Lewis says police will be firm

Guyana Chronicle
April 10, 2001

COMMISSIONER of Police Laurie Lewis yesterday again called for sanity to prevail as violence hit the city from street protests and assured that the rule of law and order will be maintained and enforced.

He urged those who hold responsible positions in society and in the country to examine themselves and the situation occurring with a view to deciding whether this is the way one wants Guyana to go.

"It is wrong for fires to be set, people beaten and robbed...we have been at pains and we have shown extreme tolerance in spite of all the statements which are being made, and we are being injured and this cannot go on forever", he told reporters at his office.

He said the police would have to be firm in the face of chaos and mayhem.

Lewis noted that 27 persons were arrested up to noon yesterday, including two executive members of the Opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) who were part of the crowds demonstrating in front of the Office of the President yesterday morning and playing leading roles.

The two top PNC members arrested were Mr Robert Corbin, Chairman of the PNC/R and Mr Jerome Khan, Chairman of the Reform section of the party.

Lewis noted that Corbin said he sustained injuries while he was being detained at the Brickdam Police Station yesterday. Corbin also requested that he see his doctor. He said as far as he is aware, Khan sustained no injuries.

Lewis also assured that nobody had been shot.

According to him, with this environment being created, there has been an increase in armed robberies by "a specific set of people". He said this also is not doing the country any good.

He reported that people were assaulted yesterday, not only physically but also with words. Fires were also set in various parts of Georgetown.

Lewis said the Police Force had a video tape "where a certain personality was seen purchasing gasolene from a gas station then proceeded to set fire in an area." He said the tape was being examined by the Police.

The Police Chief also touched on the plight of school children who have to take examinations and are being affected by all of this.

The Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations, commonly called "Common Entrance" are scheduled for tomorrow and Thursday.

"I think that children who have to take examinations should not be forced to undergo this type of activity at this time."

"The Guyana Police Force has absolutely no objection to a peaceful protest and it has shown this before...but we cannot sit idly by and allow chaos, mayhem and a breakdown of law and order", he stressed.

The Police Commissioner said the worst aspect of the entire situation relates to the rumours which are being peddled all over the country.

He assured the public that the Police Force will be doing its best to ensure law and order is maintained.

He said drivers along the East Coast Demerara road were stopped by persons demanding money from them before being allowed to proceed. People are being inconvenienced and are being told that if they don't give them money they can't pass and that they will get into trouble, he said.

Money has been paid, Lewis said, noting that in one case a man had to pay $700 and in another case a car was damaged because the person did not pay.

"They (the vehicles) have been stopped by what will soon become marauding gangs if they are allowed to continue...," Lewis said.

Lewis said a Police Commander was hit by stones in his head, face and his arm. Another policeman was pulled off his motorcycle and beaten, sustaining injuries to his face and back. His motorcycle was also set on fire, he said.

He said another policeman suffered a head wound.