POLICE GUILTY OF INCITEMENT AND BREACHING OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 11 June 2010




SUMMARY:
• The Guyana Police Force is guilty of incitement to breach the peace and of breaching the constitutional rights of citizens;
• After seven years, there is no evidence that the PPP/C Administration is serious about implementing the recommendations of the Disciplined Services Commission;
• The harassment and vilification of Christopher Ram by the PPP/Cregime must cease;
• The Minister of Labour is still to remedy his dereliction of duty and bring an end to the industrial dispute at Kwakwani;
• The Party Chairman advises Region Six resident that the only permanent solution to their problems is the removal of the PPP/C from Office.

POLICE GUILTY OF INCITEMENT AND BREACHING OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

The unprofessional and irresponsible conduct of members of the Guyana Police Force yesterday, (Thursday 10 June 2010), at a peaceful and legitimate protest on Brickdam by students and residents of West Demerara, over the killing by police of 16 year old Kelvin Anthony Fraser, must be condemned by all right thinking Guyanese. It would be expected that since it was the unprofessional behaviour of the police in the killing of a child, which gave rise to the tense situation, they would have shouldered the responsibility to appease the situation, restore normalcy and demonstrate concern for the family and students of the victim. Instead of restoring law and order, however, the police were clearly guilty of incitement to breach the peace and of breaching the fundamental rights of Guyanese citizens.

Students and residents of West Demerara have engaged in protest activities at West Demerara since the gruesome killing of Kelvin Anthony Fraser and the brutal treatment of other youth of the area by the police. Their demands were not unreasonable. They were demanding justice as citizens: Urgent disciplinary proceedings against the ranks that carried out the acts and adequate compensation for the families. Statements from the hierarchy of the Guyana Police and the Government have so far provided no assurance that the incident would be properly investigated. The failure by the PPP/C Administration to act responsibly in the past is not unknown to those citizens and has obviously contributed to the loss of confidence.

For example, Guyanese still remember the fate of University of Guyana student, Yohance Douglas who was fatally shot by the police on Mandela Avenue several years ago, while three of his schoolmates were seriously injured. Despite the public statements that justice would have been served, the accused soon walked free. It did not come as a surprise to many since it was public knowledge that, before the trial had concluded, the accused persons, who were supposed to have been incarcerated, were allowed out of the Georgetown prison to walk freely around the city.

Similarly, the citizens have not forgotten the fate of twenty-three years old Dweive Kant Ramdass who was murdered by the disciplined forces in the Essequibo River; the hundreds of other Guyanese youth who were victims of extra-judicial killing; and, the activities of the “phantom squad” in Guyana, which the Guyana Government refuses to have investigated despite calls from the United Nations.

Statements of intention by the Police or Government will have no meaning until and unless there is evidence of action. Consequently, the students and residents are entitled to exercise their rights to protest as guaranteed by the Constitution. It appears that members of the Guyana Police Force, so accustomed to the flagrant breaches of the laws of Guyana by the PPP/C, have forgotten or refuse to accept that the Constitution of Guyana guarantees citizens of Guyana this right. Indicative of this contempt, is the extensive police barriers around the public buildings when the National Assembly is in session that interferes with the right of citizens to peacefully demonstrate when their representatives are expected to meet and deliberate on their welfare.

Yesterday, the students moved their protest from West Demerara to Brickdam. They were prevented for being close to the Public Buildings or the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry accountable to Parliament for the GPF. The Police forced the protestors further down Brickdam thus creating a crowd. The police then proceeded to arrest one of the truck drivers that assisted in transporting the students and impounding the vehicle in the police compound at Brickdam. The police exercised their right to charge the driver for breach of Insurance but failed to place him on bail. On the intervention of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, acting as the driver’s Attorney-at-Law, the Police placed the driver on ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) bail, which was promptly posted. The driver was then released and allowed to leave the Brickdam Police Station with his vehicle. Meanwhile, mini-buses had been mobilized to take the stranded students back to West Demerara. In full view of the protesting students who were relieved after seeing the release of their driver, a Police Officer promptly re-arrested the driver and ordered the vehicle back to the Police Brickdam compound. It was obvious that such action would incense a tense crowd. The students and others rushed to the entrance to the Brickdam Police Station. The presence of Mr. Mark Benschop, perhaps, further infuriated the police. He was promptly arrested and soon placed in the lockup without bail. It took further intervention for the driver to be released but the Police impounded his vehicle that was earlier released by them. It took the police at until 8:30 PM, after the intervention of Counsel to finally set bail for Benschop at the exorbitant amount of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00). Clearly, the intention was to imprison him but a public-spirited citizen posted bail for him and he was finally released after 9:00PM.

