Who killed Vincent Teekah?
-will this question ever be answered
By Nills Campbell
May 6, 2007
Twenty-eight years after the slaying of then education minister Vincent Rambeer Teekah, no inquest has been held into his death, and there are lurking fears that the architect and executor of this dastardly act are still moving freely in and out of Guyana today.
Guyana and the Caribbean were shocked by the early morning announcement that the promising career politician had been assassinated. The 38-year-old, who for the greater part of his political life was an activist of the then opposition PPP, was in effect a "lonely" man in the ruling PNC when two bullets ended his life.
Teekah's widow Jean and their three children migrated shortly after.
Today rumours persist in certain circles and the official version of how his death occurred, despite the passing of years, still strains credulity.
A female American dentist, reportedly in Guyana to undertake dental work on then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, was said to have been in Teekah's car with him when he was shot. The official announcement was that Teekah was shot in his car near Rahaman's Park. He was shot in the groin.
A few days later, late home affairs minister Vibert Mingo announced that one of the angles the police were working on was that the motive might have been political. Mingo also announced that the police were making significant progress with their investigations and indicated that results would be forthcoming.
Laurie Lewis, a former commissioner of police, was head of the police's Special Branch at that time and was summoned to the Belfield residence of Forbes Burnham during the early hours of October 25, mere hours after the October 24 killing of Teekah.
He vividly recalls the mood in which he found Burnham on that occasion. Not only did he appear confused and puzzled, but there was anger. He remembered that Burnham wore a dressing gown. "He was confused… even angry." It was in this very mood that Burnham blurted out the words: 'They've killed him; they shot him….'
No doubt, it was an even more confused Lewis who asked who he was talking about; then came the bombshell: 'Teekah! Vincent Teekah was shot and killed late last night'.
It was Lewis's task to determine whether there was any political motive behind the killing and who could be behind it.
To this day, Lewis affirms, "It was a case of a robbery attempt that turned sour." He explained that he had so reported and remains convinced that that is how the young education minister, who was tipped in some quarters to become the new prime minister when Burnham moved up to executive president, met his end.
Red phone rang
When told that one of Burnham's political advisers, Halim Majeed, had given a different version 25 years after the incident, Lewis insisted that the way he reported the case 28 years ago was the way he believed it took place.
"I am willing to put my credibility and ability on the line," he repeated. He however conceded that he would not want to argue with Majeed's findings since he probably got his information from another source that he was not aware of.
Independent sources confirmed that Majeed was one of the persons called to Burnham's Belfield residence in the wee hours of the morning as the top leadership of the then ruling PNC sought to deal with a clumsy situation and to effect some measure of damage control.
Majeed's version strongly differs from the official version as it appeared in another section of the local media in February 1999. He clearly stated that Teekah was shot by someone with a .32 revolver, confirming the official forensic report. However, Majeed believes the crime scene was not Rahaman's Park, but an undisclosed location where the victim was in a dentist's chair being attended to by the female Texan dentist.
He wrote of the repeated ringing of the red telephone, suggesting that it had to be at the residence or office of some political functionary or some military official. His version contends that the female dentist on answering the red phone asked the caller to hold for a minute, and passed the phone to Teekah. Several hellos by Teekah went unanswered.
Moments later the supposed assassin walked in, armed with a .32. Teekah's feeble efforts to access his .25 in his pocket failed as the man discharged his weapon twice, hitting the rising Teekah who fell to the ground. Majeed spoke of the architect behind the murder entering the room and joining the killer in pinning Teekah to the ground as the former head of the PPP's Acabre Ideological College pleaded for his life in vain. He bled to death.
Lewis expressed surprise at this version, maintaining that the female dentist drove the car of the badly wounded minister to the hospital in the effort to preserve his life after the bandits had shot him twice when the robbery attempt went sour.
The dentist factor
Questioned as to whether the dentist's state of mind would allowed her to drive the vehicle with a dying minister through the city streets to the St Joseph Mercy Hospital, Lewis stressed that she was medically trained and reoriented and most likely would have been focused. "I have experienced some medical exercises for short periods, and it would be rare that a medical person would panic under such circumstances."
Of Teekah himself, Lewis said: "He was a very affable man; pleasant, courteous and likeable."
He recalled when in his capacity as President of the University of Guyana Students Society he had invited Teekah to address the body at the Umana Yana, his brilliance was evident, and his discourse was well received by those who were privileged to hear him speak. "He was a gentleman," the former commissioner said. Who then would want to end the life of a gentleman so brutally?
A third observer, who prefers to remain anonymous, supports Majeed's theory that the crime scene was not Rahaman's Park. "Vincent Teekah was shot in a dentist's chair in the compound of the Guyana Defence Force. His near dead body was driven to the hospital by the American dentist who was conveyed out of the country the very next day," this observer said.
Speculation and rumours have continued to abound as no inquest was ever held; not by that government or any subsequent one.
Burnham's task was to tell the nation and the world that the young Teekah who had crossed the floor, forsaking his life-long idol Dr Cheddi Jagan to become Burnham's partner was dead. He also had to break the news to Jean Teekah, who had already suffered much in the world of politics after her father, the late Harrilall and her husband Vincent crossed the political divide.
There were also other reports of activities within the PNC on the night of October 24 after the slaying of Teekah. Observers believe that immediately following the gunning down of Teekah, it was felt that a radical opposition party had taken him out. Reports said several activists of the opposition Working People's Alliance were rounded up by security forces. It was also said that the Cuffy Brigade, made up of paramilitary loyalists and located aback of the then Cuffy Ideological Institute on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, was mobilized on the instructions of Burnham. As a result, there was a near clash between two powerful factions within the party's hierarchy.
The questions surrounding the life and death of Vincent Rambeer Teekah, born at Parika on the East Bank Essequibo and shot and killed somewhere in Georgetown may never be answered.