Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Camp Street Prison escapees: the Amelia’s ward shoot-out - another personal account
A collage of the picture post on Big Smith's Facebook page
Some of you may have read my last blog post about my recent trip to Guyana which was a personal account related to the Camp Street Prison fire and my brother being caught up in that tragedy. What follows is first an attempt to bring to attention and thereby clear up 'misconceptions' and 'misinterpretations' about my brother’s involvement in ‘harbouring’ the escapees Uree Varswyck and (Mark) Royden Williams. Second, in doing so I hope to make clear that some elements of the Guyanese media owe the public a much better duty of care to ethically report facts rather than perpetuate sensationalism that burden the collective Guyanese psyche with trash, violence and wanton disregard for the loss of human lives. It might best serve the reader to read the previous blog post as the two are linked and I won’t have space for repetition – this already will be like some kind of necessary sermon.
Friday 1st September - the phone call
I woke up that Friday morning acknowledging that since my return from Guyana I had been feeling distracted, unfocused, unsettled. I was aware my brother was due to appear in court on 6th September for the marijuana charge which had landed him in prison and subsequently caught up in the Camp Street Fire on July 9th and for which I had bailed him whilst there for the Diaspora Engagement Conference. I can’t say if this was the reason (at least not soley) for my feeling unsettled and distracted but I marked the feeling.
Later that morning my cousin called to say that there had been a shoot-out in Linden between the escaped ‘bandits’ and police; that this was on the news and on social media (Facebook); that it had taken place at my brother’s place in Amelia’s ward. It’s impossible to describe what went on in my body and my mind in that moment, so I’ll not try. My mother was in the room when we got the call. I was just about to go out, so advised my cousin to call back once he was able to confirm the ‘story.’ I was trying not to think my brother had lost his mind and had told the prisoners, with whom he’d been cooped up in the stink Camp Street Prison (as he’d described it), where he lived.
My cousin called back saying – ‘it’s true.’ He had seen the video, which by now had circulated on facebook, of my brother’s little house in Amelia’s Ward featured on a report by Travis Chase.
Some years ago I made a conscious decision to limit my use of expletives. But before I’d even seen the video and because my cousin would not make up or embellish a false report I went a little outer body with my curses. For those few hours, I thought my brother had lost it. He had over familiarised himself with the prisoners and for reasons only he could explain found compassion for them enough to offer them refuge when they made their way to his house. Had he planned it prior to his own release?
I had dared imagine if the thing was true that the escapees he was supposedly helping were those who had maybe fled from Lusignan, maybe ones imprisoned for minor charges as he had been. But when I heard that the escapee who had been shot was Uree Varswyck – the expletives turned to art as I unleashed my utter vexation and the anger that I’d be the one to have to tell my mother about the seriousness of the charge my brother would face.
My brother on the land in Amelia's ward
5118 Central Amelia’s ward and the blue and white house
A friend shared a news article of the shot Uree Varswyck which I now had to process was real, and that this shooting took place on a joint plot of land my brother and I bought over 20 years ago. At that time it was all bush and big trees. We were among the first people to be given land there. I was a student at the time, neither my brother or I had/have money to build on the land, but were told by the Housing officer (can’t recall his proper title) to make sure we built something ‘proper’ there because they’d earmarked that area as a front facing well-to-do street. He must have imagined we could do something ‘proper’ there as we were from ‘outside.’ In any case, we cleared it down, sprinkled our high wine and ting to hail up the land. We were helped by the very cousin (a young teenager then) who had called to let me know the extent of the story. We were proud that this was not inherited land that was tied up in historical disputes but our very own and finally transported (as of 2015). When I heard the story and realised that blood had been shed on this very spot my heart became heavy. Why of all the possible places in the whole of Guyana did this act play out on the land that we had bought? I was later reminded that Guyana in its most violent and negative expression is really what it is through blood shed and conquest. Somehow this little portion of land had come to share in the violence that proliferates, of course along with the sure signs of peace.