It does not take an expert to conclude that the actions by the police were deliberately provocative and not intended to promote the peace. On whose instructions were the police acting. It was obvious to all that the Officers on the scene were not in charge of decision-making. Every action and decision had to be cleared “at the top”.

On Wednesday last, the PNCR in a Press Release (Wednesday 9 June 2010) conveyed its sincere condolences to the parents, siblings and other relatives of the deceased at this sad period of their lives. The Party stated that it was shocked and appalled at the recent police killing of the 16 year old Kelvin Anthony Fraser at a time when the Government hypocritically preaches about the Rights of the Child, Protecting Children, and the expansion of the Child Protection Unit at that Ministry. The Party also stated,

“One would have expected that the recent national and international condemnation of the torture of a fourteen-year old at Leonora Police Station would have caused the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee and the Commissioner of Police to rein in their ranks. It is obvious that nothing significant has been done to ensure that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) lives up to its motto to serve and protect.
It is therefore ironic that the killing of this teenager by the Police has occurred just as the National Assembly will finally discuss, (tomorrow, Thursday 9 June 2010) the Motion to adopt the report of the Disciplined Service Commission. Is the Guyana Police Force sending a signal that they are a Law unto themselves?”

The conduct of the police yesterday only gave validity to the PNCR’s statement on Wednesday. Ultimately, it is the Commissioner of Police who is accountable and he would do well to heed the advice of his retiring Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Paul Slowe. The PNCR again condemns this recent outrage and calls for urgent disciplinary action as well as adequate and full compensation to the family of the victim.

NO EVIDENCE OF IMPLEMENTATION OF DSC RECOMMENDATIONS

After seven years, there is no evidence that the PPP/C Administration is serious about the implementation of the more than one hundred and fifty recommendations of the Disciplined Services Report. This fact was evident as the National Assembly debated the Motion to accept the report of the Select Committee on that Report yesterday, (Thursday 10 June 2010). The PNCR had argued since 2004 that it was not necessary to have a Select Committee consider the report. What was more important was for the Government to immediately implement those recommendations that would influence the improved professionalism and performance of the GPF and restore confidence in this important national institution. Instead, the Government in their usual mode of procrastination insisted that before the report was acted upon the National Assembly was required to deliberate on its recommendations. The intention was obvious given the seven years that this report was dragged through the tedious process of further deliberation.

The DSC was one of the first agreements between the Jagdeo Administration and the PNCR under the leadership of the Leader of the PNCR and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, in response to public demonstrations and protests over the alarming rate of extra-judicial killings by the ranks of the Guyana Police Force. The Commission was appointed after the Leader of the Opposition nominated two representatives and the Government three representatives including the Chairman, Justice Ian Chang. They commenced their work on 1 July 2003 to inquire into the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Defence Force, Guyana Prison Service and Guyana Fire Service in order to identify their shortcomings and to recommend remedies to respond to the public safety crisis. The final report was presented to the Speaker of the National Assembly on 6 May 2004, including the Minority Report of Ms. Maggie Byrne, who had differing views on several of the recommendations. After the report was laid before the National Assembly on 17 May and accepted unanimously, the PPP/C insisted that it should still be sent to a select committee, which was established on 4 November 2004, with a mandate to report to the National Assembly in four months. The four months became almost seven years and two Parliaments, yet, after such procrastination, the level of professionalism of the GPF remains questionable. Further, the circumstances, which gave rise to the Commission, appear to be on the rise again

PNCR Members of Parliament, Ms. Deborah Backer and Mr. Basil Williams exposed the fallacy presented by Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds that his Government had addressed many of the recommendations highlighted in the report. It was evident that most important ones had been ignored. These include, improved remuneration for officers as well as the working conditions; improved training; ethnic imbalance in the joint services; and Parliamentary oversight of the services. In addition, the refusal of the Government to accept some of the recommendations is instructive. Among them is the refusal to removal political involvement in the granting of firearm licences. The recent legislation passed which allowed the Minister to pronounce on the granting of firearm licences and the decision to allow ranks of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to make arrests were completely contrary to what was recommended. Of significance too was the refusal of the Administration to deal with the issues in a holistic way as emphasized in the Security Sector Reform Project. Many of the recommendations were not dependent on Finance but on political will and the fact that the PPP/C has refused to act exposes their sincerity.

