Caribbean News: Guyana agriculture minister, a Canadian citizen, killed in home invasion
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) - Gunmen burst into the home of Guyana's agriculture minister early Saturday and shot him to death along with two of his family members visiting from Canada, authorities said. |
Satyadeo Sawh, a Canadian citizen, was killed as he reclined in a hammock even though his family members had satisfied the assailants' demand for money and jewelry, said his wife, Sattie Sawh, who said she survived by hiding in the coastal home.
"They still turned around and shot them," she said hours after the attack at her house, where several government officials gathered to console the family.
Among the dead were Sawh's sister, Phulmattie Persaud, and his brother, Rajpatrai Sawh, who were visiting from Canada. A security guard was also killed.
Another of Sawh's brothers was briefly hospitalized for a gunshot wound, said Sattie Sawh. At least one other person, a neighbour's security guard, was also wounded, police said.
Satyadeo Sawh, 50, and his wife, both naturalized Canadian citizens, returned to Guyana in the early 1990s. He joined the successful campaign of the governing People's Progressive Party, which came to power in 1992, and was named a cabinet minister that year.
"It smacks of a political assassination but the motive is still to be determined," said government spokesman Robert Persaud. Police said the motive appeared to be robbery.
Later Saturday, the government held an emergency cabinet meeting and issued a statement saying it believed the killing of Sawh, the first of a cabinet minister since Vincent Teekah in 1978, was an attempt to destabilize the country before upcoming elections
The elections, scheduled for Aug. 4, were recently postponed to give authorities more time to prepare for balloting. A new date has not yet been set.
The slayings "seemed a well planned and executed assassination by a large, heavily armed gang," the cabinet's statement said. It added that the attack "might be part of a sinister plan to impact the outcome of the upcoming regional and general elections."
President Bharrat Jagdeo said Sawh will be missed for his energy and efficiency. He also urged police to find the killers and asked the public to remain calm and united.
"We need to send a signal to the murderers and those who directed them that we will not be defeated and the nation will emerge stronger," he said in a speech broadcast Saturday night on television and radio.
The government said it planned to seek help from foreign security agencies, but did not elaborate. Flags at government offices were flown at half-mast Saturday.
No arrests were made, but tracking dogs were searching the sugar cane fields surrounding the house where the gunmen were believed to have hid before the attack and fled afterward, said police Chief Winston Felix.
Authorities believe the assailants waited outside the house in the Earl's Court district, about 10 kilometres east of the capital of Georgetown, and forced their way inside after the minister and his family arrived.
Felix said that the motive appeared to be robbery and that police were stepping up security for cabinet ministers and other high-profile people.
Forensic evidence shows the gunmen used rifles, Felix said. Neighbours and witnesses said the men numbered about seven and wore black clothing.
Sawh, who has two adult sons, also once served as Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela.
"I don't know if I will pack up and leave," Sattie Sawh said. "I came back to Guyana because I like my country."
The slayings comes amid a rise in violent crime and political uncertainty over the upcoming elections.
The main opposition People's National Congress called the killings "brutal and dastardly." A national day of mourning was to be announced next week.
Posted on Tuesday, April 25 @ 14:03:02 MST by jcohen
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