Thousands bid Fraser farewell By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
April 7, 2002

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TENS of thousands of people from all walks of life yesterday turned out to pay their last respects to Police Officer, Superintendent Leon Mark Fraser, shot dead last Tuesday as he led a party in pursuit of the killer gang that fled the Georgetown Prison on February 23.

The funeral service was held at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Stanleytown, West Bank Demerara. The church was packed to capacity, with hundreds overspilling the yard, lining the streets, and on verandahs and in bottom houses of nearby buildings.

Mourners were just everywhere and there was an air of deep solemnity as the long queues formed to file past the casket for viewing. The Police Force was well turned out, and put on a fine ceremonial display in honour of their fallen comrade.

The proceedings, which began with an overcast atmosphere as his body was being removed from the Merriman's Funeral Home in Georgetown, for viewing at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, before the afternoon was out, had taken on quite a different turn as the thousands filed past in sacred reverence and with an attitude of appreciation over the fact that, according to the many glowing tributes, he had not lived his life in vain, but had served the Force and all the people of Guyana meaningfully.

Many were the tributes delivered in his memory, but his brother, Mr. Leslie Fraser, in his eulogy, aptly summed it up: "To us he was the bravest; best of the best, and the one man who made a stand against banditry and lawlessness. He was always ready to go that extra mile to solve any problem pertaining to his work.

"As a leader he was a fearless person, a man who always led from the front, and on many occasions solved crimes alone...He showed no fear for the criminals, in pursuit of his objectives."

He noted that Fraser, 43, would be cherished for his selfless sacrifices he made in life, so that "we could sleep at nights and at least be safe."

Recalling that his brother was quiet and simple, and went about his work in the most tactful and dignified way, he nonetheless admitted, "It is not that Leon did not have his faults. He had his faults like all of us, but there are certain things which will stand up about this man, which will be remembered for a very long time..."

He added: "He generated a calm which made one feel close to him. His nature made him approachable whenever he was around. He extended much harmony and had a generosity of spirit which many of us would do well to emulate."

Commissioner of Police, Mr. Floyd McDonald said, "The Guyana Police Force feels comforted by the large turnout of citizens, which is indicative of the high esteem in which the Guyanese population held the valued brother, Superintendent Leon Fraser."

He assured that the contribution which the officer made to the Force will never be forgotten, adding that the value of one's life is computed not so much by duration, but by its donation.

The slain officer was described by the Commissioner as a brave and selfless person who dedicated most of his life to the Police Force. "He has left us at a time when criminals feel that they have the right to do what they like in this country...he left us at a time when selfishness has become pronounced in our country."

Reflecting on the significant contribution Superintendent Fraser made to the Force and to the country as a whole, the Commissioner said the Force is deeply saddened by his demise, adding that at least in the short-term, it will be difficult to find a replacement for him.

In conclusion, he assured that the Force would leave no stone unturned to bring the bandits to justice.

Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajaraj noted that the virtues of Fraser - bravery, courage, dedication, selflessness, among other things - will be recorded and continue to be respected. He described him as a real role model.

The minister lauded the contributions Fraser made to the fight against crime. "He made many sacrifices...for our benefit, comfort, peace of mind, making it possible for us to live without fear."

He said that the young officer's family, the Police Force, Guyana and the region have lost through his death, especially with regard to his zero tolerance for crime, and the position he had taken on hardened criminals. He noted with a sense of pride that until the day of his death, Fraser openly demonstrated care and consideration for those in distress, adding: "Paradoxically, his weakness may have been his courage and bravery."

Urging those present not to weep nor mourn his death, he exhorted them: "Let's celebrate his life; he would have set footprints in the sand that those after him would find useful to emulate."

Fraser also performed with distinction as a member of the Guyana Rifle Association. In a tribute, marksman Mr. Harold Hopkinson, Chief of Operations of the Special Aviation Security Division, said: "He was one of the finest shots with any firearm. He represented his beloved country with the rifle, and handgun overseas with the Guyana National Rifle Association and came home with a bundle of medals..."

"Superintendent Leon Mark Fraser was a well rounded Senior Police Officer. He led from the front. He walked through a lot of valleys, laced with gunfire in the still of the night, or during the light of day when the criminal elements tried to make various parts of Guyana their haven, he routed them out and brought them to justice...We the populace felt safe. Superintendent Leon Mark Fraser will never be forgotten. He was a good guy, he wore black."

Following a very moving, but impressively orderly funeral service, the body was conveyed to the nearby cemetery in the churchyard by senior ranks of the Police Force where it was interred with full military honours.

He was accorded a 21-gun salute.

Among others at the service were Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Michael Atherly; Director of Prisons, Mr. Dale Erskine; ex-Commissioner of Police Mr. Laurie Lewis and Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Hamilton Green.

Officiating Pastor was Reverend Keith Haynes.