On the outside, Sattie Sawh appears to be happy as she always wears a smile, but deep down inside she’s hurting and still grieving the loss of her husband Satyadeow (Sash) Sawh, a former Guyana diplomat and government minister who was murdered in their home in Guyana five years ago.
She still can’t summon the emotional strength to talk about the night she was forced to seek cover in the family’s bathroom as her husband along with his older brother and sister were gunned down in the Sawh’s East Coast Demerara residence. One of the family’s security guards was also killed.
Instead, she courteously defers to her two sons – Roger and David – who have been a rock of support for their mother who is Guyana’s honorary acting consul general in Toronto.
To mark the fifth anniversary of Sawh’s death last Good Friday, the family participated in a simple religious ceremony at their Scarborough home.
“It’s something we do every year,” said eldest son Roger. “When we are done, we try to talk and treat the day as a regular one. That, however, is hard to do and it always turns out to be an emotional and difficult day to get through.
“The fluctuation of feelings we have is often as confusing as the circumstances under which he was taken away from us. We will always remember him for his perennial optimism, friendly demeanour, booming voice and humorous words and actions which were never in short supply.
“Whatever intimidation that may have been borne from that voice and behind his trademark moustache belied a truly gentle, kind, intelligent and noble man. We miss him so much.”
Just 19 at the time of his father’s death, Roger was a first-year University of Toronto student. His younger brother David was residing in Guyana at the time.
“I would have been there with them had I not had an exam,” said Roger.
Hours before the home invasion and slayings, Sawh had entertained his overseas-based nephews Ian and Sid and other family members at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel. They were in Guyana to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Sawh’s mother.
The nephews, along with David who is now 21, headed to a popular pool hall and bar in the city while the adult family members returned to Sawh’s home.
“As a father and husband,” he was simply magnificent,” recounts his sons. “He was extremely loving, always engaging, a source of constant wisdom and the centre of our universe. It’s ironic how well prepared we were for his passing. Because of the nature of his schedule, he would sometimes be away for long periods and we grew accustomed to not having him around. The difference though is that he would eventually be home again, peacefully swinging in his hammock while making jokes and having long chatting sessions to examine every detail of life.
“The perpetrators of his death have only managed to end his worldly existence. They have however failed to quell the dynamism that characterized his life and their spineless brutality can never tarnish the luster of his life.”
Sawh’s Scarborough-based brother Rajpat and sister Phulmattie (Julie) Persaud, who lived in Mississauga, were also murdered while another brother, England-based Omprakash, was slightly injured.
“I lived with Uncle Rajpat for nine months while my parents were in Guyana, so he was like a second father,” said Roger who is pursuing a second degree at York University. “Auntie Julie was one of the most loving persons you would have met. These were two special people who did not deserve to be taken away from us in the manner in which they were.”
Sawh migrated to Canada in 1975 and was a key member of the Association of Concerned Guyanese (ACG) which is the Toronto-based arm of the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
He graduated from York University with an Economics degree and Ryerson University with an Accounting certificate, worked as an accountant and was editor of the Guyana Current newspaper before returning to Guyana in 1992 after the PPP government won the national elections.
Sawh served as Guyana’s ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador from 1993-1996 and was awarded the Order of Francesco Miranda from the Venezuelan government before joining the national assembly in 1996.
He was Minister of Agriculture at the time of his death at age 50.
No one has been found guilty of the murders. Jermaine Charles and Rondell Rawlins, who were charged with the murders, were killed in a shootout with Guyana’s joint services while another accused, David Leander, collapsed while he was incarcerated and died in hospital a few days later of an undisclosed illness.