Prison Officer Odinga Wain Wickham, who was slain in the line of duty during the July 9th 2017 Camp Street Prison fire and jailbreak, will be buried next week Tuesday , his mother Annette says.
Wickham, who was shot five times, died as a result of haemorrhagic shock and multiple organ damage, his autopsy revealed. He was shot thrice in the stomach, once to his left hand and once in his buttocks.
The 33-year-old Ann’s Grove, East Coast of Demerara resident will be buried in his hometown following a military funeral.
But Wickham’s mother said on Tuesday that she is yet to see or hear from any official of the prison service or the Ministry of Public Security and it was she who had to ask the secretary of Prison Director Gladwin Samuels if her son could be given military burial rites.
“I am talking to you here one week after and I have not seen anyone from the ministry or Mr. Samuels or anyone from prison to tell me anything. I have been going to the prison office and Ms. Thomas and Ms. Roberts have been giving all the support possible. I told Mr. Samuels’s secretary that I needed a military funeral for my son and she talk to whoever and told me ok,” Annette said.
“I know I live far and all of that but this is how you will treat me? Just like how you can pick up the phone and call me them big ones can do the same thing. It means something…it shows that you care about my child and his life was worth something. I am human too…,” she told Stabroek News.
Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally had visited Wickham’s mother the day after he was killed. No other official has since followed suit.
Asked if a compensatory package was discussed with her by Samuels’ secretary or the Prison Welfare person she spoke with, Annette said no and added that she only heard, through persons who would have read or gleaned through media, that a $1M compensation package would be asked for by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan.
Ramjattan told the press last week that he will lobby Cabinet for Wickham’s family to get $1 million but because of the state of Government’s finances he does not think more monies could be added.
Currently, the sum of $1 million is given to the families of police killed in the line of duty.
“Look, we have an ex gratia payment of $1 million to policemen that die in the line of duty and I think a very meritorious case can be made here for prison officer Wickham to be paid that amount too,” Ramjattan said when asked about benefits for Wickham. “I will pursue with Cabinet to give the family members that,” he added.
The decision to give the family of ranks slain in the line of duty a $1 million payout was initiated under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration over ten years ago.
Observers have pointed out that the sum should be revised, taking into account the change in the value of the dollar.
Asked if a higher figure would be looked at, Ramjattan was doubtful. “I don’t think so because of the state of our finances,” he said. Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels told Stabroek News on Tuesday that in addition to “normal benefits, we would also ask for a substantial package to his family.” He said that believes that his request would be honoured by the government.
Samuels had earlier paid tribute to Wickham and lamented the many dangers prison officers face on a daily basis. He said that it was a tough job and he was forever grateful to the men and many women who join the GPS and serve with honour.
While Wickham’s mother said that her interest now was not in compensation but ensuring the elder of her two children is buried, she hopes that government will revisit the $1M sum and take into account her granddaughter who starts nursery school in September.
“It is not to sound ungrateful or anything but be real. If you give a $1M payout, it may sound a lot to some persons, but that money will be finished in no time and he still has a daughter to grow up and go to school. Who will take care of her? Are they saying his life is worth $200,000 per gunshot, because he take five? My son, and you can ask anybody here in this village, he had so many plans. He promised his brother if he do well at common entrance he will help put him through secondary school and the boy got a place at President’s College. Every month he would give me something and at times he would tell me how hard I work to take care of them,” Annette lamented.
“I am praying and hoping because it is not easy. I hope the government in their heart and in their own time look and do what is right. To their own selves they should know what is what… If they say ‘This is the package we have for you but every month we will do so so so’ that won’t be bad. Look, God sees everything and knows that I worked hard hard for children so that they won’t have to work as hard as me. I am a praying mother and prayers work miracles so I will wait and see,” she added. According to Annette, the funeral programme for her son would be very long and as such the church service has to start promptly at 2 pm on Tuesday. She said that there would be a brief viewing at Lyken’s Funeral Chapel 11 am to 11.45 and thence to her Lot 63 Ann’s Grove home for another brief viewing. Wickham’s body will then be taken to the Ann’s Grove Methodist Church for the funeral service.