The police have a responsibility to find Martin Persaud’s killers

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to your front page story on the slain pastor (SN, August 2).  It is reported that the police believe it may be an revenge killing. It should be solved.  As a media person in the US, I am familiar with the name Motielall (Martin) Persaud (called ‘Papo’) through media reports when he confessed to murdering his wife around 1986.

I recall since 1977 Martin (Papo) used to come to Mt Eden Park at 172nd Street near the Grand Concourse to play cricket and volleyball with Guyanese.  Mt Eden Park was a place of gathering for Indian-Guyanese on weekends, especially on Sundays for picnics and barbeques as well as sporting activities. Martin was a fine cricketer.  He could bat and bowl. According to friends, he was an excellent stroke player, a hard hitter, and a good catcher.

Martin lived in the Bronx at 161 Street and Walton Avenue in a building packed with Indian-Guyanese.  I lived on 163 Street for more than six years and used the subway stop at 161 Street, Yankee Stadium to travel to and from college or work.  So I was familiar with activities in the area.

I remember Martin hanging out with friends on the hill at the park on Grand Concourse opposite the Court House on 161 Street. We used to gather there during the late ’70s and into the 1980s playing cricket and jogging. The site was a hotbed for political discussion with my colleagues Vassan Ramracha and Baytoram Ramharack. Political discussions irritated Guyanese for they did not want to be reminded about Guyana which they said they wanted nothing to do with again:  “We live in America now.  Forget about Guyana.” They did not assist in the anti-dictatorial struggle. But when democracy was restored, they all went back home to reclaim property and for a vacation.

I remember media reports on the Motielall Persaud murder quite well because I discussed it with Mr Ravi Dev in 1986 when we used to meet regularly in front of the NY Public Library on 42nd Street. Also, at the time of the killing, Mr Vishnu Bandhu used to publish a newspaper, Caribbean Expo Awake and I used to pen the community news.  Martin’s killing of his wife made headline news and I wrote about it for community papers.  Guyanese hardly made news in those days in America.

The murder took people by surprise. Martin was a decent guy, according to his friends. He was a very polite, gentle guy with good skills. Unfortunately, in a fit of rage he killed his wife from whom he was separated at the time. He later pleaded guilty to the crime. He was sentenced to 15 years at Ossining Prison and was released and deported to his native country after serving
12 years for good behaviour. The incident happened in the garment district. Martin was an expert cutter – operating a machine that could cut a few hundred pieces of dress or pants’ length at
a clip. Martin was bright and may have done well at GCE.  He came to the US around age 17.

Martin studied and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in state prison, and later became a Maths teacher. He served time with another Guyanese from the Essequibo Coast who taught English.

As teachers, both Martin and his countryman achieved a measure of respect from the other inmates and were accorded certain privileges by the prison warders, which surely would have lightened their burden of serving prison time.

Martin was wrong to kill his wife and paid for his crime by serving 12 years in

prison. And yes, while his redemption cannot bring the life he took  – and my support goes to

that family who lost a beautiful woman – Martin sought forgiveness and redemption.

Since returning to Guyana, he has lived a decent life. One of Martin’s old buddies from the New York area, John Persaud said he visited him in the summer of 2010 in his home village of Bush Lot. John reported that Martin, now remarried with one child had been successful in building a new life, operating a rice farm and an internet café, raising ducks and fowls, as well as serving as deputy pastor for an Assemblies of God church. Martin was well respected in his village community, John says, with almost everyone addressing him as “Brother Martin.” According to John, Martin experienced a genuine spiritual conversion, not a “prison conversion.” Martin

did not drink or smoke. He read the bible and contemplated how to give meaning to particular scriptures on a daily basis.

He had paid his debt to society and was fully redeemed. Why, would anyone want to avenge the killing of his long dead ex-wife 25 years ago? Another murder to avenge for an earlier one takes us back to the mediaeval age. The police have a responsibility to find Martin’s killers. Every angle of this murder should be investigated. The knife-stabbing killers must be tracked down. We cannot have people running around killing others.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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