My brother’s house is the small blue and white cabin (really) that’s almost diagonal to where the Amelia’s Ward police outpost is located. The two are separated from direct view by bush and trees. It’s wooden, unlike other big houses that surround it, that are made from concrete. It was not meant to be a permanent residence but it’s my brother’s home, until such time that he’s able to build a different house there.
When I was finally able to watch the Travis Chase video wherein he was interviewing the Police Commander about the shooting, I thought I was in a nightmare. I watched as though entranced. Only weeks previously I had been to the house, the day I had paid my brother’s bail. It was the last time I saw my brother. The Commander responded to Chase’s questions with cool composure, he was careful, I observed, not to give too many details because clearly investigations were ongoing. But I watched, my stomach disappeared somewhere and heard him say that Uree Varswyck was shot and killed in an exchange of gun fire with the joint forces, that Royden Williams was there too but had again escaped, that they had taken a man in custody. He told Chase that investigation was ongoing about whether this man – who lived at the property, was involved in aiding the escapees. Royden Williams too? What? Had my brother lost it for real?
Then I watched, in silent anger, as Chase trampled around this ‘crime scene’ (!), scaled the cut out wire mesh fencing, landing no doubt where the dead body of Varswyck had earlier lain, trudging around to the back of the blue and white house, edging his camera into it to give viewers WHAT exactly. It didn’t seem, he said, almost under his breath that the escapees had been there for long, then he hopped back through the opening, turning his camera to a bag of tennis roll the escapees had allegedly dashed in the shootout. The back door to my brother’s home was left open all the while, his bicycle (now gone) was bracing against the house. Those who know this house and the Rasta who lives there would be left with the impression of his complicity in aiding the escapees. They were not alone, for I knew my brother knew these men from his Camp Street experience. I know my brother’s heart too. I wanted to believe that they might have forced him to aid them, he would have no choice. But a part of me felt that my brother would maybe have sympathy for them too. In truth I was thinking all kinda ****. Yet, there was a beacon, flimsy as it was, of hope. My brother’s name or image was not in the reports. There had to be a damn good reason why. A reason that yet might save him.
My brother in the times he wore blue robes outside his house
I had to tell mum
Like most working class and single mothers, my mum has been through a lot; her own experience documented in my book Mama Lou Tales. Each time she experiences a new tragedy, she would call her prayer friends at Unity (school of Christianity) to ‘uplift her in prayer,’ and she would grow stronger, spending every moment in prayer. She prayed for everyone, feeling that her children are not only biological.
It was after I had watched the Travis Chase video that I lugged my body into her bedroom and broke down. I couldn’t tell her actual words then, I just bawled, bawled as though my brother had died. And that was precisely what my mother most longed to find out – if my brother, her son was alive; she did the Guyanese lopsided questioning – ‘Orien is alive?’ to which I shook my head, yes. Then I persisted in bawling, finding it impossible to actually tell her that he was taken into custody. This she would learn when my tears were spent and I could speak.
A few hours passed between us consisting of varying emotions - ‘if that’s how my brother wants to play like he is big criminal there’s nothing we can do; that’s it’ – to me trying to find a defence that the system had to answer why someone would go to prison for a minor offence and end up facing a more severe one upon his release, albeit on bail. Had my brother himself, having associated with the hardened criminals become hardened? It wasn’t making sense. But this argument was running around my mind. He should have been released sooner if the system had worked as it should. He should not have been denied bail countless times, since 20th April. That is tantamount to victimisation, straining his emotions as well as putting a financial burden on his family. It was serving as some kind of pseudo punishment, psychological as well as physical. At least by now I had stopped cursing.
Mama Lou, her faith tested
My brave young cousin
He lives not far from my brother. He was the one who told us the story. He said he’d go to the house and find out what he could after the scene had been cleared of the numerous police. I was grateful to him from that moment. He said he walked by the house observed the numbers of police so didn’t push up himself to let them know he was related to my brother. In another world maybe, but in Guyana, he felt he didn’t want police to implicate him too.
