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Guyanese cry for justice

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Georgetown Guyana: Guyanese have expressed cautious optimism at the arrest by US immigration authorities of Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile linked to the October 6 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed 11 Guyanese.

Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee, who is acting for Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally, asked to comment on the issue said, “this is long overdue.” The minister was not prepared to be drawn any further on the matter. {{more}}

However, days after the disaster, the People’s Progressive Party(PPP), in the opposition at the time, had condemned the incident as an act of terrorism and called for justice.

Posada, 77, is wanted in Venezuela and, according to a US Federal Bureau of Investigation definition, is an international terrorist. He was seeking political asylum in the United States, having slipped into the country in March and had just emerged from hiding to give a series of media interviews when he was arrested.

People’s National Congress (PNCR) leader Robert Corbin, in an invited comment, said he firmly believed justice was overdue. He noted the length of time which had passed since the allegations were made against the men linked to the anti-Castro group, El Condor, and said he strongly hoped the accused would face justice after due process.

Corbin recalled the aircraft explosion over Lockerbie involving American citizens and the pursuit of justice that resulted in relatives of the deceased gaining closure.

Even though nearly 30 years have passed Corbin still recalls how he received the news with shock and grief. He had known some of the victims of that disaster, particularly Marion Bradshaw, wife of a Guyanese diplomat who worked in the Guyana embassy in Havana. He also knew Rawle Thomas, a student about 18 years old, who was leaving to fulfil his ambition of studying to become a medical doctor.

Rawle’s older brother, “Rudy” Thomas is still hurt and grieving over the loss of his “baby” brother. “My parents made 11 of us, and we are all here, except for Rawle. We were robbed of him by the person or persons who placed a bomb aboard Cubana Airline DC 8 jet, CU 455.”

The jet plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, three miles off the Barbados coastline as it tried to return to the Seawell Airport (now Grantley Adams Airport) after the bomb exploded and caused a fire. Included in the 73 persons on the flight were 11 Guyanese, six of whom were students en route to Havana universities. Students, Eric Norton, Ann Nelson, Raymond Persaud, Jacqueline Williams, Sahnarine Kumar, and Thomas all between the ages of 18 and 19 years perished in the Atlantic waters.

Members of a Guyanese family who had missed their SLM flight and joined the Cubana flight also perished, as well as a Guyanese economist who studied in East Germany and was on his way there to take up an appointment.

Bradshaw had returned to Guyana two months earlier and given birth to a baby girl whom she had left in her mother’s care in Guyana. She had adjusted her plans and decided to return to her husband in Cuba one week earlier; she never made it.

“Rudy” Thomas said each year that the Cubana disaster was commemorated it had telling effects on the members of his family. “One of my sisters would take it on to the point of being blocked out. Now that this matter is again surfacing, the level of grief is rising in our family. I only started drinking alcohol when I lost our baby brother. I have been drinking every day since,” a disappointed “Rudy” Thomas confessed.

Pressed as to what he would like to be done to the persons responsible for the disaster, Thomas said, “I personally will forgive him once he confesses the truth. I will feel free as a Christian. I want the truth to come out because those who placed the bomb must have been told to do so. Let him confess as to whose hand is behind the bomb.”

Norton was looking forward to becoming a doctor. The only son of Harold and Dorothy Norton, he performed brilliantly at Queen’s College, and rose to the level of Head Boy. Prior to his attempt to depart for a Cuban University, Eric taught for a period at Queen’s.

“We adopted another son,” his mother said.

His father, at the time of Eric’s disastrous death was a fireman and rose to the level of a Chief Fire Officer. He too has passed away but Dorothy Norton recalls the chilling feelings that enveloped her when the depressing news was received.

Asked what she thinks should be done to Posada, she said: “I would like to hear him confess what he has done and be punished. He is responsible for so many innocent lives. I know Jesus said that we should forgive all right, but he should not be allowed to live a normal, happy life as a free man. He deserves to be punished.

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