The Mandela Avenue shootings

Stabroek News
August 2, 2001

Dear Editor,

Once again, the Babylonian tyrants have descended upon hapless "suspects" and have meted out their own peculiar brand of "justice". If eyewitness accounts are to be believed the men killed on Mandela Avenue were executed with scant regard for the presence of witnesses. Those accounts suggest that the officers involved anointed themselves judge, jury and executioner....and that they didn't give a damn who saw what. Problem is, some saw..... and were prepared to relate to the Stabroek News exactly what they saw.

Not content with the handiwork of their renegade colleagues, investigators further sought to interview the Stabroek News Sunday editor. Well, kudos to Ms. Benjamin for refusing to divulge the sources of her information. This principled stand is an example to the rest of the Guyanese jounalistic community of the sacrosanct relationship between journalists and their sources.

To my knowledge, the veracity of the information offered by the Stabroek News has not yet been confirmed or refuted by any information garnered by the police. True, but it is unlikely that other independent confirmation will be forthcoming. Why would anyone want to be caught in the crossfire between an increasingly inept and criminalized police force and their equally brazen and brutal criminal counterparts? Why would anyone come forward, ultimately to be "encouraged" to offer a different version of events?

A recent review of police operational tactics resulted in the recommendation that the police seek to upgrade intelligence- gathering capabilities. Can't see how that will happen if the allegations in this case hold up. How can the police force glean information from a populace that it has repeatedly beaten, cowed, bullied and traumatized? How can such a force even begin to win the confidence of informants or public-spirited citizens, when one can be arbitrarily detained for inconsequential or imaginary offences? Is this not proof positive that "police" and "intelligence" are contradictory concepts in this country?

The customary bromide about "law and order" will not suffice in this case. These implications are sufficiently serious to warrant intervention at the highest levels of Guyanese society and the international human rights community. Moreover, this government must be compelled to fulfill its obligation to protect all citizens from the brutal and murderous storm troopers masquerading as peace officers.

If in the face of all this government does nothing then it will have crossed the Rubicon on a journey to a political and moral Hades.. where all sorts of dire consequences await.

Yours faithfully,
Gordon Burnett

Editor's note
The police investigators were polite and said they wanted details of the witnesses to enable them to carry out their investigations.