Man wounded in Bartica massacre loses memory

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By Bibi Khatoon

Ten years after gunmen stormed the Region Seven Town of Bartica and killed twelve persons, of one of the survivors, Raymond White, is no longer the man he used to be.

Raymond, who is now 60-years-old, was shot four times on the night of February 17, 2008, as he was travelling in a taxi when gunmen stormed Bartica.

As we entered his Potaro Road, Bartica residence, Raymond was lifted from one location of the house to the next by his two sons – 20-year-old Marlon White and 27-year-old Michael White.

Raymond, who was a miner, was shot to his legs and both arms and lost the ability to work. He is now totally dependent on his sons to do everything for him as he also lost his voice and memory over time.

He was placed to sit in a chair on the verandah looking at myself and cameraman with a blank stare. There were times throughout the interview when his eyes seemed to show some understanding of why we were there, but there was no acknowledgement of our presence.

Raymond White [center] and his two sons. [News Room photo]
The last time he spoke was some five years ago, his sons said.

“He used to understand, he used to talk, he used to go out on the road, but about five years after he stopped talking,” Michael related as he sat next to his father.

The eldest son, Michael, explained that the horror of ten years ago changed their lives dramatically.

“Before this happened to him, he was the breadwinner. He used to work and look after all of us—my brother was going to school still and I had just left school. Right now, it is a bit difficult but we are trying because my brother [Malron] can’t work; he has to be home all the time to look him,” he said.

Raymond underwent surgery and left the hospital after three months. Though he lost the use of his left hand and most of the strength in his right, his sons related that Raymond socialised with his friends and was much like his normal self after the shooting.

Raymond White [left] and his friends a few months after the Bartica Massacre
But he eventually retreated into a state of depression which over time rendered him helpless.

“Since he couldn’t work, he started taking it on,” his son noted, adding that he first noticed that his once happy father gradually stopped speaking.

“Like if you asked him if he is alright and so, he started just shaking his head,” Michael added.

Raymond has now lost his memory.

Michael said his father underwent a CT scan and the doctors related that it is impossible for him to recover.

The family believes that with more support, their father’s health could have been saved.

The younger of the two brothers explained that even now, their father needs specialized care but is not being given same at the public health institutions. As such, help was sought from a private doctor but even that is a challenge.

However, they are still happy that their father is alive and with them.

“We just trying…see what we could do because I won’t say it hard or so, but we are still glad that he is alive and he still here with us.”

The reign of terror in Bartica left many without hope, but they soon decided that the massacre would not cripple them.

One of them is Debra Gilkes. She was only married for five years when her husband, Edwin, was brutally gunned down. Today, she works at the National Insurance Scheme to take care of her 13-year-old daughter.

Debra Gilkes and her husband, Edwin in happier times

“I am a person that anything I could make a dollar from. I make chicken foot and carry to work and sell. First it used to do clothes business but sometimes you ‘trust’ more than you sell so that didn’t making sense. So I stop doing that and sell the chicken foot and work,” she said.

Edwin Gilkes was a guard at the Banks DIH outlet; he was shot while speaking to two other persons.

The families maintained that promises were made to give them some assistance but over the years, none came to fruition.

The other persons who lost their lives on that fateful night were Dexter Adrian and Irving Ferreira; policemen ZaheerZakir, Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne; Deonarine Singh of Wakenaam; Ronald Gomes of KuruKururu; Ashraf Khan of Middlesex, Essequibo; AbdoolYasseen; Errol Thomas of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo; and Baldeo Singh of Montrose, East Coast Demerara.

A monument has been erected in their honour and the community continues holding peace walks every year to honour their memories.

In February 2017, gang members Mark Royden Williams called “Durant” and “Smallie” and Dennis Williams called “Anaconda” were sentenced to death for the killings.

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