STATEMENT TO THE MEDIA TUESDAY 4TH MARCH 2003 AT THE HALL OF HEROES, CONGRESS PLACE SOPHIA



Saturday 1st March 2003 was another sad day in the history of Guyana with yet another extra-judicial killing, this time of 18-year-old University of Guyana Student, Yohance Douglas, along with the critical wounding of Ronson Gray and three other young men. The People’s National Congress Reform expresses its deepest condolences to the parents, relatives and dear friends of Yohance Douglas. At the same time we continue to pray for the recovery of Ronson Gray who still lies in a serious condition in hospital with gunshot wounds to his mouth.

These heinous crimes, according to the Commissioner, were committed by members of the “Fountain Squad” in broad daylight and in the full view of numerous witnesses. However, PNCR intelligence sources suggest that the group included persons attached to the new and dangerous “Phantom Force”. The politically hand picked Fountain Squad of the Guyana Police Force is reportedly, the replacement for the notorious “Black Clothes Police” and reports directly to Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj. Its apparent purpose is to summarily execute anyone whose name is placed on a special list given to them.

The young victims of this outrage represent the best of young Guyanese manhood. These were serious university students and athletes with healthy and wholesome attitudes to life. The PNCR, and we believe most of Guyana, are convinced beyond any doubt that these young men are not criminals. The attempt to so label them is a gross insult to the intelligence of the Guyanese people and a further injustice to the young men and their families.

The PNCR has been carrying a relentless campaign for several years on the matter of extra judicial killings by rogue elements in the police force. We have documented that at least 250 young men have perished in this reign of genocide under this PPP/C regime. Our call for the ending of extra-judicial killings has, for more than three years, fallen on deaf ears and indeed there were times when we were disappointed at the lack of interest and consciousness on the part of the moral and civil forces in our society. It is unfortunate that it took these terrible events to open the eyes of society to the nature of the beast unleashed on our suffering people by the PPP/C Administration. The PNCR’s position is clear and consistent; criminal law enforcement should be done within the law. Murder and criminal activity by the Police worsens the security situation and should also be dealt with within the confines of the law.

Let there be no misunderstanding of the situation. This incident occurred because the PPP/C regime has sanctioned and condoned extra judicial killing, has condoned and facilitated drug running and in the pursuit of this agenda has facilitated and encouraged the growth of a breed of gangsters within the police force who are allowed to operate above the law. There can be no other public policy purpose served by this madness. The PNCR hopes that those in the PPP/C regime who may still have consciences will have enough moral fibre to disassociate themselves from this action, publicly, and preserve some of their integrity and reputations.
The behaviour of these squads of murderers when approaching citizens violates all norms and Rules Of Engagement and their constitutional rights. The facts reveal that these young men, while going about their business peacefully, and in a law abiding manner, were ruthlessly attacked “Mafioso” style, without the gunmen identifying themselves. The men in the vehicle who executed Yohance Douglas and grievously wounded Ronson Gray were casually attired and therefore could not be recognized as law enforcement officers. Their “funky dread” hairstyles, FUBU shirts and three quarter pants are the very opposite of professionalism.

If due process were followed, this situation would never have occurred. The Police hierarchy and the political directorate have allowed this type of wanton killing and abuse of citizens’ rights to continue unabated. Clearly, the responsibility for the death of Yohance Douglas and grievous injury to Ronson Gray must extend beyond those who pulled the trigger and rest squarely on the PPP/C regime and the spineless leadership of the Guyana Police Force. The fact that the blood of the innocent has been flowing seems to be of no concern to the PPP/C who remain contemptuous, callous and uncaring.

Extra-judicial killings are obviously one of the anti-crime measures and policies of the administration in Guyana. This is a crime against humanity for which the people of this country will hold Jagdeo and his ministers accountable.

