in these heinous acts. ACDA wants the charges to be properly executed so as not to include flaws that can result in members of the Judiciary having excuses for throwing these cases out on a legal technicality,” it said.
The International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G) in appealing for calm dismissed suggestions that the killings were isolated incidents, adding that they symbolise Guyana’s deep-seated problems that have at times been ignored by the international community. “IDPADA-G begs to differ. We wish to confront this act as yet another manifestation of the festering division, ethnic strife and utter contempt for the lives of those from other ethnic groups, which have characterized the evolution of Guyanese society and to which many, including various Governments and foreign actors, have turned a blind eye and even aided and abetted from time”.
IDPADA-G, which was established by the former coalition administration under the auspices of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent, also lamented the mental racial violence that is being perpetrated on social media.
“A cursory review of social media would reveal that this physically violent act is but the heinous physical manifestation of the everyday verbal ethnic violence that is prevalent in our society,” it added.
The Society for African Guyanese Empowerment (SAGE) in its appeal to the police to dispassionately pursue the perpetrators of this “racially motivated crime with political overtones,” said there was no room for “silence and empty chats of peace”
It said resistance must be meted out depending on action by police and soldiers.
“The forms of self- defense would be determined by the intensity of the attacks and the response of the State to the ensuing protests,” SAGE said, calling for countrywide protests and urging the police and the new People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government not to take action against those who are exercising their constitutional right to protest.
“It is against that background that we urge the police and their political handlers to desist from further escalating the already charged situation.
“We are forced to ask those policemen and women how do they shoot at Black people in Hopetown and Belladrum and go home to face their own Black families? SAGE therefore urges Black police officers to disobey orders to shoot unarmed people protesting the murder of their children by race-haters,” the organisation said.