Granger, Harmon squandered opportunity to bring peace after WCB murders – PM

L-R: Prime Minister Mark Phillips, former president David Granger, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon
L-R: Prime Minister Mark Phillips, former president David Granger, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon

Former President David Granger and Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon had an opportunity to ensure peace and calm prevailed on the West Coast of Berbice following the murders of the teenagers Isaiah and Joel Henry, but they failed to do so.

This was the view expressed by Prime Minister Mark Phillips, who reminded that Granger and Harmon were the first of the political leaders to be on the ground and he contended that they should have used the opportunity to appeal to residents to behave in a lawful manner and allow law enforcement officials to do their work uninterrupted.

“I am surprised that both Mr Granger and Mr Harmon did not do what Volda Lawrence did, they had a golden opportunity at the time when the bodies were discovered, they were the first on the ground, and they had an opportunity to set the tone.

“And the tone should have been a peaceful one…tell the people be calm, be peaceful and allow the police to do their work,” Phillips said during a recent interview on Globespan.

According to Phillips, he, along with other PPP/C leaders, after some effort, were able to get into the communities and engaged the families of the dead teens as well as other residents.

Noting that the journey into the villages, was “quite an experience”, he explained that the Government would have to engage the residents and address the issues which are affecting them.

“We recognise that there are some social issues that we have to go to the drawing board and come up with a plan and to engage those communities; whether it’s education, jobs or whatever social services we could provide, we have to engage them and work with them to improve their lives,” the Prime Minister, a former Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) expressed.

However, he stressed that residents must continue to maintain law and order and allow the investigative process to come to its conclusion.

On September 6, the bodies of Isaiah and Joel Henry were found in the backlands of Cotton Tree, WCB – almost one day after they were reported missing. They had left their Number Three Village, WCB home to pick coconuts in the backlands, but did not return home. Their butchered bodies were found in clumps of bushes partially covered in mud, after relatives went in search of them.

The news of their deaths sparked protests across several villages along the West Coast Berbice corridor, where commuters were beaten and robbed. With blocked roads, some vehicles were also torched.

And then, on September 9, 17-year-old Haresh Singh was found murdered at the Number Three Village backlands. It is suspected that his death was in retaliation for the murders of Isaiah and Joel, since he is related to one of the persons initially held by the police.

Both Granger and Harmon had faced severe criticism for their comments made during their visit to the community of the dead teens. Many believe that they used the opportunity to score political points by casting blame on the PPP/C Government for the tragedy and pushing a narrative that it was politically motivated.

They also referred to the PPP/C as a fraudulent government and called for residents to reject them if they ventured into their communities to offer support.

A team from the Regional Security System (RSS) is currently in Guyana to assist the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in its investigations into the murders of the Henry cousins as well as Singh.

Amidst the violent unrest which gripped the Berbice community following the deaths of the teens, President Dr Irfaan Ali had announced that the Government would be engaging the British Government and the RSS to lend support to the investigative capacity of the Guyana Police Force.

He had also said that he was exploring an International Commission of Inquiry to address all aspects of what occurred following the killings.

Recently, the GPF announced that efforts are underway to get international forensic help from Argentina to assist in the investigation.