Editorial was simplistic in concluding there were extra-judicial killings

Stabroek News
August 4, 2001

Dear Editor,

I have been following the reports of the Mandela Avenue incident over the past few days. The editorial [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] of the Stabroek News (29/07/01) is a bit too simplistic in arriving at the conclusion that this is another case of "extra-judicial killing".

Firstly, the lighting at 5.30am in the morning is very poor and any witnesses would have to have been very close to the scene to have observed everything that was going on,also with the reports of gunfire I would think that anyone with commonsense would have vacated the area unless they themselves were armed.

The police statement that they came under fire is borne out by the fact that seven rounds of ammunition were found in the Browning 9mm and three rounds in the .32 Taurus which carry 10 and 6 rounds respectively.

It is more than likely that the driver of the vehicle was forced to stop by the occupants who decided to make a run for it in familiar surroundings,the two on the road being the first to be shot as they came around the back of the vehicle and one being shot by the stall.The driver of the vehicle probably took off as police officers attended to the immediate danger,for fear of his life and is probably in hiding somewhere, uncertain as to his


The fact that Stabroek News visited the scene on two occasions after the incident and was able to cull exactly the same story from several purported witnesses, means that all these people must have been in exactly the same spot at the same time to have witnessed exactly the same thing! More than likely one person may have misconstrued what he or she saw in the dim light and confusion,which would likely have taken place in about three minutes and others arriving on the scene shortly thereafter became potential witnesses having heard the initial account,but are not prepared to swear under oath.

Under the circumstances, whilst I agree that an inquiry must be launched into this matter, I would urge everyone to observe a degree of caution until the full facts are known.Furtheremore,any inquiry into the conduct of the officers concerned must ensure that their identities must be kept secure,wether a case of misconduct is proved or not,as this will only put them and their families at risk and will not do much for Guyana's already

beleaguered police force.At present I would err on the side of law and order and would encourage fellow Guyanese to do likewise.

Yours faithfully,
M A Vyfhuis

Editor's note

1. Mr Vyfhuis' conclusions are based on speculation; the Sunday Stabroek editorial was based on eye-witness reports.

2. All witnesses agree that whatever the time (5:30am came from the police), the incident occurred in daylight and not "dim light" as Mr Vyfhuis assumes.

3. It does not follow that because (according to the police) only seven rounds of ammunition were found in the Browning 9mm and three in the .32 Taurus that these weapons had been fired at the scene.

4. The witnesses did not vacate the area for the simple reason that according to them there was no exchange of gunfire between the police and the car occupants. The men were taken out of the car at gunpoint by the police, they said, and were subsequently killed by officers - one while he was backed up against a stall, and the other two while lying on the ground.

5. All eye-witnesses confirmed that indeed the car was forced to stop by the Special Target Squad, but that it did not speed away during any confrontation as stated in the police press release issued on the day of the shooting. Some witnesses alleged that they heard officers telling the driver to leave the scene.

6. All Stabroek News' witnesses were not in exactly the same spot when they saw the police kill the men, but then they did not need to be to give similar accounts of what happened. People might be witnesses to an incident from different geographical vantage points, but all that would mean is that they would be seeing the same thing from different angles.

It must be said that all the people on whose testimony Sunday Stabroek relied, were first-hand witnesses, and not "potential witnesses," as Mr Vyfhuis speculates. In addition, they were all credible.

7. Given the reputation of the Special Target Squad and given what happened on this occasion, eye-witnesses are afraid to come forward to "swear under oath," as Mr Vyfhuis puts it. Willing to give an account of what they saw, but at the same time anxious for their safety, they will only speak to the media under guarantee of anonymity.