On the Sunday his conscience stirred him and he made the decision to find out where my brother was being held. He kept thinking that there was no one else in the family that was going to find out. He had not too long seen my brother, who had just had his liberty, now he couldn’t believe he was experiencing this bitter fate. He learnt that they had my brother at Mckenzie station. He had not been given anything to eat since the early hours of Friday morning when they had taken him in. My cousin called to ask what he could give my brother to eat (being Rasta he knew this wasn’t any and anything). He took him food based on what I told him. He was told by one of the officers that my brother had been ‘cooking for the escapees’ and ‘charging their phones.’ Stones fell into my stomach. If that was true, I couldn’t see how, save mystics my brother would get out of this. They had told my cousin that my brother would have to appear in court the following day, Monday.
My cousin became braver by the minute. He went to my brother’s unsecured home to secure it. He noticed the bicycle had been taken. The back door was still open. He locked up the house. He said he wasn’t afraid of having walked on the spot where the dead man had been. I said ‘good’ for there was nothing to fear. I forgot to say earlier that this was the half of the joint plot of land that is mine. By now I had learnt that Uree Varswyck was also known as Michael Gordon, my birth name is Michelle Gordon, the name in which I had purchased the land. The spiritual and mystical/spiritual aspect of this human story was taking hold.
The following morning, my cousin called early. I could tell that like us, he had not really slept. His beautiful conscience was sparking, like the rising sun. He said he realised my brother would need clothes, toothbrush, yet more food. He’d go to the house and get clothes and toothbrush, then go into town to get food for him. This he did and made swift his movements to catch him in time before his court appearance. When he got to the station he was told that my brother would in fact not be going to court that day; that they didn’t know when he would be going to court. I knew that I had to get a good lawyer for my brother. I was confident he could represent himself for the Marijuana offence but this was serious and he needed credible representation. I hoped we could find a human rights lawyer (I was told there aren’t that many in Guyana) who might be sympathetic. A few inquiries led to Nigel Hughes, whom I contacted, my mind all the while trying to summon the money out of nowhere to pay for any lawyer. I had called one who was local to Linden. She had given me the name of another since she was representing someone else for the same offence. That lawyer’s name was Gordon Gilhuys, but I didn’t get in touch with him. The ‘Gordon’ name was throwing me in this by now providential narrative. I had asked the present lawyer who could speak with my brother, she said only a lawyer – they wouldn’t allow family to communicate with him because of the nature of the crime.
The BIG SMITH Facebook Post – ‘"PRIEST" WAS HARBOURING ESCAPEES’
Items allegedly recovered by police that the escapees had; this was one of the photos in the Big Smith post of facebook, which served to give the impression they were recovered from my brother's house.
My emotions were intensified with chest burns surfacing when I saw the facebook post by ‘Big Smith’ with the title ‘’Priest’ was harbouring escapees.’ There was a watermarked image of my brother on the post along with photos packaged in a way to verify the title and convince readers that my brother was guilty as per this social media facebook charge. His name – Linden Orin (incorrectly spelt) Gordon was printed. His address, which by now we knew (from Chase’s video) – 5118 Central Amelia’s Ward there too – actually here are the details (cut and pasted exactly) Big Smith posted about my brother and the case:
“Police sources have confirmed that a "Rasta Priest" Linden Orin Gordon, age 52 years a Rastrianfarian Priest of 5118 Central Amelia's Ward, Linden was ensuring that prison escapees Uree Varswyck and Mark Royden Durant/ Williams had everything they needed to make them comfortable while hiding from the law.”
I was astonished that this post was in circulation – with all my brother’s details big and bold on facebook for his friends, family and the larger Guyanese (local and in the diaspora) to see. Most of us aren’t discerning. What we see is what we believe. But something about this post stank. Why had no other report provided all this detail? The post was affirmative. The pictures, the words conclusive - my brother had colluded with the hardened criminals – was harbouring them. That is how it was deliberately constructed in this post. I contacted facebook to ask them to take it down. But they wouldn't because it wasn’t inciting violence, nor showing disrespect to women and so on. Against better judgment I read some of the comments:
‘Rastaman ... whuh yuh really deh pon big man? De fiyah gonna Bunn yo now dread’
‘A true Rasta don't mixed up in stuff like this’
'Rasta, like you been smoking High grade, if was cheap weeds you would have focus on the right ,to call the police to capture those criminals. Rasta, sorry meh brethren but them ahfee buss you dreadlocks.
