The story of Michael Jules aka ‘Porridge Man’

Dear Editor,

Many of my friends and acquaintances have called to inquire about the incident Freddy Kissoon has repeatedly mentioned in his Kaieteur News column over the last few years on my commitment to raise public awareness on extra-judicial killings, the latest being on January 12.  I think that there should be some clarification on what transpired back then in 1990. The central figure in the tragedy was Michael Jules aka ‘Porridge Man’ who was a marijuana trafficker residing in Rasville. Some time before this incident I shall relate, Porridge Man had escaped from a police patrol while in custody. I should include that he had fathered children with my cousin, we had known each other and were friends for years, but had developed a coldness as a result of my taking obvious sides in a family dispute between the couple. The incident as it was related to me hours after it occurred is as follows:

Porridge Man was at the Rasville residence with the mother of his children when four policemen crept up to the residence led by Leon Fraser; they apprehended both Porridge Man and his reputed wife at gunpoint at the entrance of the small cottage he had built. Leon Fraser took them back into the house on the pretext of conducting a search. Michael ‘Porridge’ knelt to carry out Fraser’s order to open the travelling bags visible under the bed and his wife said that a transparent plastic bag that contained money, jewellery and ganja was exposed. While emptying the bag, Fraser immediately demanded the plastic bag, but Michael hesitated. Two policemen well known to ‘Porridge Man’ and my relatives shouted to Fraser, “E’s a soldier, e gon try something, shoot e,” and Fraser shot Michael Jules behind the head and took the money. His wife was wearing gold jingles and they were taken off her hands by another member of the gang of four, so was a chain that belonged to one of the children. She was taken to Eve Leary and held in custody.

When I went to the Quick Reaction Group base, I met a member of that squad who I did not know was part of the ‘Four’ at the time, I knew this policeman and his entire family well, so I told him why I was there, and he responded mumbling something about how Porridge Man had a gun and had fired at them. I was taken aback, but my immediate concern was to get my cousin released as this policeman had told me that they had found nothing incriminating on the premises.

He brought Leon Fraser to me; Fraser was not hostile but he was agitated. However he promised the immediate release of my cousin. I departed for the Chronicle where I had a contract and my relatives  waited for my cousin. Hours later from the Chronicle I would head for my former residence in West Ruimveldt to hear the gruesome details I detailed above. For those who today think that this was a fabrication, after hearing my cousin’s story I returned to the Chronicle, discussed the details with the Sunday Editor and other colleagues and the above narrative was documented in several copies and I gave a copy immediately to the Editor, Mr Adam Harris.

Adam sent a copy to the then Commissioner, Mr Ragubir, and a copy to the then Office of the President after he had interviewed my cousin. I knew this was done because the policeman I knew well saw me  early the following day at Bourda Market and said that after all he had done to get my cousin released I was now trying to get them fired, and he had a family.

I reminded him that he had just left five juvenile members of my family without a father; I told him that if he had told me what he had done, I would have told him to expect my ingratitude up front. He informed me that Porridge Man should have paid Fraser his dues like everyone else. I also learnt that it was two Tiger Bay New Market Street ganja sellers who earlier that week had been arrested who had complained about being shaken down and why Porridge was paying nothing. Fraser took Porridge Man’s gold band to an Alexander Village goldsmith. I approached him and he told me to get off  his premises.  I was sent to Police Complaints to speak to Retired Judge Fung-a-Fat. I took my cousin. I also went to the Office of the President where I was given the runaround by a particular official until a female employee pointed me to an office of President Desmond Hoyte across the road. There I presented a document to a secretary and was invited in for a discussion. I was told that my cousin was the only legitimate witness and I should follow the procedure of the Police Complaints Authority and I would receive legal closure to this matter.

The then Crime Chief Mr Chester conducted the investigation, visiting Rasville, etc. I was reliably told that he had recommended that Fraser’s approach to policing bordered on the criminal.

It was during this part of the process that I met Freddy, whom I knew well, and told him about the incident. He made some political suggestions; I can remember telling him let’s see what happens with what I was doing then. However, to my memory I did not mention my conversation with President Hoyte. But I was eager to try Freddy’s suggestions if the system failed. During this time I would get a regular ‘protection pass’ of my residence by the QRG and get some unfriendly faces, so when Freddy came to my home and was asked by my wife “if he wanted to get me killed” she already knew of our conversation and had her fears because I was doing this on my own at that time. The case was never made because my cousin left the country illegally and was later legalized in another country and has never returned.

The difference with the system then to what came later under the PPP was that then within a year of the incident all the guilty ‘Four’ were out of the GPF along with others. The PPP never responded to public outcry, in fact they recruited the misfits and rewarded them. That is why today, in 2009, I stand disgusted to see Steve Merai promoted. Fraser was brought back by the current administration. Given the murder of Shaka Blair and others, the Quick Reaction Group and the politicized Target Special Squad were ugly aberrations, creatures unleashed by the lazy authorities.

The current methods of imported ‘Belfast’ type torture are also shortcuts to substitute the use of the intellect, and coupled with questionable dishonest procedures for instituting charges and remanding citizens, and with the Lindo Creek killings in mind, public confidence in the justice administered under this political authority has been erased.

My friend Freddy can also recall that I predicted some days after the 1992 elections, that the PPP would ruin Guyana, contrary to his then beliefs. I provided the social, anthropological and political-philosophical reasons why they would bring Guyana to the deplorable state it is in today.

I must credit Freddy through our discussions back then, of being one of the persons who motivated me to give serious attention to researching local politics, a side interest I have never regretted.

Through a friend back then who repaired my bicycle in Alexander Street, I was urged to meet Leon Fraser. He showed me a memo with names on it, a few of which were underlined with red ink; those, he indicated, were to die. He told me about a case where they brought in two suspects and a former senior officer asked them why he had brought them in since he was told, “They are disposable.” They took them on the seawalls further up towards the jetty and executed them. I asked him why he did it; he never replied. This is only the tip of the iceberg from what I learnt later about the disturbed personalities and troubled backgrounds of some members of those police groups. I can only summarize it by saying that the system had captured troubled unbalanced personalities and created soulless mass murderers out of them.

Yours faithfully,
Barrington Braithwaite

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