The PNCR, while supporting the Motion could have no confidence that the Government would be moved to fully implement the many recommendations: Another example of the bad faith that has characterized the Jagdeo Administration.

THE HARRASSMENT AND VILIFICATION OF CHRISTOPHER RAM MUST CEASE

The PNCR condemns the recent attempts by the Jagdeo regime to harass and vilify Chartered Accountant, Mr. Christopher Ram and his family. These acts by the PPP/C via the internet and in the state-owned media follow the recent trends as evidenced by actions against political activists, Mr. Peter Ramsaroop and Mr. Freddie Kissoon. The PPP/C believes that these acts of harassment would silence their critics. They are sadly mistaken, as any student of history would know. They will only galvanise the Guyanese people to reject them and ultimately lead to their demise.

The recent report that the GRA has been instructed to continue the intimidation is a dangerous development that Guyanese must not take lightly. The PNCR had long ago exposed the use of the GRA by the Jagdeo Administration to silence their critics but it appears that the Jagdeo regime continues to be shameless. This must not continue and the people of Guyana must be prepared to respond within the framework of the guarantees afforded them by the Constitution.

MINISTER NADIR CONTINUES TO DEMONSTRATE CONTEMPT FOR GUYANESE WORKERS

Despite the exposure of the dereliction of duty by the Minister of Labour, Mr. Manzoor Nadir in the No Confidence Motion debate in the National Assembly a week ago, the Minister of Labour is still to carry out his duties as required under the Law. The duties of the Minister of Labour and his Ministry as required by law were fully outlined in that debate, yet two weeks later, the industrial dispute between the RUSAL owned BCGI and the GB&GWU remain unresolved. When will the Minister carry out his legal duties? The people of Guyana will not be deceived and the PPP will soon be called upon to account for these blatant acts of discrimination. The PNCR will not allow this matter to be placed on the back burner by the Jagdeo regime. We urge the Kwakwani bauxite workers to remain resolute until their issues are properly resolved according to law.

PARTY CHAIRMAN’S OUTREACH TO REGION SIX

On Sunday 30 May 2010, Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform, Mr. Bishwaishwar “Cammie” Ramsaroop accompanied by a high-powered team visited Region #6, East Berbice. He was accompanied by Mr. Idris Deen, Mr. Christopher Jones, Chairman (ag) of the Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM), Ms. Maureen Philadelphia, Region #4 Rep. of the CEC, Ms. Germaine Vanslytman of the National Congress of Women, (NCW), Mr. Mervin Abrams, executive member of the GYSM, Dr. John Austin, M.P., and Mr. Kerwin Crawford, Region #6 Rep. of the CEC. The visit is a part of the Chairman’s outreach programmes across the country. Areas already visited include Leguan Island, Essequibo, Region #2 and Festival City.

The Party Chairman visited New Amsterdam, Port Mourant, Corriverton and Crabwood Creek and met with residents who complained about the many challenges they face. The residents there were not confused about the fact that the problems experienced by them were as a direct result of the incompetence and discriminatory practices of the PPP/C Administration. The residents pointed out to the visiting team that the PPP/C regime was “killing” their communities through neglect. The residents also expressed concern about rampant crime and the inability of the security forces to offer protection to the citizens. The residents of region six are also accusing the current regime of unscrupulous behaviour in awarding of contracts and the managing of state funds. They pointed to several examples where contracts were awarded to close friends of the ruling PPP/C party.

Mr. Ramsaroop, in addressing the residents, stressed that the ultimate solution lay in removing the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic from Office by the 2011 General and Regional Elections. For this objective to be achieved, he stressed the need for the senior officials of the PNCR and other like-minded Guyanese, particularly our youth, to work together for the achievement of the objective.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 11 June 2010