PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, September 26, 2002 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
THE BLACK CLOTHES CONTINUE EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLING:
The People’s National Congress Reform has consistently and publicly called for the disbanding of the Target Special Squad, popularly known as the Black Clothes Police, because the presence of this group of rogue cops continues to poison the public image, credibility and professionalism of the Guyana Police Force.
The PPP/C regime seems to be very comfortable with their reign of terror against the people, through extra-judicial killings and other terroristic activities.
The latest victim, according to media reports, was the hapless 37-year-old Mr Dexter Dubissette, known as “Deke”, of 154 Non Pariel Street, Albouystown. According to eye-witness reports, at about 11:45hrs on Saturday 2002 September 21, “Deke” was in the company of an unarmed male near the corner of James and La Penitence Streets, Albouystown, when they were stopped by the Black Clothes and ordered by a known member of the TSS to approach their vehicle. Mr Dubissette approached the vehicle with his hands held high but was shot before he got near to the vehicle.
As is their usual practice the body was dragged and thrown into the Black Clothes vehicle which immediately drove away. Again, in what has now become standard practice, the “Police Release” reported that “Deke was fired upon by ranks after he pulled an object from his crotch as he turned to face them”. The same Police Release not surprisingly reported that one 9mm Browning pistol and 4 (four) live rounds of ammunition were found in Mr Dubissette’s possession. This was obviously hidden from persons who were close enough to see what was happening!
The Police account differ so greatly from the eyewitness reports that we are left to wonder if they were reporting the same unhappy murder of yet another citizen by the Black Clothes. How on earth could the GPF have any credibility in the eyes of communities like the Albouystown community in which the latest extra-judicial slaying took place?
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Black Clothes police are out-of-control and, apart from the mountain of dead bodies which include Shaka Blair and now Deke who are their victims of extra-judicial killings, engaged in criminal activities, including extortion, racketeering and other activities inimical to the good name and professional integrity of the Guyana Police Force, the Government continues to be their strongest shield to prevent the holding of a legally constituted public inquiry into their operations.
What are the motives of the Government?
REPRESSIVE LEGISLATION TO MUZZLE THE OPPOSITION:
The government has introduced a raft of four bills which they have sought to ram down the throats of those parties still attending parliament and which they have sought to have passed with indecent and suspicious haste. These bills are the:
1. Criminal Law (Offences) (Amendment) Bill No. 9 of 2002.
2. Prevention of Crimes (Amendment) Bill No. 10 of 2002.
3. Racial Hostility (Amendment) Bill No. 11 of 2002.
4. Evidence (Amendment) Bill No. 12 of 2002.
Two of the bills are offensive merely through the inadequacy and incompetence of their drafting.
We wish to make it quite clear that these bills have nothing to do with the need to fight against the crime wave currently overwhelming our society. Instead, they have two major purposes. First, they are an attempt to generate propaganda material in support of the Government’s flawed analysis of the crime situation and to present the image of a Government trying to do something about crime. Secondly, they represent an attempt to provide legal ammunition to suppress dissent and political action in response to the regime’s own incompetence, corruption, and spitefulness. In so doing, it hopes to disarm and render less effective the opposition to its behaviours and policies, by political and other organizations including the Peoples National Congress Reform, the Trades Union Movement and other non-political organizations which could have any reason to protest the actions of the government.
The Racial Hostility Bill seeks to increase the penalties for certain offences. We are not aware of anyone who was charged and brought to court under the existing Act. If the government were serious about these matters, it would have been more diligent in bringing into being, since the originally agreed deadline of 2000 December, the Ethnic Relations Commission which has far wider scope and powers and would have a more far-reaching impact than this innocuous bill.
The Evidence Amendment Bill seeks to make certain electronic and other forms of communication acceptable as evidence. We feel that, though such a provision is necessary, what is of greater urgency is a complete and comprehensive modernisation of the Evidence Act and not the ad hoc patchwork which this Bill represents. However, we do believe that the provision in this Bill which admits untested documents as evidence in a trial, where the witness is not available for cross-examination, is a dangerous measure which could be subject to enormous abuse.
Our major concerns however rest with the Criminal Law (Offences) (Amendment) Bill the co-called terrorism bill and the Prevention of Crimes Bill the so-called deportees bill.
The terrorism Bill is both evil and incompetently drafted. It has a long list of unsatisfactory and unacceptable provisions:
1. Section 309 A (1) (b) makes the death sentence mandatory in certain offences removing the discretion of a judge and jury.
2. Section 309 A (i) (a) makes mandatory the death penalty for someone who never wilfully advocated nor intended death or bodily harm. This in our jurisdiction is termed manslaughter. The expansion of the death penalty to include manslaughter is an unacceptable provision in our law and culture.
3. It has defined as a terrorist act many actions which are part of our freedom of expression and political and social action and are defined and defended by our constitutional rights. For example, advocating changes in the political structures such as federalism, advocating the removal of the government could become a terrorist act.