Reports reaching the PNCR indicate that at the scene of the incident the victims were treated in a brutal and inhumane manner. They were manhandled and tossed about like animals even though seriously injured and requiring urgent medical attention. It should be noted that Yohance Douglas, who was still alive, was roughly pulled from the vehicle in which he was shot, dragged on the road and thrown into the rear of the police vehicle. Later we understand that whilst bleeding profusely, Yohance Douglas, and the other hapless teens, were harassed and brutalized for more than twenty minutes following the shooting before he and Gray were taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation ostensibly to receive treatment. It is quite likely that Mr. Douglas may well have survived if he had been afforded proper medical care after his shooting. O’Neil King who was also wounded and bleeding, along with the two other traumatized teens, was taken to the Brickdam Police Station to be fingerprinted and interrogated before medical treatment was offered.

Having executed one, and maimed others, the Police Force in the hours and days thereafter made no attempt to show compassion to the families of the deceased and injured. Rather the police was busy, through its propaganda arm, suggesting that the young men had confronted the police and were in possession of a gun and other criminal paraphernalia. The statements contained in the police press release are contradicted by eyewitness accounts. It is clear that by their own actions the integrity of the police is further compromised. The attempt by the Commissioner to placate the families by asserting that an investigation will be done in a few days and that there will be no cover up rings hollow. We wish to ask a most disturbing question: Why was the Commissioner unable to release the survivors of the outrage from the Brickdam lock-up without the permission of the Head of the Presidential Secretariat even though two of the young men were children of police officers? Is there need for further evidence of the toothlessness of the Commissioner and the political interference in the work of the force?

We have noted that the Commissioner (ag) has indicated that arising from this incident 2 Policemen were assigned desk duties. From all reports, there were more than 2 persons in the vehicle from whence fire was opened on the students. The question arises here, who were those others? Were they also Policemen? If so, what has become of these other Policemen? If not Police, who were they?

It is with concern that the PNCR notes that many Guyanese have been forced to arrive at the conclusion that these killings are premised on profiling. In recent weeks there have been numerous instances of young Guyanese citizens being harassed, searched and brutalized by members of the politically controlled Fountain Squad and others posing as policemen. No one has been fooled by the supposed substitution of the notorious Black Clothes Squad by the Fountain Squad. This has further been accentuated by Gajraj handpicking this gang to carry out the nefarious activities of his Party. This is dangerous and sinks Guyana further into crisis and anarchy.

The PNCR stands in solidarity with the University of Guyana Students Society, with all mothers whose children are exposed to death and those whose children have died, and with all peace loving and law abiding young people. We will fight for their right to go about their lawful business in safety, always free from the threat of wanton murder by agents of the PPP/C.

The PNCR will not accept the palliative offering up of a few policemen in this instance. There is need for a comprehensive approach to ensure that other young people are not exposed to further acts of Police brutality and wanton killings and other forms of human rights violation.

• We demand that the injured young men be provided with the best and most appropriate medical attention available in Guyana and beyond and that no expense be spared in that effort.
• We demand that the police declare the names of the perpetrators of these crimes be they members of the police force or gangsters recruited by Gajraj.
• We demand that the perpetrators be charged with murder immediately.
• We demand that there be an independent Inquiry with the full involvement of International Human Rights Bodies to investigate extra-judicial killings in Guyana.
• We demand that the long overdue Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Police Force be established immediately.
• We demand that the regime put an end to its collaboration with criminal drug enterprises and disband the Phantom Squad.
• We demand that the incompetent and disgraced Gajraj and McDonald be dismissed immediately.
• We demand an end to the harassment of the families of the bereaved and injured by agents of the government.

We wish to warn the Administration that the PNCR will not stand idly by if there are any attempts by the Administration to undermine the exercise of the peoples’ constitutional rights to protest this gross outrage.

We also wish to make it clear that the issues surrounding this painful affair are for us a test of the government’s claims to good faith, trust and seriousness about the healing of the nation. The Guyanese people will now have an opportunity to judge their sincerity.

The PNCR calls upon all national, regional and international human rights and other concerned organizations to raise their voices against this gross violation of human rights in Guyana and support the Guyanese people in their quest to restore a peaceful, just and democratic society. This is a moral issue which transcends partisan allegiances and prejudices. Let this be a wake up call for all of us. Yesterday it was Yohance. Tomorrow it could be you or your child.

All are involved. All are consumed.


PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Tuesday March 4, 2003