‘He needs a fifty year sentence: let him die in prison…’
There were a few hearty ones:
‘Everything is in God 's hand this is not the time to blame anybody.'
'All we need to do is keep praying.’
Ok, so I shouldn’t have been reading these but I was all over the place emotionally. I contacted Big Smith privately to ask him to take down the post because the investigation was ongoing and nowhere else had my brother’s name and image been released. I said his post was sensationalising an already complex and sensational story. I inferred that he was doing this for likes and comments. I couldn't see how the post was accurate, especially if we were to believe the remarks by the official on Travis Chase's report. It would also be fantastic that my brother was providing the escapees with food like those presented in one of the pictures supposedly to ensure 'they had everything to make them comfortable.’ His response was that my ‘approach’ was ‘disrespectful’ as it affirmed he was positioning it for ‘likes’ and ‘comments’- he had never before nor would he now take instructions from anyone and especially in the manner in which I had approached him. I tried to appeal to some human element by saying that what he read in my ‘tone’ (his word) was ‘distress’ which the family were feeling from the post, especially my 85 year old mother; that though it was a ‘public interest’ story (his argument and reason for putting it out there) it was indeed sensational (the way he had packaged it/my interpretation) and it was also, I said to him a ‘human story.’ By this I meant broadly that as well as the perceived actors – the ‘Rasta Priest,’ the dead Uree Varswyck, the on the run escapee Royden Williams, all families (victims of their violence as well as theirs) and the Guyanese communities being impacted, as well as those others who were legitimately whether forcibly or not aiding the escapees - all were caught up in the violence, pain, hurt and grief.
Big Smith argued that the reason he alone had the image of my brother was that he sourced it before others, had watermarked it preventing other reporters from being able to use it. I want to say thank god for that, but I can’t. You see, if one surveys his page now, you’d see that of all the recent posts this one was shared 466 times. The one presently that has more shares (497) has pictures of a man – ‘bandit’ shot with bullet wound exposed and bloodied t-shirt beside him. Persistent images of violence made me stop reading the Guyana dailies as much as I once did. Now it is that Guyanese near and far, family, friend, and foe of my brother were instantly turned judge and jury. I felt cold inside, wondered how we’d come to this, but I must face the reality that for many of us this window to the world is all we have; this moment to shine is all we’ll ever experience. I share this experience in the hope that the many followers who followed and like Big Smith's page, who shared the post with their friends and followers will likewise share this post, which might go a small way in remedying the defamatory damage it solicited. It is true my brother is no saint but who would dare stand beside him and boldly declare him a sinner?
Big Smith's page is very popular with Guyanese home and abroad and recently reached this landmark
Its synonym is ‘coincidence.’ My brother would also call it a ‘fluke’ when I was finally able to speak with him. I knew that his word was the only one I’d believe about what went down that fateful Friday.
Over and over we kept playing it in our minds (my mum, best friend, my cousin), that if there was a ‘shoot out’ and my brother was aiding and abetting the escapees how was he not shot too. How was the house not shot at? Where was he when the ‘shoot out scene’ was taking place? Why had we not heard his name (other than a facebook post) in the official reports?
It was the same day, Wednesday last, and just over 72 hours of detention in the police station that myself and Big Smith were in a futile dispute about the defamatory post, which he refused to see as such since he had been swift to the scene, gathered (in the public interest) ‘facts’ that amounted to my brother’s collusion with the escapees. I woke up that morning and went into prayer. There had to be some reasonable explanation why the tragedy was at my mother’s heart, why my brother had just missed losing his life in the hail of bullets at his door step.
