Jagdeo willing to participate in inquiry into ‘Sash’ Sawh murder

Even though the police have definitively identified the killers of former Agriculture Minister Satyadeow ‘Sash’ Sawh, former president Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday maintained his willingness to participate in an inquiry if one is ever held.

He reiterated that he would prefer that this be part of a wider inquiry into all the killings that occurred around that time and that there must be collaboration between government and the opposition.

Speaking at his weekly press conference, he defended why no Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was held by the then PPP/C government, saying that the killers were identified.

“The police discovered who the killers where. The police knew who the killers where,” he said.

Asked if he is satisfied that the police’s assumption is correct, he said, “I can’t second guess. Every time you ask politicians to say that their assumption must prevail over an investigation by the police force, we are in for trouble because you start influencing operational outcomes.” He made it clear that he had “briefings” about this particular investigation and the evidence discovered, which would have led to them definitively identifying the killers.

Around 12.15 am on April 22nd, 2006, seven masked gunmen dressed in military fatigues invaded the Minister’s La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara home and riddled him, his two siblings and security guard Curtis Robertson with bullets. Three other persons were injured: Omprakash Sawh, 53, another brother of the Minister who resides overseas, and security guards Albert Mangra and Aga Khan.

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 another brother, Rajpat Rai Saw, 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.

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.

Then Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had told Stabroek News that the case was closed and would only be reopened when new information surfaces. He had said that the closing of the case signaled a suspension of investigations until new information came to hand. He did not deny that there may have been more persons engaged in the murders but pointed out that investigations are done based on the availability of information

“I was satisfied that the evidence that they had was accurate so there is nothing preventing President Granger from moving forward with that (a CoI) but I would like to see …a comprehensive CoI covering the entire period and all the activities…including the killing of minister Sawh,” Jagdeo said.

Asked if he was willing to participate, he responded in the affirmative. “…We would…support a Commission of Inquiry into everything. The entire period. Not just [a] particular period but the entire period when the five bandits with political support went on a crime spree across Guyana. I am prepared to support that.”

Jagdeo reminded that he has previously recommended that this be done by the opposition and government working together.

“Nobody can accuse the other side of trying to make political mileage out of it so we can jointly work on terms of reference if we want to know the truth. We can then jointly agree that …that commissioners will be chosen, who are credible and impartial and then we then we will all support the outcome of that commission of inquiry,” he added.

Following the February 23rd, 2002 Camp Street prison jailbreak, there was an unprecedented crime wave, with armed robberies and murders, including hits on police, reaching unprecedented levels across the country. Some kidnappings and high-profile murders were fueled in part by narco-trafficking and disputes between rival organisations, while Jagdeo’s government was accused of supporting the activities of a vigilante “phantom” death squad, led by convicted drug trafficker Roger Khan, targeting alleged criminals.  Three massacres—at Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek in 2008—also occurred during this period.

A CoI into the Lindo Creek killings was conducted earlier this year but the report has not yet been made public.

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