PRESS RELEASE People’s National Congress Reform Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown, Guyana. Thursday, October 27, 2005
October 28, 2005
Mr. Winston Felix, DSM
Commissioner of Police
Office of the Commissioner
Eve Leary, Thomas Lands
I refer to our meeting, Corbin/Debra Backer/Winston Felix in your office on Tuesday, October 25, 2005, during which Mrs. Backer and I expressed certain areas of concern to the PNCR with respect to the security Operation being conducted on the East Coast of Demerara.
During that meeting I reiterated the People’s National Congress Reform and my support in the fight against crime. However, I pointed out our concern that the present operation in Buxton was unlikely to yield the best results because, among other things, there was no public information given to the community and the perception was that the law abiding citizens who co-operated with the Police were penalized. Concern was also expressed about the breach of the constitutional rights of some of the residents of the village. Notwithstanding these concerns, we offered our assistance to heal whatever damage may have been done in the relations between the law abiding citizens of the community and the security forces so that the fight against the real criminals in the village could be successful.
In keeping with this commitment, I spoke with several groups of villagers who are still very peeved about a number of matters which, if not addressed, will further alienate the community. The following are a few matters which require your immediate attention:
1. Since the operation commenced on Monday October 24, 2005, several farmers, whose only means of livelihood is their farms, have been unable to work on their farms and carry out their normal economic pursuits. They have been prevented from doing so by the military personnel on site. Some of these farmers are in the process of harvesting cane and others are engaged in cash crops which require daily attention, especially during this dry season. The consequential loss as a result of this exercise would therefore be obvious. These lands are the property of the farmers. This morning some 50 (fifty) farmers petitioned the village Chairman about their inability to access their farms. Neither the Chairman nor any military personnel in the area provided any information on when they would be able to access their farms again. They would also like to know who will compensate them for this loss.
2. The statutory body of the village is the Foulis/Buxton Neighbourhood Democratic Council, (NDC), whose Chairman is Mr. Blair. At 12:30 pm, today (October 28), I spoke with Mr. Blair who advised that, five (5) days after the commencement of this exercise, no official of either the Guyana Police Force or the Guyana Defence Force had made any contact with him, notwithstanding the occupation of property under the control of the NDC. The implication of the failure to have any discussion with the statutory authority should be obvious.
3. A number of young people from the village have reported that they have been denied of the use of their playfield because of its occupation by the GDF. On investigation today, I have confirmed that a camp site and an operational base have been constructed on the playfield which is the main area of recreational activity for youth in the area. They are unable to obtain any information on when this facility would again be made available to them.
4. Members of the management Committee of the above sports facility have indicated to me that they had mobilized resources without much external help to develop the area to facilitate its use by young people in the area. They are pained to witness army trucks traversing this ground without any concern for its preservation. Regrettably, no one to date has attempted to contact them about its occupation.
5. The Chairman of the Council has advised me that a sports event was planned for this weekend at the said sports ground, but today at 12 noon he was unable to receive any information about the availability of this facility.
6. A football competition among groups in the area is scheduled to commence on Monday October 31, 2005. Several months ago, Mr. Robin Phillips, the organizer of this activity, requested assistance from me and I, in my capacity as the Leader of the PNCR, offered to sponsor the football competition at a cost of $100,000 (one hundred thousand dollars). Mr. Philips exerted much energy to arrange this competition. He visited my office yesterday (Thursday October 27) to indicate his lack of information about the status of the ground. I was obviously unable to provide any information.
I am bringing these matters to your attention in the hope that urgent action would be taken to deal with the issues raised. While my remarks about informing the public have been misrepresented in the media, this is precisely the kind of public information that was necessary in such an exercise.
I still believe that there may be time available to avoid further alienation if positive steps are taken to address these matters. In this regard, I repeat my willingness to co-operate and assist the Guyana Police Force in activities that are intended to deal with the crime and security situation in Guyana.
I am copying this Letter to the Head of State and the Chief of Staff of the GDF for their information.
I have also attached for your information the Official Statements made by the PNCR and me on “Operation Stilletto”.
I have also attached for your information a Letter received today from Mr. Randolph Blair, NDC Chairman, making representation for affected cane farmers and in which he lists the names of fifty such persons.
Robert H O Corbin
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform &
Leader of the Opposition
c.c. His Excellency, President Jagdeo;
Brig. Gen. Edward Collins
Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force
THE JOINT FORCES EXERCISE IN BUXTON ON MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2005
The PNCR restates unequivocally its condemnation of all forms of crime and criminal activities whether perpetrated by criminal elements of Buxton or any other village or ward in Guyana. The Party also reaffirms our unequivocal support for the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force as it seeks to confront crime wherever it occurs thereby making Guyana a safer place for all Guyanese.