Though I had intended to pray foremost for my brother, words wandered first towards the dead ex-cop whose name ‘Michael’ was the male version of my own – its meaning – ‘one who is like God.’ I prayed for his spirit to rest in peace; after all, as my mother kept repeating, he was some mother’s child too. That he did not begin his life in the violent way it ended; I prayed that in death he’d find some kind of peace. I prayed too for the man on the run – Royden Williams. My spirit was tapping into what he must be going through – yes – he’s this big murderer, having the Bartica massacre (not massaccar as I saw it spelt on Big Smith’s post) on his head and for which certainly he will meet his own death soon. But I was praying for him to find peace with himself, after all he too is someone’s child (and also a child of Guyana), he too would be experiencing all kinds of emotions and perhaps somewhere inside himself repenting. And then, as though there had been a necessary twist in my heart I finally found a way to pray for my brother. I prayed that the truth of the matter would out itself without delay. It could not be otherwise. I called on all the forces, his guardians, our ancestors to work on his behalf.
When we were alone, and my mum marking only two (instead of the gathered three) we decided to pray together. I had been trying to prepare my mother for the worst outcome (though I didn't really know what that might look like entirely), hoping to spare her shock borne from the idealism that magically the case would flee. Mum, I’d said,’ Orien is going to do time for this.’ She wouldn’t have it. ‘Why?’ she asked. Because if he was ‘cooking for the prisoners and charging their phones’ I can’t see how he’d get off from that. She held her peace. She had not yet cried openly to me, I believe I saw tears spring on one occasion but they retracted without fully falling. After our praying energies were spent, we wanted to rest. Within the hour, however, I received a call from my cousin saying he would call me back to speak with my brother. What? Speak with my brother? And he did. But he actually put my brother on video call, from the police station, where I saw my brother’s bright face, beaming. ‘Don’t listen to what they say on Facebook,’ he said, ‘I wasn’t helping dem man, it was fluke, happenstance, I didn’t tell dem where I live…yoh mad.’ I was struggling to believe I was really speaking to him. Seeing him. He was handcuffed, in the process of signing a statement to the effect that the prisoners had indeed stopped at his home that night, but not by his design. He had not been harbouring them. And, my brother was shouting over the phone - ‘the boy who was shot, his father’s name was Orin Gordon.’ That caused a whole heap of confusion when they took him into the station. I didn’t know if my brother knew that the ‘boy’ as he called him was also called Michael Gordon. For now our two names (Michelle/Michael and Orien/Orin Gordon) were entangled in this unbelievable narrative.
I took the phone so my mum could see her son. Her cheeks elevated. He assured her there was nothing to worry about. He was chuckling his familiar easy-going chuckle. My smile must have been enormous too. When I told mum about the ‘coincidence’ of the boy’s father’s name being ‘Orin’ she was like WHAT? And this went round and round in her head, as she pondered if there might be some mystic connection indeed.
A short time after I received a message from Big Smith:
‘Ms Asantewa good afternoon. I did some consideration with respect to our conversation this morning via this platform and given much of what u would have said, i habe decided on a few course of action. First and foremost would be to extend an invitation to your brother to speak with me in relation that this issue if he so desires which would allow him an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions that myself and others may have or might have reported in relation to his arrest last week. Please feel free to respond or contact me on 6009747 or 6226730’
I elected not to respond. I would, however, attempt to write a comment on the post (it’s cut and pasted here, my typos too):
'My fellow Guyanese I have delayed commenting on this post and this is only a brief one because it has been disturbing me since seeing it last Friday. I wondered at some of the comments; whether any of those commenting took time to verify any part of this story; from the title - 'PRIEST' WAS HARBOURING ESCAPEES" to the BIG SMITH watermarked image of said 'Priest.' His name too was posted, photos carefully arranged to give you a perfect impression, one that frames the narrative of complicity against him - I wondered if this didn't seem staged. There were some humane considerations - some comments acknowledging that they 'know the priest' but the extreme condemnations citing that 'he is as bad as the escapees,' that he should 'die in prison' and so on leave me very concerned about the healthiness of the collective Guyanese mind. There has been no mention of the 'Priest's' name in the official news. There has been no release of any pictures of the man who police took into custody in pursuit of their investigation following the shoot out in Amelia's ward. Did no one of the many commentators on this 'platform' take time to consider whether this VERSION of the story was true? Was it perhaps enough that this tragedy was not presently at your door step, affecting your heart, causing distress to your family, especially your mother? The 85 year old, Mama Lou, my mother whilst praying for her son, the 'Priest' to be freed from the LIE of this situation also prayed for the soul of the Uree Varswyck (the shot escapee) to rest because it had clearly been tormented in this life time. Perhaps when he meets his maker, the certain and more righteous JUDGE he will find answers about why it was he lived and died through violence. And were you to learn that the 'Priest' DID NOT ENSURE THE ESCAPEES HAD EVERYTHING TO BE COMFORTABLE WHILE HIDING FROM THE LAW' would your heart ease up a little in its judgement without proof, without due diligence to the fact? I am so so sad that our lives are riddled with the need to point harsh fingers, rather than extend an arm to embrace. Were it so we might begin to see a different view from our window. I salute all those who took some time to temper their considerations about the 'Priest,' life has interesting ways of testing our faith, integrity and love.’
