Berbice leads in new year's murders but police make breakthroughs
-Ramjattan credits renewed public confidence

Stabroek News
January 17, 2016

The first sixteen days of 2016 recorded ten confirmed murder cases but because of the brutal and well-planned nature of some of those crimes and the fact that most occurred in one police division, it appeared as though that number had surpassed the total recorded for the same period last year.

The figures compiled by Stabroek News for the period January 1 to 16, 2015 show that there was one less murder when compared to the same period this year. The majority of the victims for both periods were males. Most of the victims had been stabbed to death; the others were shot, beaten and burnt to death.

Numbers for this year show that six of the ten murders occurred in 'B' Division (Berbice) and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan says that it is the renewed confidence in the police which in part has led to breakthroughs and charges being laid.

Ten minutes into the new year, Crabwood Creek resident Asil Hafeez was fatally stabbed by another man during a confrontation.

Police had said that the 24-year-old man was drinking with another man at Crabwood Creek, when an argument ensued between them, following which he was stabbed in the neck. Hafeez was rushed to the Skeldon Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Around 2.15pm, Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara carpenter Ganesh Ramlakhan, of Lot 127 Mon Repos Pasture, was fatally stabbed, allegedly by his cousin, during an argument. The suspect is in Suriname.

Cane Grove cane harvester Deokumar Basdeo also died on New Year's Day. The 22-year-old man was returning home around 9.30pm after attending a lime, when he was attacked by a gang of seven men. He was beaten about the body but mostly on his head with a piece of wood and left on the roadway to die. He was picked up and rushed to the Mahaicony Hospital and was later transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital, where he succumbed hours later. A suspect in the murder has since fled to the United States.

Around 9.30pm on this same day 22-year-old Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) resident Dewaun Anthony Baksh was stabbed to death with a broken bottle during an altercation with a group of men at a rum shop at Greenwich Park, EBE. He sustained injuries to his neck and shoulder and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Anita Baichan is the first woman to be killed for this year. On January 3, Baichan was unable to exit her Hope, West Coast Berbice home which had been set alight by bandits. The woman's son, Moshim Khan, made it to safety.

Police had said that the men, who were masked and armed with cutlasses, entered the home and held up Baichan and Khan and demanded cash and jewellery. They were given $30,000 but, apparently not satisfied, later used duct tape to tie the hands, feet and mouth of the victims before setting the house on fire. Two teens have been charged with the crime.

On January 6, Corentyne businessman Patrick Mohabir died after he was shot and chopped by two bandits, who invaded his home.

According to a police statement, the attack occurred around 11.30pm, when the two men, armed with a firearm and cutlass, entered Mohabir's home and held him up along with his wife, Shabina Ahmad. During the attack, police added, Mohabir put up resistance and was shot and chopped by the perpetrators, who escaped with two cell phones and a pair of shoes.

The suspected murder of a British teen who had been missing since October last year was particularly brutal. A badly decomposed body was discovered on January 8 in the backlands of Nurney Village, Corentyne and, though DNA tests are to be done, the body is strongly believed to be that of Dominic Bernard. The teen had arrived in Guyana on October 14 to visit his god brother but was never seen or heard from again. Film making equipment belonging to the teen was later found buried nearby. Five persons, including Bernard's god brother, have since been charged with the crime.

Elderly Bush Lot businessman Arthur Doodnauth Rajkumar and his common-law wife Diane Chamanlall were chopped to death in their home on January 9 by men who frequented the premises where an ice cream parlour, pool shop and stationery store are located.

Muffled screams emanated from the couple's house and neighbours who responded saw men inside. It was at this point that police were called. When ranks arrived around 3am, three men were seen jumping over a fence from the premises as lawmen approached.

The injured couple were rushed to the Fort Wellington Hospital, where Rajkumar was pronounced dead on arrival and Chamanlall succumbed while receiving medical attention. The two teens charged with the murder of Baichan have also been charged with the murder of Rajkumar and Chamanlall.

On January 10, the partly decomposed body of 28-year-old Hafeeza Rohoman was found in a trench at Helena, Mahaica. The woman had gone missing and was said to have been a constant victim of domestic abuse. While a post-mortem examination revealed that she died of drowning, evidence of several blows to head resulted in detectives treating the case as one of murder. The woman's partner who is being sought remains at large. Police have said the woman's husband has confessed to playing a role in her death and he will be charged soon.


Ramjattan, in an invited comment, told Stabroek News that the government has been getting "international help in the form of training for our policemen and also in the form of information, and that is why though the year has begun with a spike in Berbice, all the crimes committed in Berbice have now been solved."

He said that the solving of these crimes was a direct result of "training and also as a result of the comfort level that my administration has created for the police force [that] has caused this development of almost immediate cracking of crimes. I do not interfere, I allow them space; well, I have to…because they are the policemen." He said that it is not because a number of "rogue cops" exist within the force that he would want to "jump on their backs and … interfere at every corner. I will not do that."

Ramjattan said that another plus is that there is now a renewed confidence by the public, especially the Berbicians, to give information to the police when crimes occur. He was quick to point out that at one point Berbicians had "distrusted the police thoroughly, but they too have now realised because of what we have done at the community policing level and what we have done by talking to leaders in the community that it is important that they give the information, otherwise we are not going to solve crimes."

He asserted that in every community where crimes occur, "some element within that community know who the criminal is." He said that once there is support from the community, "halfway we are there solving crime." He stressed that this public confidence is the prominent factor in many of these recent cases in addition to the insistence of the Ministry of Public Security and the leadership of the police force that ranks "should not bully" members of the community, since it is from there that the information necessary to solve crimes will come.

Ramjattan urged all ranks to be courteous to members of the public. "That is how we are going to win their support and that is how we are gonna solve crime," he said.

He said that it is a natural reaction for people to panic when crimes occur. He said that no minister or anyone else can stop this. "Natural human reactions follow upon traumatic events," he added.

Diversifying the force

He further said that government also has to make an effort to let the communities that are being plagued with criminality know that they have a duty to have their community members join the police force.

He singled out Indian Guyanese and the Indigenous people, saying that they too need to appreciate that they have to join the police force: "For too long, they [Indo-Guyanese] have been keeping away," he said, while adding that he is doing everything in the training process, including changing the diets, to persuade them to join. "They must want and desire to become members of the police force so that they can look after their communities," he said.

Asked what will be done differently in the recruitment drive, he said that it will continue to be improved on as the force is in need of "better quality recruits." He said that this aim will always be problematic as the salary is small. In this regard, he said that he will continue to lobby for a doubling of police salaries, which he said will help to influence persons to come on board, although he acknowledged that this seems difficult as the Minister of Finance "has difficulties finding money to do that." He said too that in the event that there is a doubling of salaries for ranks, other public servants will be annoyed. "We have to be reasonable and see with the Minister of Finance how much could be afforded, but I am urging the Indo-Guyanese community, especially, to join up because we are soon going to have a better day in Guyana with oil production and all, when we are going to be in a position to get better increases for salary, better conditions of work, and when that time comes they must be there to be the beneficiaries."

Ramjattan told this newspaper too that Amerindians need to join so that they can help to man interior locations. He said that once persons come on board the force will eventually reach its required strength.