Archive for ‘Rondel Rawlins’

June 23, 2008

Close to the bone




It was an odd day today. I know, most of my days are odd but this one was odder. It was a news producing day  today and things were looking bleak by midday. We simply had no stories and I was, as usual, worried and verging on panic despite the amazing Giselle ( who I would steal and take to any company I ever work with) kept reassuring me that things would be fine and in any case she was reading so no matter what developed she would be the one on camera to suffer. Then it happened. While searching for regional news to pad that section I found a story that rather flummoxed me. I found something that suggested there had been another massacre in Guyana. 


I was a bit surprised because the story apparently did not have any legs. I could not find it on any of my standard news sources. How could a major story – another massacre in Guyana – not be everywhere including the BBC? A few calls to our sources including a Minister who hung up on Nadine Hackett led us to believe the story was real. Even more strangely a quick internet trip to the usual Kaieteur News and Stabroek News sites showed the story was real. How the heck did this story not make it onto the radar? Even more strangely, speaking to one of my colleagues in another media house, without mentioning the story we had discovered, revealed they had no clue. I might have had a moment of guilt in not telling someone I truly respect about the story but a local exclusive is an exclusive after all.  Welcome to the world of friendly competition.


We decided to go with the story as a lead. Nadine called our sources in Guyana and we cobbled together a story which might have not been the best but, given our lack of footage , worked out rather well. Amazingly, to cover the voice of the reporter in Guyana we managed to find her picture on Facebook…who knew it had an actual use? News time arrived and Giselle and I got ready wondering if we would have yet another exclusive. She read and I sat in control and produced. When we reached the weather I ran upstairs to watch the other stations…thank heavens our news is 1/2 hour before anyone else. Not surprisingly Gis ran out of the studio as the news finished to join me. We watched TV6, CNC3, CNMG and as each started their news we crossed our fingers we would not hear the word “Guyana”. Shock of shocks each newscast started with no mention of a massacre. 


There are few rewards in journalism other than feeling you have done the best story. Despite the silly concept that there is some glamour in what we do it is usually just a decidedly boring exercise. There is one great thing that excites us usually and that is a scoop. In as much as this is another horror for a great country it was hard to not have a moment of satisfaction when we realized all the other stations had missed the story. Our first headline was “another massacre in Guyana as 8 miners are found dead in Lindo Creek”…it was a risk and I am happy we took it. 


Sadly, as crime becomes unavoidable here, I vetted a murder story only to realize when I looked at the story in the editor’s area, that it was someone I knew very well. I never knew him by his real name when I encountered him at work but I just want to say – Trail…I am sorry you are yet another victim.


February 23, 2008

Heart of Darkness

Melissa Williams is back from Guyana and was able to shed some light on events there. There are now three people detained over the matter though it seems two of them are being held for assisting the killers get to Bartica. Interestingly enough, a police officer who is part if the special elite squad investigating the two massacres was arrested on drug charges. Strange goings on in Guyana. President Jagdeo has still not held a press conference to discuss the event and has been laying low for some reason.

Other than that I came close to boarding a plane and heading to Seattle to give Bill Gates a good tongue lashing. I do not like Windows in any way shape or form but we use it in the office and thus I hold my nose and deal with it. I usually have my Apple Powerbook on my desk as well and while it plays well with the network it cannot talk to the ancient news printer so i work in MS Word. Today, while building the news script the programme decided to crash taking with it several stories, the headlines and the script. After relaunching the wretched thing it defaulted to the Oct. 2007 news folder and I realized that autosave was another cruel MS joke…rather like everything about MS. I cursed like a trooper eliciting stares from everyone in the newsroom. I am pretty sure I mentioned the body parts of everyone in Bill’s family going back at least 3 generations.

Recovering from that fiasco and making sure i clicked “save’ after every word I typed I managed to get the script done and send it to the prompter. Great…I printed the hard copies and headed into the studio to read the 6:30 news. The theme starts and then I press the bar to activate the prompter roll…nothing..nada…the wretched thing was frozen. I switch to the script and read what i have to read…then reboot the system during a news story…still zilch..the script will not load. During the commercial break I run to my desk to discover that the script has vanished. The name is there and I can open it..but it is a blank page. I curse Bill and his family again and run back to the studio to finish reading from the script.

Had I been using a Mac with Pages or Appleworks ( RIP) or NeoOffice I can assure all involved this would not have happened. All I can say is that if Mr. Gates ever finds himself wandering the halls of ieTV I will have to be tied down to prevent a violent incident…possibly involving a flying PeeCee.

February 18, 2008

Reflections on the massacres in Bartica and Lusignan

It would be impossible not to be stunned by last night’s massacre in Bartica, Guyana especially as it somes so soon after the chilling events in Lusignan only a few weeks ago. Here in Trinidad we have become somewhat inured to death and killing given our disturbing murder rate. Those of us who work in news are even more hardened to the daily reality of murder but the events of the last 24 hours were disturbing to all of us at ieTV. Death is a fact of life but when it happens on such a large scale and in such a brutal and chilling way it is disturbing.