Big Smith bounced back:
‘Michelle Yaa Asantewa you would appreciate that we spoke extensively on this issue. I did among other things pointed out to you that I was the only journalist who managed to secure the photo of this gentleman (the priest) and that is why he was only published here. I further pointed out to you that is it not common practice for media house/journalists to use on their medium, an image which is already watermarked like in the case if the "priest". I am a bit taken aback with your assertion that this might have been staged because of the layout of the images on this page. It was not state. At the time I posted these images, all other images except the one with your brother was already out there. At the time of me posting this, those images and incidents which unfolded in Linden (except the priest's image and his name etc) was old news so with me having updated information, which included the priest and his name etc, I decided to lead the story with that as the rest of information was already out there. I did not see you mentioned anything here about the priest being placed on bail pending legal advice which the police are awaiting.’
I am yet to perceive anything verging on compassion and acknowledgment that this post was every kind of wrong.
A picture of my brother as a young man my mum and I found as we prayed for him
Within the hour of seeing my brother on the WhatsApp video, my cousin shared a picture of him at home. He had been in the lock up over 72 hours. He was not charged because there was no evidence that he was harbouring the escapees. Yes, they had asked him for water – he gave them. Then pulled himself back into the house. They had guns. Yes, they had asked him to charge their phones, he complied. They had guns. He asked the officers at the station who questioned him, what they would have done in his position. What would any of us do? Sadly Big Smith’s source fed him information that again made him arrogantly sure that he was reporting facts. My brother was not ‘put on bail’ for this offence. Why would the police issue bail for such an offence when my brother had been denied bail for intending to sell 3 ounces of marijuana - a case still ongoing? I wished he'd thought through his response. I have nothing against Big Smith or any one trying to do our Guyanese society some kind of justice by bringing real life stories to the people. But I couldn't help but wonder where were the ethics and good practice taught him on his journalism course? I sincerely appeal to him and others to be more careful and considerate in their manner of reporting. To check, double check, verify and extend human compassion at all times if we are to ccollectively change the script of lawlessness and indecency permeating the Guyanese society - indeed our world. I feel a sense of shame and remorse that it is likely repeated several times over, without any serious effort to stop it. I couldn't help marking the lack of humanness in rushing to put out a ‘public interest’ piece without ensuring he had been correctly plied with the facts by his source, obviously from the police.
My cousin in selfie with my brother after his release
Faith and providence
He stood his ground because my brother was confident he knew his truth. He’d prayed as my mother had taught him words to affirm – that ‘only good can come.’ She was at the same time affirming those words and her favourite ‘leave it to God, - Divine Order.’ She kept saying that the boy came home to his father (Orien/Orin) to die. She saw my brother in his spiritual guise as the boy’s spiritual father since they shared the name. In the Amelia’s ward area my brother is known as a priest, some call him Moses. In the prison he’d cooked for Royden Williams, who ate ‘ital’ (no meat, no salt). They called my brother ‘blacksip’ (something to do with the nature of the ital food he prepared). I always see him as a bird – though never always free – like those pet ones he has in cages. He remarked that there were no bullets fired at his house because the police were being careful to contain the incidence of misadventure by wildly shooting.
