The PPP/C will support an inquest into the 2006 assassination of former Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh, his siblings and his security guard, according to former President Bharrat Jagdeo who said that the killers behind the brutal crime are known to both him and the police.
“The police told me they knew who the killers were and they do have statements from a few people and I hope those statements have not disappeared. So the police have statements from people who were part of that gang”, Jagdeo said at a press conference on Wednesday.
President David Granger recently said that he has been approached by a blood relative of Sawh who has asked that the case be re-opened. The president has expressed his willingness to do so.
Many years after the heinous crime, fingers are still being pointed at the then PPP/C government for failing to ensure that the murders were investigated. Sawh was a member of the then PPP/C government and also had strong ties with the party.
Calls from at least one relative to investigate who was behind the crime so that the family could get closure fell on deaf ears. There is some suspicion that self-confessed drug trafficker Roger Khan who is currently serving a sentence in a US jail had a hand in the killings.
Asked whether the PPP/C had sought any overseas help in finding the authors of the crime as was promised, Jagdeo in response said “I don’t recall all the details but no we did not get the kind of help that we wanted”.
This response is different from what Sawh’s brother-in-law Bob Persaud had told Stabroek News and from the documents this newspaper had seen back then. Persaud who lost his wife as a result of the attack had vowed that he would continue to pursue the case until he got answers and had heavily criticized the PPP/C for failing to ensure the crime was properly investigated.
In 2011 this newspaper saw two letters which showed that Canada was ready and willing to assist Guyana with its investigations into the murder but that government had never made a request.
Sawh, a Canadian citizen returned to Guyana with his wife and children after being called home in 1992 when the PPP/C took office.
According to the letters —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.
Persaud had written to the Canadian government for help to “put this matter to rest”. He finally got a response in 2011. A letter from then 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 Jagdeo on April 28, 2006 requesting that a thorough investigation 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.
Persaud, after sharing the contents of the letter with Stabroek News expressed surprise that no request was made especially since Sawh was a Canadian.
“Canada was willing to help and they refused it,” the upset man said.
Just before this newspaper was furnished with this information, it was disclosed 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.
Granger last week during a special edition of “The Public Interest” lashed out at the then government for not holding an inquest into the crime.
Noting that he had been approached by the relatives of Sawh, he said that “they (the relatives) are quite baffled that the government to which he belonged did not even hold an inquest”.
He was at the time being asked about government’s reopening of unsolved murders which had occurred during the crime spree period. He said that he had been approached by “one or two families” including Sawh’s.
“Unfortunately as you know there was a spate of killings, executions and many people who might have been witness to those crimes have been killed …might be reluctant to give evidence because they feel that if they give evidence they will still be killed by persons who were around in those times” he said.
He said that government has not actually conducted any formal commission of inquiry…we have been engaged in short term commissions for example the prison service or CANU but in due course we will initiate investigations”.
He said that since so many people had been killed his first commitment “is to assure the relatives that the deaths of their loved ones will not go uninvestigated”.
Asked specifically about being approached by Sawh’s family, he said that he was approached by “a blood relative and I will be committed to having that crime investigated”.
Jagdeo on Wednesday expressed hope that the statements taken by the police back then will be used if any inquest is done.
“For us we were clear from what the police told us…who killed”, he said adding that the PPP/C has no problem with an inquest being held.
“We will support the inquest but I expect that the police would present all of those statements that they have”, he stated.
Around 12.15 am on April 22, 2006 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 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 Rajpat to kill 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. Robertson also died.
Three other persons were injured: Omprakash Sawh, 53, another brother of the Minister who resides overseas, and security guards Albert Mangra and Aga Khan.
Jermaine ‘Skinny’ Charles who was killed along with Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins during a shoot-out with the joint services and David Leander called ‘Biscuit’ who died were charged with the murders. Though they are dead, police officials had assured that the case was open and investigations were continuing.
Then Crime Chief Seelall Persaud however had told Stabroek News that the case was closed and would only be reopened when new information surfaces. He said that the closing of the case signaled a suspension of investigations until new information comes to hand. He did not deny that there may have been more persons engaged in the murders but pointed out that nvestigations are done based on the availability of information.