The morning of January 26, 2008 saw the community of Lusignan, on the East Coast of Demerara waking to what has been deemed as one of the worst days in Guyana’s history. Nine years after the tragedy newly appointed Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton has brought a message of hope and unity to the survivors, relatives and community of the 11 persons who died.
Dr Norton, speaking at the annual memorial for the victims; organised by the Indian Action Committee, told attendees to use the event as an “opportunity to not only reflect on the lives lost …but to have a renewed sense of hope and to pledge towards ensuring that the community of Lusignan is the best one that it can be.”
However, he says in order to achieve this each person must be his brother’s keeper. A challenge which he says government stands ready to accept.
“Peace and harmony must prevail in the community but we know you cannot do this alone so I wish to assure you that the Ministry of Social Cohesion in particular and the Government in general is here to lend you the support you might need” he said.
He also reminded that building community relationships is major focus of his ministry and that he and staff would be there as the healing process continues.
A call for unity also came from Bishop Juan Edghill who represented Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo at the memorial.
He told attendees to unify and speak against wrongdoing so that there would never be a repeat.
“It was not an earthquake, it was not a natural disaster; this was a crime of hate. This was a crime where evil hearts motivated by evil thoughts supported by evil people who destroyed the lives of simple, ordinary people and that must continually be condemned.”
He also believes that there must be a concerted effort on the part of Government and the Opposition to dialogue and work together for the betterment of the country. “People living in fear must not be allowed to continue in our country; it is not fostering harmony” he said.
The lives of Clarence Thomas, 48; Vanessa Thomas, 12; Ron Thomas, 11; Mohandan Goordat, 32; Seegopaul Harilall, 10; Seegobin Harilall, 4; Dhanwajie Ramsingh, 52; Seecharran Rooplall, 56; Raywattie Ramsingh, 11; Shazam Mohammed, 22; and Shaleem Baksh, 52 were taken around 02:00 hours by AK 47 toting men.
These men then took their crusade to the mining community of Bartica where they killed another 12 persons less than a month later.