A 16-year-old miner was murdered in the Cuyuni Backdam early Saturday morning and his parents believe that his death is linked to his attempts to uplift wages due to him from his employer.
The body of Aubrey Benjamin, of Dog Point Bartica, was found with suspected stab wounds.
In a statement, police said Benjamin’s death is reported to have occurred at about 1am on Saturday, at Flower Creek, Cuyuni Backdam.
Benjamin’s body is currently at the Bartica Hospital mortuary awaiting an autopsy, while a team of police officers has been dispatched to the Cuyuni Backdam area to conduct investigations, police said.
Benjamin’s stepfather, Shafeek (only name given) told Stabroek News last evening that he and the boy’s mother, Annie Benjamin, learnt that he was stabbed and chopped during an exchange of words with his boss, a Brazilian national, at a shop at Flower Creek.
Shafeek said that it was the second employer the boy had been working with since he departed for the ‘backdams.’ His stepson, he added, had problems getting his payments.
“He called and told us he was awaiting his money before he come out,” the man said. “This is the second Brazilian he working with who don’t want to pay him. He work with a [Brazilian] and he owe he six ounces of gold and didn’t want to pay, so he go with this one and he work six weeks and he too don’t want pay he,” added Shafeek.
He said that Benjamin called his mother a few days ago and told her he was waiting on his wages and he would soon be home to see her and his four siblings.
However, the next call received from Flower Creek was to inform Benjamin’s mother to expect his body as he had been stabbed and chopped over an argument for money. He said that the two men had had a prior altercation where the police was called in but nothing came out of that matter.
“They take advantage because he young and small frame… that is how them [Brazilian] miners is treat Guyanese if you can’t stand up to them. They run right over you and he new to this thing, so that is exactly what happen to him,” Shafeek said.
Medical personnel at Bartica told Stabroek News that Benjamin had a stab wound to his upper chest and a huge chop to his side. They opined that it was the chop that was fatal.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the incident, the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation President Simona Broomes said that it brings to light the fact that there are many incidences of child labour, especially in Guyana’s interior. “I am saddened by this incident but this is just one of the hundreds of cases of child labour in mining districts. When someone dies, it is highlighted by the press and everyone comes out to say something but a few days after nothing comes out of it,” said Broomes.
“I hope there is a thorough investigation into this matter but at the same time there are measures in place, so that the system provided to protected them do something and put measures in place so that when young men leave school they have something and are not forced to go to the backdams to work,” she said.
“How many more have to die before we realize that child labour is an issue in mining areas and we do something really to tackle it?” Broomes questioned.
Child labour is also a serious problem in the fishing industry. A number of teens have died in recent years on boats at sea.