Remembrance of killing of sugar workers in 1913 was an initiative by Canje residents

Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter on page 7 of your March 15, 2014, edition of the Stabroek News by Mr. Charrandas Persaud under the heading `PPP/C should not use non-political occasions for political campaigning’ and crave your indulgence to allow me to correct some misleading statements contained therein.

On March 13, 1913, 15 sugar workers of Rose Hall Estate, mostly indentured labourers, were shot and killed by the Colonial Police and buried in a mass grave at Canefield, Canje; that cemetery was closed in 1957 and overtaken by large trees.

Last year, a few residents of Canje, including Dr. Fred Sukhdeo, whose grandfather was one of those killed, thought of commemorating the 100th anniversary of their deaths. The Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports, Regional Administration, Region 6, and Management of Rose Hall Estate, were approached and the response was positive from all.

The cemetery was graded and levelled and on March 17, 2013, a commemoration was held. Residents formed the Canje Community Development Association (CCDA) and have applied to the Registrar of Friendly Societies to be registered. One of the objects of the Association is to commemorate/celebrate past and present events of Canje. The death of the 15 and the death by accident of seven workers of the Estate on January 13, 1970, are two such events.

With that background I wish to treat with the letter by Mr. Charrandas.

He stated that in attendance were persons who were bussed in from all parts of the country as well as innocent school children who were, at the last minute, taken to listen to the circumstances surrounding the death of sugar workers.

Mr. Charrandas is being dishonest. The government had no part in the mobilisation. No one was bussed in, almost all the persons present were from East and West Canje. Mr. Charrandas has insulted members of the C.C.D.A. who worked tirelessly to mobilise Canjeians to attend. I personally paid to have flyers printed, we later, on request, got some from the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports. We wanted Canjeians to know their history.

Another misleading statement; school children were not taken there at the last minute. We invited the schools, including NATI to send the students as we wanted them to learn of the incident as it is not well known.

He said the programme was aired on NCN. We are happy, and wish to thank, not only NCN, but also LRTV Channel 10 and DTV Channel 8, for not only covering the event but for advertising it free of cost.

He said the PPP/C should not have used the occasion for political campaigning. There was no campaigning. His Excellency the President did speak about the AML/CFT Bill and the Hydro Project. As President he ought to use every opportunity to report to the citizens on his stewardship and constraints affecting him, and that is what he did.

The President did not try to get cheap political mileage but Mr. Charrandas by his letter of untruths is trying to get that. Mr Evan Radhay Persaud who he mentioned spoke at the ceremony.

Instead of insulting the memory of the 15 slain workers, Mr. Charrandas should have joined my call for the Police to rectify their records to reflect the true facts. In my presentation I said that the police records, as narrated by Assistant Commissioner of Police, John Campbell in his book – ‘History of Policing in Guyana’, written in 1987, is, as stated at page 101 – “on 13th March, 1913, a determined attack was made on the police at Plantation Rose Hall, Canje, by hundreds of armed East Indians Strikers. Corporal 1546 Ramsey was killed when he attempted to arrest a man named Ganga, and several constables were wounded. The police in self-protection fired on the infuriated attackers killing 15 of them.”

I said that the strikers were not armed, they had no guns, they did not attack the police and they definitely did not kill Ramsey.

Eyewitnesses, including Mr. Joseph Bennett, a former police, stated that the Police Chief, Colonel DeRinzy, fired a shot in the direction of CpI. Ramsey. Examination of the body of CpI. Ramsey revealed a bullet wound in the skull which the bullet used by Col. DeRinzy fitted.

Corporal Ramsey was not the villain but a victim of the machinations of Colonel DeRinzy, who was described by that great Guyanese patriot, Dr. Walter Rodney, as one who was to achieve long- lasting notoriety as a trigger-happy police officer. Col. DeRinzy deliberately killed CpI. Ramsey to incense the mostly African police, and used the falling of CpI. Ramsey, to give the order to shoot the strikers.

I trust that the Police Force would verify and correct their records.


Yours faithfully,
M. Akeel

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