4. A speaker at a meeting or other occasion or a broadcaster who criticizes the government could be held guilty of terrorism if an act is committed somewhere else even if he or she is not responsible for the act of terrorism. This introduces the mechanism whereby the government could organize violent action outside of the control of the organisers of a meeting or other event and then allege that it was caused by the meeting or event which it dislikes and accuse the speakers of advocating terrorism.
5. The Bill attempts to alter or remove fundamental constitutional rights through the back door.
6. The bill makes the absurd provision that someone found guilty of terrorism should be fined one million five hundred thousand dollars and executed.
7. The drafting of the bill is confusing and the definition of terrorism is unclear and subjective and thus subject to wide and arbitrary interpretation. For example, it refers to an act likely ‘to cause terror in the people’. Who decides what is likely to cause terror?
The effect of this bill is to make it possible for the government to abuse the police and judicial systems to persecute the legitimate action of political parties and other organizations and to hold over the heads of the opposition the death penalty as an antidote to its declining support.
The harsh reality is that Guyana is not faced with the threat of terrorism. It is faced with common and basic crime, some old fashioned and some of recent variety including murder, violent theft, drug pushing and gang warfare. The government is doing nothing to put an end to the crime wave. Instead it has mindlessly joined an international bandwagon which has been made to focus on terrorism, vaguely defined, thus distracting itself from its real responsibilities to develop policies and a national strategy to prevent crime and restore the peace and security which it is the right of citizens to expect of its Government. The Government has already made it clear that it believes the PNCR to be a terrorist organization so the political motives behind this bill are not subject to any ambiguity.
The Deportees bill is another irrelevant bill in our current circumstances. It gives powers to the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs to detain or otherwise circumscribe the rights of someone who has been deported from another jurisdiction. The Bill seeks to shift blame, without the presentation of any supporting statistical or other analytical data or other evidence, to deportees for the current crime wave. It gives to the Minister, the incompetent and egregious Gajraj, the power to determine whether a person can be derived of their rights without giving that citizen a chance to challenge the action in a court of law. This measure thus usurps the powers of the court and the rights of the citizens. The absurdity of this bill rests in the fact that a deportee guilty of a minor drug or domestic offence could be deprived of his or her civil liberties whereas home-grown violent and dangerous criminals are left free to enjoy their full civic and fundamental rights. This bill responds to the PPP/C self serving propaganda that deportees are responsible for the crime wave.
It is instructive that the government has made no attempt to discuss these so-called anti crime bills in the charade which they refer to as consultations on crime nor have they chosen to await the outcome of these consultations before attempting relevant recommendations on law reform. This helps to demonstrate the futility of the consultations and the insincerity of the government.
The PNCR interprets the legislation as a challenge to its own rights and freedoms to campaign, demonstrate and condemn the government. We regard the bills taken as a complete package as an attempt to muzzle political opposition in this country and to, at the same time, create a smoke screen to disguise the ineffectiveness of the government and its measures against crime. These Bills are not about crime, they are about entrenchment of the corrupt regime in office to facilitate more deals with their corrupt contractor and other crooked cronies and friends. We will not accept the intended measures and will not rest until they are removed.
We wish to make it clear that, as the major opposition party, we will not lightly accept this direct threat to our political rights and have already taken the decision to reconsider our participation in any process designed to create interface with this government. We have met with leaders of the Social Partners and informed them of our position.
The recent outrageous attack on a restaurant in the Kitty area of Georgetown with the killing of several persons and the serious injury to many others including the Director of Public Prosecutions aptly illustrates the point which we have been making consistently over the past months. It is irresponsible, dangerous and foolish for the government to seek to divert public attention by grandstanding with the introduction of irrelevant repressive legislation and to blame the Opposition and the media for everything that goes wrong, as one of its less intelligent mouthpieces Robert Persaud has been attempting to do since reports of this horrible event became public.
The government must rise from its proclivity to blame everyone else for the morass of death and destruction it has created for all of us. The solution to the crime wave in Guyana rests with the introduction of fundamental institutional reforms as an integral part of a sustainable national strategy to combat crime and remove threats to public security, along the lines we have advocated.
* We believe that the current security situation is so serious and so threatening to the existence of the state that it requires a national, non-partisan, consensual response at the highest level.
* We are convinced that there can be no improvement in the situation without a thorough and effective inquiry into the operations of the Police Force, which would take evidence and views from all competent persons, including the Force itself, and make recommendations for its strengthening and modernisation.
* We are convinced that such an inquiry should include in its ambit the conditions of service in the Force including pay, recruitment, promotion and training.
* We believe that the Police must take urgent and necessary steps to restore public confidence, which is essential to their successful operation.
* We believe that the ‘Black Clothes’ must be disbanded and replaced by a properly trained professional and competent unit. Those in the squad who are guilty of crimes must be disciplined or prosecuted. Let their innocence or guilt be established by a properly constituted court of law in Guyana.
* We recommend the establishment of a professional and credible Public Relations Department.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
Thursday September 26, 2002
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