By Shermain Bique-Charles
Memories made and smiles shared on and off the job remind Acting Superintendent of Prisons Jermaine Anthony just how special his colleague and friend Ryves ‘Keewa’ Merchant was.
“You couldn’t ask for a more dedicated individual when it comes to duty,” Anthony told Observer yesterday.
Merchant, who was attached to the prison’s agriculture department, died on Friday night after falling ill on the job earlier that day. The cause of his death remain unclear.
“He was dependable, punctual and very upbeat. He was also reserved but he gets along with everyone. He enjoyed a good joke. He wasn’t just a colleague, he was a friend,” Anthony said.
Recalling the tragic events that day, Anthony explained that Merchant came in as normal and started work. He then complained about feeling unwell.
Anthony said the entire ordeal has hit the institution very hard, including prison inmates.
“We are being strong but at the same time it has hit the entire institution hard. Not just the officers but the inmates. He had a team of inmates he worked with and they formed a bond. This is a tragic blow for all of us…but we have to be strong,” he said.
Anthony said the death has also affected him personally to the point that he could not properly console the other officers who needed comfort.
“Yesterday when I went and tried to console my officers and to talk to them, I met quite a few of them in tears and I had great difficulty in consoling them because I was experiencing the same emotions as they were.
“It was difficult for me but I couldn’t. I am a little embarrassed to say couldn’t…but I just couldn’t,” Anthony said.
He says Merchant’s death comes at a time when management and staff are already burdened with Covid-19 cases at the prison, among other issues.
But Anthony is not linking Merchant’s demise with the virus.
“We don’t have any details of what caused his death; it would be pure speculation if we were to link it with Covid, and I don’t want to do that,” Anthony explained.
He continued, “If we didn’t have all these issues that have already drained us, we will be coping a little better but it’s quite a challenge having to deal with all these issues over a whole month and a half,” he added.
Grief counselling for officers and prisoners is expected to commence today.
Meanwhile Sports Minister Daryl Matthew has remembered basketball enthusiast Merchant as one who made a phenomenal contribution to the sport’s development.
“My first recollection was in 1984 when the Golden Grove community decided to start a basketball club and he volunteered to come and help coach the team…He was definitely instrumental in the Golden Grove Eagles Basketball Club,” Matthew recalled.
Merchant is survived by his wife and son. He lived in Parham.