Lusignan Massacre survivors say… “We don’t want no plea deal”
By Dale Andrews
Amidst the deep seated controversy surrounding the apparent amnesty granted to a member of the notorious Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins gang, two survivors of the Lusignan Massacre are insisting that the suspect who has turned state witness be charged for the murders.
Gowmattie Thomas who almost lost her entire family in the mayhem of January 26, 2008 is not in agreement with the powers that be which have allowed the suspect Dwane Williams to remain without charge, although he admitted to being a part of the gang that killed 11 persons that night.
Thomas, who lost her husband, Clarence; her daughter Vanessa and son Ron in the massacre, was in the courtroom when Williams testified that he stood watch on the road with a cutlass while his accomplices slaughtered their victims.
Her sentiments were echoed by her neighbour Bibi Zalika Baksh, who lost her husband Shalim Baksh.
Williams was the state’s star witness at the trial of two gang members James Anthony Hyles, known as ‘Sally’ and Mark Royden Williams, called ‘Smallie’, who were charged with the killing of the 11 persons at Tract A Lusignan Pasture, East Coast Demerara.
He was previously charged for the murders but the charges were withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
At the time of the incident, Dwane Williams called ‘small friend’ was 15 years -old and was under the protection of the state at the Alberttown Police Station where he remains to this day, six years later.
“When he gave the statement the day I was there (in the High Court)…he said he and ‘Fineman’ had a good relationship,” Mrs. Thomas told this newspaper yesterday.
She said that during Williams’ testimony, she sat in the courtroom and wondered, “How could he be with ‘Fineman’ and he wasn’t charged for the killings?”
Williams testified that he was on the road on the night of January 26, six years ago, when Mark Royden Williams and James Anthony Hyles who were among several gunmen, went into one the houses and committed the acts.
After a reasonably lengthy trial, the jury found both of the accused not guilty of the crimes. The DPP has appealed the court’s decision.
Mrs. Thomas lamented the fact that despite Williams’ testimony, the two persons on trial were freed.
“We are the losers in this, because I am innocent of anything and just so people come and kill you and you don’t get justice,” she said.
“You know when that trial finished that afternoon I cried, I jump and I cried and I said, ‘God, there is no justice for us’. But I say, ‘God, one day you will give us justice’,” she added.
Two other sons of Thomas, Roberto and Howard survived life threatening injuries, while she herself had to hide to save her life during the ordeal.
Defence Attorney Nigel Hughes had spoken out against the withdrawal of the charges against Williams.
In a missive he wrote, “the people of Lusignan and Guyana appear not to have been made aware that the person who admitted and confessed to being with Fineman and participating in the Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek massacres, Mr. Dwane Williams, was not and will not be prosecuted by the State for any of these 33 murders he participated in. He has been granted a free pass by the State for killing not only the people of Lusignan but those in Bartica and Lindo Creek.”
According to Hughes, the following “chilling words” were made under oath during his testimony in the
Lusignan trial: “Me and fine man were tight. I was with him in Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek. Lusignan 11 people were killed, Bartica 12 people were killed and Lindo Creek 10 people were killed. 33 people were killed when i was with fine man and i am not facing a single charge.”
The attorney said that those words were recorded by the trial Judge Mr. Justice Navindra Singh and are contained in the appeal record, a public document at pages 256 to 257.
“Perhaps the people of Lusignan may wish to inquire of the Attorney General and the DPP, why the State, which is responsible for protecting and serving them, would let a self confessed murderer of 33 citizens go free without a single charge. No other person in the history of this country has enjoyed such a pardon,” Hughes stated.
But in response, the DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack debunked Hughes’ comments, pointing out that they were made without any attempt to obtain her position on the matter.
She slammed the accusation that her office is looking at a plea-bargain deal with a man, who admitted to participating in the Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek massacres.
According to Mrs. Ali-Hack, at no time did the DPP make any plea bargain deal with the witness Dwane Williams.
“Based on the facts from the investigations, Dwane Williams was an accomplice. It is an old common law practice to allow an accomplice to an offence to testify for the prosecution. It has always been done in the criminal law practice, and continues to be done. It is a lawful practice with which all criminal law practitioners are quite familiar,” the DPP stated.
But Mrs. Gowmattie Thomas is maintaining that Dwane Williams should be charged since he placed himself at the scene while the two freed accused insisted that they were not involved.
And although it’s been six years since the incident and the trauma of reliving the ordeal every year when the anniversary comes around, she would still be prepared to go through another trial if Williams is placed before the court.
“I lost my family…I nearly lost all…thank God that my son Roberto was saved and me too…I think that justice can still be served if they charge him…he knows everybody who was there. I don’t want no plea deal,” she insisted.
“Nobody didn’t ask how we feel when they drop the charges against him. I read it in the papers and I say he should be charged. Why dey freeing him? Mrs. Thomas asked.
Bibi Baksh asked, “If he was there with all of them, you mean to tell me he didn’t do nothing?”
“That is what people want to know why dem nah charge he. Ah we nah get justice…because is everybody can kill and get off in Guyana,” she said.
Kaieteur News understands that Williams is still a prisoner facing several other charges including those related to the Bartica massacre.
A senior police source said that although he is no longer a juvenile, he is being kept in police protective custody because “he is giving evidence against high profile suspects and we cannot risk putting him in prison among them.”
The officer disclosed that no one, not even family members are allowed access to Williams.
“He is scared as hell to be let out there. He is safer in police custody. At one time ‘Fineman’ had tried to overrun the station to get to him,” the officer said.
On the morning of Saturday, 26 January 2008, gunmen stormed into the small village of Lusignan, Guyana, and murdered 11 people; five children and six adults.
The gunmen who were armed with shotguns and AK-47s entered Lusignan around 2:00 am and invaded the homes of five Lusignan families. Within 20 minutes,11 people were murdered. The victims were: 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.
Several of the murdered children were found dead while still in their beds. Survivors of the attack were Arjune Bhim, 11, Roberto Thomas and Howard Thomas.