Canada was ready and willing to assist Guyana with its investigations into the April 22, 2006 slaying of Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh, his siblings and a security guard but government never made a request.
According to two letters seen by this newspaper—one from the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister and the other from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)—interest was shown in the case but the Guyana Government never gave a positive response.
Sawh’s brother-in-law Bob Persaud who lost his wife Phulmattie Persaud called ‘Julie,’ in the chilling attack had written to the Canadian government for help to “put this matter to rest”. He finally got a response this year. Minister Sawh was a Canadian citizen but returned home in 1992 after he was called to be part of the PPP/C government.
A letter from Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon to Persaud dated January 4, 2011, stated that in the weeks following the incident “Canada made known its expectations regarding the case to Guyanese officials”. The letter said the High Commissioner of Canada met President Bharrat Jagdeo on April 28, 2006 requesting a thorough investigation to be undertaken. Later on
May 1, 2006, it said, a diplomatic note was sent to Guyanese officials reaffirming Canada’s interest in the case. The letter noted that while the Canadian government couldn’t intervene in legal proceedings in other countries, it could be assured that Canadian officials followed the developments of local investigations.
Cannon noted in the letter that matters related to the involvement of Canadian officials in criminal investigations abroad fall under the RCMP and that a copy of Persaud’s letter to him had been forwarded to the Minister of Public Safety who is also responsible for RCMP.
Months later, Persaud received his second letter from RCMP’s Head Vic Toews dated June 28, 2011. Toews, after apologizing for the delayed response, expressed his condolences.
The rest of the letter in its entirety is as follows: “Let me assure you that the death of Canadians abroad under such circumstances is always a concern to the Canadian government. When a criminal act involving Canadians is committed in another county it is the responsibility of the police service of that jurisdiction to investigate. As a member of Interpol, the RCMP responds to request for information and conducts criminal record checks. In addition if a request for assistance from Guyana is received the RCMP will provide assistance to international law enforcement agencies particularly when a crime involves Canadians or Canadian interests.”
Persaud, after reading the letters to this newspaper recently, expressed surprise that no request was made especially since Sawh was a Canadian.
“Canada was willing to help and they refused it,” the very upset man told this newspaper during the interview.
Recently, it was revealed in secret diplomatic cables released via WikiLeaks that former US Ambassador Roland Bullen had said that he had been told that requests for assistance had also been made to Canada and the UK. However, he said that from discussions, senior security officials were unaware of these requests. Bullen said too that then Minister of Home Affairs, Gail Teixeira; Police Commissioner, Winston Felix and Army Chief of Staff, Edwards Collins, were ignorant of these requests for help.
Around 12.15 am on that day seven masked gunmen dressed in military fatigues invaded the minister’s LBI home and riddled him, his two siblings and Security Guard Curtis Robertson with bullets.
Reports were that the minister’s wife Sattie and his brother Omprakash Sawh were in the kitchen when they saw a masked gunman looking at them through a window. Sattie had said that she alerted the minister who was in his hammock on the veranda, but before he could escape to safety, he was riddled with shots. He collapsed just inside his front door.
Sawh’s brother Omprakash hid his sister Phulmattie Persaud underneath a bed, but the gunmen found her and after dragging her out shot her in the face.
The gunmen then turned their weapons on the minister again and at the same time placed Omprakash on top of another brother Rajpat Sawh to execute them both. Omprakash said he begged the men for his sister’s life and gave them $23,000, a digital camera and a watch. He said he and his brother were praying for their lives, but before the gunmen left they fired another shot at them killing Rajpat.
Omprakash and security guards Albert Mangra and Aga Khan were injured.
Murder not a threat to democracy
Persaud dispelled government’s statements to the US that Sawh’s murder was the greatest threat to democracy. The upset man said that that statement was not a genuine one.
“The government is in cahoots with the criminals. They are the ones destroying the democracy…. The greatest threat is the corrupt government officials, the police, the army and civil servants. That is the threat to society…,” he said.
He said his dead brother-in-law was a victim of the bribery and corruption in Guyana.
“The democracy is a joke. I told government people that the only form of democracy is going to the polls,” he said adding that the government was never serious about getting to the bottom of the slayings.
According to Persaud, a lot of security experts have said that “the investigation was upside down”. He pointed out that professionals were involved and the police should have been looking for the person/s who organised the killings.
“Those gunmen were just hired guns and there must be somebody higher and influential behind these killings and that/those person/s could be friends or associates of the current government. We don’t know that for sure but we believe that is so,” he said.
He said there must be a reason why the government was so reluctant to pursue the case in a professional manner. “This is another cover up. They are pretending to be concerned about democracy just as how they were determined to eliminate the suspected killers of Sawh but failed to investigate who put the gunmen up to this,” he stated.
The Roger Khan link
According to the leaked cables, Roger Khan was cited as a possible suspect. A forest concession that Khan was on the verge of acquiring in the south of the country was withdrawn while Sawh was minister with responsibility for forestry.
Persaud had made attempts to visit Khan at the US jail where he is currently serving a 15-year sentence and to extract information about the “hit list.”
He told this newspaper that he managed to speak to the prosecutor in Khan’s case earlier this year about the situation and “he said that he couldn’t help me to see him [Khan]”.
He, according to Persaud also said that because of the prosecution, the US could not release much information. He said when he mentioned Roger Khan to the prosecutor his words were: “He is a bad, bad man.”
Persaud pointed to Khan’s alliance to the government, explaining that when he was caught with the wire tapping machine no proper charges were laid. “If the US government did not put pressure on them [the government] to issue a wanted bulletin for Roger Khan, he could have still been walking the streets of Guyana”.
As for other relatives, he said “they are coping and are still taken aback by the incident to this date. They are still in shock and awe as to what happened”.