By JANELLE DE SOUZA and SASHA HARRINANAN Tuesday, August 20 2013
Nine-year-old Nariesha Rogers broke the calm of those gathered for the funeral of her brother, Naim Antoine, 16, as she broke into sobs while addressing mourners at the Samuel David Simpson Memorial Chapel, Laventille.
The small chapel on the Eastern Main Road was packed and overflowing yesterday as family, friends and supporters, including Member of Parliament for Port-of-Spain South, Marlene McDonald, gathered to pay their respects to Naim, who was buried two days before his 17th birthday.
Nariesha was invited to speak to the assembly after the eulogy and, after a lengthy pause, began sobbing as she tried to relate a story about her beloved brother. Her grandmother, Judy Gomez, loudly joined Nariesha in her grief, while silent tears fell from the eyes of most mourners.
Gomez fell off her chair on to the ground, writhing, crying, and screaming as she was overwhelmed by the horror of what her grandson had to go through in his last moments.
As Gomez lay on the ground and even after she was lifted on to a chair and supported by family members, she continued to shout and moan, “Oh God, they take my grandson. They take my grandchild away from me just so. They do him all kinds of wickedness.”
Naim was killed by two gunmen on Wednesday last after he was dragged out of bed at his home on Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, at 4 am, taken to George Street, beaten, and then shot 34 times about the body. Naim had been described as frail by his friends and family as he suffered from sickle cell anaema.
During the eulogy, Naim’s friend, Anisa Robe, said Naim was an independent young man who loved his mother, Natasha Rogers, and his siblings. She recalled that, with his first salary, Naim bought Rogers a cake, as well as Kiss cakes and lollipops for his brothers and sisters. “He was sure he was going to trade school in October but they didn’t give him a chance,” cried Robe.
Newsday was told that, while Naim was being tortured, one of the killers made a phone call to a relative to let them know Naim was being killed. It is said that the relative could hear Naim’s pleas and screams as well as the gunshots as Niam’s body was riddled with bullets.
Naim’s death was the beginning of a shooting spree in east Port-of-Spain, last Wednesday, which left five persons dead and one wounded. One of the dead is Naim’s cousin, 16-year-old Rasheeda Gomez, who is expected to be buried this morning at Allen and Sons Funeral Directors and Crematorium in Arima.
There were many young children at the funeral, including mothers with babes in arms as well as family and friends wearing T-shirts with Naim’s image. One friend told Newsday the shirts were a way of showing their love and respect for Naim, as well as support for the family. She noted that purple was Naim’s favourite colour and said they intended to paint his room purple.
At the end of the service, the restored calm was again broken when the casket was opened for a brief viewing. Naim’s brother, 21-year-old Shaquille Rogers, placed a purple ribbon on his brother’s white shirt, kissed him on the forehead and sobbed over his body. Everyone who saw the exchange was moved to tears, especially the youths and Gomez. Again, Gomez had to be supported by two relatives and taken outside the chapel to a car as it seemed that her legs could not support her since she had to be lifted off the ground several times.
However, Naim’s mother, stood strong and encouraged other women not to give up because she believed God would give them strength.
During the funeral, Rogers addressed the crowd, telling them she had already offered her son to Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit had showed her that Naim was with God. She added she would never stop praising God and even asked Him to forgive those who killed her son, even though they shot him 34 times and tortured him. In an impromptu sermon, managing director of the funeral home, Samuel Simpson, urged parents to teach their children the Word of God and “grow their children in love” so that, not only would they be found faithful in the eyes of God on Judgement Day, but the country would not have children killing children.
Simpson said many young people knew nothing about the sanctity of life because their parents do not teach them to respect anything. “If he (the killer) was encouraged in the way of the Lord he would have fear knowing that he would have to stand up before God and give an account,” he said.
While there was much activity at the funeral home, including a police and army presence, Duncan and Nelson streets in East Port-of-Spain were quiet, with only the occasional vehicle and a handful of pedestrians passing through the area.
One police jeep was observed making regular patrols, stopping for a few minutes on upper Duncan Street, before driving off again to make another circle around the block, but there was no police/army foot patrol. This was quite a contrast to Sunday, when 90 persons were arrested during a police crackdown in the area that began at 3 am and ended at about 10.30 am.
When Newsday visited shortly after midday, a few teenaged boys were seen standing on the sidewalk outside a block of Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartments, located on the southern side of Queen Street between Nelson and Duncan streets.
Across the way, a man was busy working on his car in the courtyard of another HDC apartment building while another man in safety gear left the premises and walked to Duncan Street, where he purchased some food from East Side Bakery, on the corner of Duncan and Queen streets.
The new school term doesn’t begin for another two weeks yet there was little evidence of, as one woman put it, the “many sweet little children who live here”. No televisions or radios or even sound systems were heard and the few teenagers and pre-teen boys and girls who were visible chatted among themselves while standing on the sidewalk.
There were “pockets” of activity at two popular businesses, at East Side Bakery and George’s Cafe, a mini-mart and Lotto centre on the corner of Nelson and Queen streets.
The mini-mart seemed fairly busy at midday, with new customers coming in to purchase items every few minutes. This represented a return to normalcy for the business, as noted by a supervisor who identified himself as “Berjinsky”.
“Last week we had a three to five percent drop in sales in the days after two teenagers from Duncan Street were murdered. We sell a lot of basic items that people need but if the violence had continued, we would have seen about a 25 percent drop in business,” Berjinsky told Newsday.
East Side Bakery on Duncan Street didn’t fare as well. There was a 25 percent drop in sales last Wednesday and Thursday, as residents and visitors avoided being out in public in the aftermath of the fatal shootings and subsequent heavy police presence.
Bakery supervisor, Grace Gonzales, said people may fear venturing into East Port-of-Spain because of what happened but said she enjoys working in the area “because it’s normally a quiet place.” “Everywhere you go, there will be crime happening at some time but aside from flare-ups by some of the rougher elements, this is a nice place to do business,” she said.
“There are many sweet little children who live here,” Gonzales added, “and we do a lot of business during school time when they and their parents stop by for some of our famous pastries.” In her World Humanitarian Day 2013 message yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, referred to the situation in the area, which she visited last Thursday, and met Naim’s family.
“We must, as a people, find a solution for all the violence in East Port-of-Spain. While many would say that crime is kept in and around East Port-of-Spain, it is something which affects all of us. There were weeping mothers and fathers watching over their sons and daughters who died in their teens,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar then encouraged the citizens of the country to come together and assist those in need to create a better Trinidad and Tobago for future generations.