Five years on, physical wounds have healed for the survivors of the 2008 Lusignan Massacre but the memories remain and while some have forgiven the criminals who attacked the community that January night, it is not so easy for others.
Clarence Thomas, 48, his 12-year-old daughter, Vanessa Thomas and his son, Ron Thomas; Mohandai Gourdat, 32, and her two sons, four-year-old Seegobind Harrilall and ten-year-old Seegopaul Harrilall; 22-year-old Shazam Mohamed; 55-year-old Shaleem Baksh; Seecharran Rooplall, 56, his wife, Dhanrajie Ramsingh, 52, and their 11-year-old daughter, Raywattie Ramsingh were murdered during the early hours of January 26, 2008 when a gang of gunmen targeted five homes in Tract ‘A’ Lusignan Pasture shooting indiscriminately.
Last Friday, the dead were remembered in a moving ceremony organized by the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC). There was an outpouring of grief by all those who spoke on stage and after the formal event.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill and Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud represented government. Opposition Leader David Granger was represented by Region Four Chairman Clement Corlette but he did not speak at the event. The government officials had their say, theorizing about the motive behind the assault and praising Guyanese for not allowing tensions to boil over as a result of the massacre of the five children and six adults.
Speaking calmly and wearing a warm smile, Gomattie Thomas who lost her husband, a son and her only daughter – Clarence Thomas, 48, Ron Thomas, 11 and Vanessa Thomas- told Stabroek News that she has forgiven the killers although the memory of both the killing and her loved ones remain fresh. “You have to forgive, God says you forgive but you don’t forget. It is because of Jesus I can smile today. Sometimes the pain comes over me but I try to control it and call upon God and God gives me the strength to smile again”, Thomas said.
She explained that her Christian faith has helped her and by extension her sons to move on since the tragedy. An ardent member of the Lusignan Assemblies of God Church, she said that she was grateful to have the support of members when times get difficult and there is an outpouring of memories of her children and husband. She admitted that while she always wears a smile there are times when the pain is just too much. “Sometimes people see me smiling but they don’t know the pains I go though. Some days I cry but I thank God for bringing me through these five years”, she said.
Addressing attendees earlier, Thomas reflected on the gruesome discovery of her slain family members and her personal healing. “…I could remember seeing my children one of them his guts come out my husband and my daughter …But God has given me the strength…” she said.
Her son Roberto Thomas, now 10 years old, was shot to his abdomen and had been hospitalized for a long period with many doubting his recovery. Today the introverted 10-year-old chooses not to speak of the event but his older brother says that he is still traumatized.
Another brother, Howard Thomas, then 19-years-old, told this newspaper that five years after his physical wounds have healed, he is still tormented by the killings so much so that he has left home to live and work in the interior. He said that unlike his mother, and although he shares her Christian beliefs, he has not forgiven the killers and doubts he ever will. “That is her, she is like that…How can you forgive someone who killed your family? How? I can’t, I just can’t. I ain’t there yet and I ain’t think that coming soon,” he said as he shook his head.
“I don’t really think about it (the incident) and try to occupy my time working so I forget. I stay away far from home. But every time I look at the scars I remember and that is not something I could forgive anyone for. They kill out my family … I pray a lot that I come there but honestly I’m not there yet,” he added.
Howard Thomas spends most of his time away from home as he now works in mining in the interior. Seven months ago the 24-year-old had his first child, a son, to whom he plans to tell stories of the time spent with his grandfather Clarence, aunt Vanessa and uncle Ron before their lives were so violently snuffed out.