The PNCR however wishes to make it absolutely clear that our continued support for the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force has never and will never extend to a blanket approval of activities that are outside of the law or not in the best interest of reducing crime and enhancing the security of all Guyanese. This has been and will continue to be our position. Distortions of our principled position by the government, the PPP/C and some sections of civil society will not detract us or change our principled position.
Having assessed what took place in Buxton yesterday morning, the PNCR has no other option than to conclude that “operation stiletto” was unsuccessful and may well have done irreparable harm to the formation of a working relationship between the Joint Forces and the residents of Buxton, a relationship that is a sine quo non to the rooting out of the criminal elements in that village.
We enumerate for easy reference some of the results of “operation stiletto” and urge all Guyanese to make an informed and unemotional assessment of this operation.
1. Over 350 houses in south and central Buxton were searched by the Joint Services.
2. At least 112 Afro Guyanese male residents between the ages of 16 to 46 were arrested, herded into vehicles and taken to the Guyana Police Force Sports Club in Barrack Road to be “processed”.
3. These arrested persons have suffered the dehumanizing treatment of being rounded up, herded into vehicles, photographed with numbers across their chests as criminals and kept in police custody based solely on their place of residence. [The police need to explain what use will be made of these mug shots, especially when one remembers the evidence given at the Thomas Carroll us visa scam trial which revealed that such mug shots were misused to settle personal vendettas]
4. No guns or ammunition were found in the over 350 houses searched or on the 112 residents arrested.
5. Women including a pregnant woman were arrested their numbers are still to be ascertained.
6. At the time of the writing of this statement many mothers and wives could not ascertain the location of many of their arrested relatives. In some cases where they identified the Police Station at which their relatives were held, they were denied the opportunity of providing food or change of clothing for those arrested. It should be noted that some young men were arrested partially dressed as they were performing their normal morning domestic chores in their homes.
The PNCR has confirmed that among the persons arrested are teachers, GUYSUCO workers, young men on a special project to improve the community and self employed persons including a taxi driver. In view of the foregoing it is clear that “operation stiletto” has only further alienated the security forces from the residents of Buxton and has deepened the distrust of the majority of Buxtonians towards the Armed Forces.
This latest operation by the Joint Forces poses serious questions as to the constitutionality of such actions in the absence of a declared state of emergency and could set a very dangerous precedent for all law abiding citizens in Guyana. The PNCR therefore calls on the Commissioner of Police who had said that he should be held accountable, to adequately account to the nation for this most recent Joint Forces operation. Meanwhile, the PNCR reaffirms its commitment to work with all stakeholders and support measures designed to address the crime and security situation in Guyana.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Comments by Mr. Robert Corbin, Leader of the People's National Congress Reform and Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, on remarks made by Dr Roger Luncheon at his Press Conference today
(Wednesday, October 26, 2005)
The crime and security situation in Guyana is such a major concern to the people of Guyana that I refuse to enter into a political controversy with Dr Luncheon on an issue which requires objective and rational assessment.
Dr Luncheon’s “Rip Van Rimple” like discovery that the People’s National Congress Reform has ignored the Buxton reality is illustrative of the hypocritical approach of President Jagdeo and his government to solving the crime situation in Guyana. The PNCR is not only on record condemning crime but has taken positive steps over the years to contribute to solutions.
I have met with the new Commissioner of Police on several occasions offering suggestions and pledging support of the PNCR in any positive initiative aimed at solving the crime problem. We have condemned criminality of every type, from racially inspired violence, violent crime against citizens and white collar crime, including drug trafficking and money laundering.
This principled position of the PNCR will not silence us when acts of unconstitutionality are done by any individual or agency in Guyana. The PNCR has constantly made recommendations on the Buxton community. Several years ago when the late Party Leader, Mr Desmond Hoyte presented a proposal for the economic revitalization of the community and which could have been applied to other villages in Guyana, President Jagdeo declared that he was holding the nation to ransom.
My remarks to Stabroek News a few days ago represented law abiding citizens of Buxton who co-operated fully with the Police and were rewarded for their efforts by the wanton arrest of male members of their families without any probable cause.
The evidence from many members of the community revealed that citizens generally co-operated with the Police in the exercise and therefore, would have expected, after such genuine co-operation, to be treated with respect rather than the humiliation which many of them suffered by being hand-cuffed, paraded through the village, herded into trucks and detained by the Police in lock-ups.
The public should therefore judge whether these actions can seriously address the crime situation in that community. What is needed is a holistic plan which includes not only Police action, but a corresponding social and economic plan designed to provide employment for the idle youth.
The PNCR and I will co-operate and support the Police. This is in keeping with my pledge at the recent Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GM & SA) crime workshop where I offered to stand on the same platform with President Jagdeo on this issue. The government however, seems bent on pursuing unilateral action.