Guyana is a large and wild country with a small population spread across a great swath of land so to be honest, even the best policing would have a hard time preventing such carnage. It is sad that a band of deranged criminals cake can shake the psyche of a nation and a region. The events in Guyana are a reminder of the thin line that all societies walk between civility and anarchy. I suppose we have traditionally looked to Africa for such examples of carnage. Rwanda and the current crisis in Darfur are horrifying examples of what happens when evil elements start to rip apart the fabric of civilized society. My thoughts are with the people of Guyana and  the Guyanese community worldwide.

At time like this we all want to do something and yet most of us are powerless. Those of us in the media are fortunate that we can at least provide information to the public. It doesn’t make the horror go away but people want to know – it is part of the human condition. ieTv has sent our crew to Guyana to work with our contacts there to try and get as much information as we can for our viewers. It is, of course, costing us a bit of money and, given we are a smaller station, takes a bit of a bite out of our news budget, but we feel it is important for the information to be known and the best way to do that is to be on the ground.

As a blogger I felt it was imperative to do what the internet allows best; to get information out as quickly as possible. My WordPress blog was devoted to disseminating information to the public as quickly as I could get it. I like the way the internet is able to fill a gap between TV and print. Anyone concerned about what was happening could just Google the subject and find any number of sites ( including my blog) providing information on demand. Even knowing that I am still shocked at the number of hits my site on WordPress got today. Monitoring the traffic as I type this there have been 200 hits in the last 2 hours. A testament to the power of the internet and the  public’s need to know.

I had not expected such a demand but I will certainly continue to use this blog for news purposes whenever the need arises.


February 18, 2008

Last pictures of Bartica events for 18/02/08

Arrival of plane carrying bodies and departure from Timheri.bartica-massacre-011.jpg ogle-shots-002.jpg

February 18, 2008

Bartica Massacre update 6pm

The following is an excerpt from the ieNews report written by Melissa Williams who will be in Guyana as our chief reporter on the ground.__________;”According to Kaieteur Newspaper from around 9:40 twenty heavily armed gunmen entered the Transport Harbour, at Bartica located in the Essequibo region, and unleashed a wave of terror ordering five boatmen to lie on the ground then brutally shooting them in their heads. The gun toting gang then made its way over to the Bartica Police Station, where they forced the eight officers who were in the station at the time to hide in cupboards and other areas as they opened fire on the station.Reports say the gunmen then casually moved through the station in search of the frightened officers, opening cupboards doors and executing them. In the end three police officers were shot dead with two others seriously injured. The gunmen also cleared the station of all weapons and ammunition as well as raw gold which was lodged there and escaped in three police vehicles. As they drove through the mining town in the stolen police vehicles, unsuspecting residents believing them to be police officers on patrol looked when suddenly the gunmen began to indiscriminately fire at them . Even the officer in charge of the Bartica Police Station, who was unaware of the massacre of his colleagues, was almost fooled as he approached the vehicles, but was pulled back by alert residents.Six more people were killed as the gang rode through the township, with reports surfacing that they placed a man in a freezer and shooting him in the head. After their reign of terror in the quiet town, the brutal gang then calmly left in boats.”__________________PICTURES COMING IN NEXT POST CLICK ON RECENT ENTRIES ON RIGHT TO ACCESS THEM.copyright ieNews 2008

February 18, 2008

Guyana update 1:23 pm

Our sources in Guyana are now at the airport waiting for the bodies to arrive for transportation to Georgetown. Bartica is located up the Essequibo river and the bodies must be transported by boat and then small plane to get to Timheri Airport, the closest point to Georgetown.More to follow.


February 18, 2008

Another massacre in Guyana

IeNews is now following up on the killing of 12 people in Bartica, Guyana including 3 police officers. This follows on the heels of the killing of 11 people a few weeks ago. AP is reporting the following:

12 Die in Guyana Shooting

By BERT WILKINSON – 45 minutes agoGEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Gunmen killed 12 people, including three police officers, in a Sunday night assault on a small town in Guyana, authorities said. It was the second major attack blamed on gangs in recent weeks.Police said men dressed in military fatigues and armed with assault rifles invaded a police station and made off with ammunition and weapons in the southwestern township of Bartica.The nine civilians included five people who were sleeping in hammocks along the Essequibo River outside the police station, Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy.“This is the work of brutish beasts. This is more than horrific, “Ramsammy said.At least seven civilians were wounded, including one man in critical condition, said Lester Valentine, a doctor at the Bartica hospital.Police Cmdr. Gavin Primo said the gunmen broke into a strong box and took away guns and ammunition. Valentine said the man entered the town by boat and fired indiscriminately for about an hour while people hid in their homes.Bartica is a bustling town of about 15,000 people where miners buy supplies before heading into the South American country’s interior to look for gold and diamonds.People in the town said some the gunmen also fired on businesses, including the main hotel.“This is just terrible, just awful,” said hotelier Stephen Bell, who lives a block away from the Bartica police station. “Not a man is on the street. The area is deserted.”


We are following up with our sources and I will have more as the day progresses.