The night of the shoot out
My brother was in the house. He heard a car stop sharp outside. He came out and saw his fence being scaled by the escapees (then he didn't know who it was). He asked who was trespassing into his property. ‘Rastaman we don’t want any trouble,’ came back the reply. They had moved round the back of the house. Royden recognised him – ‘sip (short for ‘blacksip) is you?’ Then ‘is heh you living,’ in what my brother said was a kind of scornful tone since the house is rudimentary! My brother recognised them as the bad men dem from prison. NO! Yall cyan stay heh, heh hat like fyah, look da police station deh jus down deh,’ he told them. ‘We just waan lil water and charge we phone.’ My brother gave them the water, took their phones to charge then hauled himself back into the house. I can’t imagine what kinds of beats were pounding his heart. He felt, not least in hindsight but also at the time that he’d given them sound compassionate advice if they were seriously trying to flee – to get the hell away from there. They stayed, however, waiting for the driver who had promised he would check out the road block at the head of the entrance into Linden, then circle back and pick them up.
He had moments before handed the escapees back the phone, pulled himself back into the house, when my brother heard the car pull up again outside the house. The escapees presuming it was just the driver went to get into the car when police jumped out and the bullets were exchanged landing primarily at the now dead Uree. It’s believed he had pulled his gun on the forces. Royden, meanwhile had fled. The police then shouted for whosoever was in the house to come out. My brother did so with his hands above his head and was taken into custody. The driver it seemed from the perspective of the escapees was not to be trusted, but for some reason they really did.
When we finally spoke my brother, like me was perplexed that these escapees didn’t think to flee beyond the urban population. Why were they not far into the interior, nearing some border? Why couldn’t they have made the bush their shelter (eat off the land if necessary for the rest of their lives)? It’s an interesting analogy that whilst Guyana has so much land, the majority of us club up close to the coast and each other as though afraid of the deep, free land where we might live alone from the main. For the escapees there seemed to be no difference. Why too were they headed back towards Georgetown the hotter fire from whence they’d fled two months prior? It’s crazy trying to get our heads around it.
We must live, therefore with the probable providential explanation, that some destiny more far reaching/seeing than our eyes was played out that day. It was the way Uree had to return to the dust. It was the way his violence would end, his adventure on earth terminated. My mother expressed a vague wish that my brother might have spared a moment to bless him and say some soothing words to his spirit, which she maintains must have ventured to be home with his father and there finally to meet his maker. I'm sure my brother did what he had to in his way. Indeed, the killing marks a veritable alteration in my brother. He had to step over the dead man’s body to give himself over to the police. That act, according to his rite as a Rastafarian meant he would now have to shave his locks and start afresh. I think this is somewhere in the Bible. Either way, we delight in giving thanks that my brother’s life was spared once more. For as a priest (linked in Rastafarian terms to the Levite priesthood/tribe in the Bible) his spirit and faith is strong. Thus cloaked in the protection of our ancestors, particularly my grandfather who was known among other names as ‘Aaron’(the Levite brother of Moses), my brother’s name is linked to this tragedy perhaps as a sign of some greater works he has been put here on earth to fulfil in his spiritual capacity and the priesthood he claims.
My brother as he looks now, head shaven as part of his Rastafarian rite after seeing the dead.
I end by saying I do not take it at all lightly but recognise the providential synchronicity and meaning encoded in these words from Numbers 18 in the Bible (NIV), “the Lord said to Aaron, “you, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood.” Martin Carter’s name will ever be called in acknowledging that ‘all are involved,’ the ‘sanctuary’ is for us all to nurture, protect and maintain. Daily we’re seeing lives cut short by sickness (physically and mentally), most harrowingly by disasters both man-made and natural (like we're now experiencing with Irma), it’s high time we all bear responsibility to the truth, to live lovingly and respectfully with each other, to think of ourselves as our brother/sister's keepers, instead of pelting stones at each other’s hearts. There might yet come a day when we see something resembling a longed for peace in all our lives. But that achievement can only manifest when collectively we accept the responsibility to clean up and correct the atrocities that continue to be committed against the golden sanctuary.