I would like to know what progress has been made with the Police investigations into:
• the murder of Harry Rambarran who was shot recently in Ruimveldt as he peacefully wended his way home;
• the robbery and wounding of Harry Panday in Bel Air Park;
• the disappearance of the four (4) sugar workers on the East Coast of Demerara;
• the gruesome discovery of charred remains of two citizens found in a car trunk in the vicinity Stathspey on the East Coast of Demerara; and
• the drive-by shooting which resulted in the murder of sixteen year old Delon Headley at Buxton.
Instead of Dr Luncheon dealing with my comments to Stabroek News, to which I am entitled, he should inform the nation why President Jagdeo and the government refused the Parliamentary Opposition Parties’ proposals, made more than one year ago, to hold an inquiry into criminal and racially inspired violence on the East Coast of Demerara. He should also explain to the Nation why the recommendations of the Sydmonds Report and of the Disciplined Services Commission have not yet been implemented by the government. Until Dr Luncheon can report to the nation on these matters he has no moral authority to lecture the PNCR on its principled position.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
By the People's National Congress Reform
To the Press Conference on Thursday, October 27, 2005
Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
• The PNCR is on record pointing out that an innovative and holistic approach for Buxton and other depressed villages on the East Coast is essential if the situation is to be resolved;
THE CRIME AND SECURITY SITUATION
The crime and security situation in Guyana remains a major concern of the People’s National Congress Reform as we believe it is for all Guyanese. The situation demands a responsible approach and not political rhetoric. Consequently, the PNCR will not allow the erratic, misleading and hypocritical remarks of Dr Luncheon to detract it from objective and rational assessment.
The PNCR had on Tuesday October 25, 2005 issued a Press Statement on the security situation presently ongoing on the East Coast, “Operation Stiletto”. After reviewing what actually took place we opined that that operation may have done serious harm to the formation of a structured working relationship between the Guyana Police Force and the law abiding citizens of that community, a relationship that is a prerequisite for fighting crime in any community. The evidence from many members of the community revealed that citizens generally co-operated with the Police in the exercise and therefore, would have expected, after such genuine co-operation, to be treated with respect rather than the humiliation which many of them suffered by being hand cuffed, paraded through the village, herded into trucks and detained by the Police in lock-ups. It is clear therefore that work will have to be done by all to repair the damaged relationship between the community and security forces which this operation may have caused.
The PNCR concerns were made known to the Commissioner of Police when the Leader of the PNCR and Vice Chairman of the Party, Mrs. Deborah Backer MP met with the Police Commissioner on Tuesday last to discuss the situation. During that meeting the views of the PNCR were clearly communicated to the Commissioner and constructive suggestions made.
This approach is in keeping with the PNCR declared position of its willingness to work with all stakeholders to resolve the crime and security situation in the country.
The PNCR is on record pointing out that an innovative and holistic approach for Buxton and other depressed villages on the East Coast is essential if the situation is to be resolved. It is for this reason that during the Constructive Engagement talks the PNCR had proposed the establishment and operation of a Depressed Communities Needs Committee whose function would have been to work continuously in these Committees to alleviate the many social and economic problems with which they are faced. After a bold start the work of that Committee ground to a halt, clearly because of an absence of vision by the present administration. As early as 2002 proposals by the late President Hoyte for the revitalization of Buxton was discarded by President Jagdeo who promptly accused Mr Hoyte of holding the nation to ransom.
HOWEVER FOR THE PNCR THE MORE IMPORTANT ISSUE IS HOW DO WE COLLECTIVELY BRING BUXTON BACK INTO THE MAINSTREAM OF LIFE IN GUYANA AND HELP RESTORE THE PRIDE AND SENSE OF SELF IN THAT COMMUNITY. Buxton is not the only village that needs our collective help.
An innovative and holistic plan for Buxton and other villages is clearly needed. For the PNCR this plan must include:
1. Round table discussions among the residents of Buxton; the Guyana Police Force; the Government; the main political parties; faith based organizations; social workers the Guyana Human Rights Association; the private sector and other members of civil society as to the way forward for Buxton.
2. The commitment of the Government to assist with the financing of projects that will lead to jobs and opportunities for self employment for the residents of Buxton.
3. Hands on work by the faith based organizations which have a presence in the village and other organizations to repair the fragmented social fabric of the village.
4. A sincere commitment from the residents of Buxton to work in a meaningful way with the relevant authorities to bring to justice criminal elements who reside in Buxton.
It is our sincere hope that these ideas, which are in no way carved in stone, will not be brushed aside as was done with the late President Hoyte’s proposal.
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, October 27, 2005
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