Office of the President responds to Hoyte's charges

Guyana Chronicle
June 12, 2001

THE Office of the President yesterday issued the following statement after charges by PNC/R and Opposition Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte at a news conference:

"PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte has once again found it convenient to attack the Guyana Police Force and the on-going efforts to improve its capacity to respond to the needs of all Guyanese.

The PNC's constant, unjustified attacks against the law enforcement agency seem intended to demoralise the members of the Police Force and undermine public confidence in their performance.

Regarding His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo's statements on the Police conduct at Albion, the President made clear the fact that the protest against the Police related to the behaviour of a few ranks in the Force and not that of the entire Force.

It must be noted that at the various community meetings held in Central Corentyne, residents urged for closer collaboration with the Police: a position His Excellency supports and promotes.

As a democratically elected President, His Excellency reserves the right to freely intervene and address concerns of any and all Guyanese.

Further, it would be useful to remind the PNC and Mr. Hoyte that His Excellency has stated that the resort to violence and disruption as forms of protest is unacceptable in any situation."

Hoyte criticises Police Force operations

THE main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) yesterday again criticised the operations of the Police Force, repeating charges of brutality, especially against the Special Target Squad popularly known as the 'Black Clothes Police'.

PNC/R leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, at a news conference at the party's Sophia, Georgetown headquarters, charged that over the last eight years, the Black Clothes Police have "murdered - so far with impunity - over 100 young men."

"Nearly all of these killings have not been the subject of investigation, or Coroner's inquest, or public explanation by the Commissioner of Police", he said.

Hoyte claimed there has been a "deterioration of standards" in the Police Force, blaming this on Commissioner Laurie Lewis and calling for his removal.

"It is time for him to go as a precondition for restoring the image and prestige of the Force", he suggested.

Hoyte reiterated: "There can be little doubt that the Police Force has deteriorated to a point where the general public has little confidence in it, and little respect for its leadership."

Noting that Lewis reached retirement age six years ago, he charged that the Commissioner "continues to cling tenaciously to office while the morale, efficiency and prestige of the Force are collapsing around him."

The PNC/R leader suggested that since the Commissioner of Police now holds office on sufferance, he cannot perform his duties with the independence and professionalism which the office constitutionally and legally requires.

He said the majority of Police ranks are decent people who are trying to do a professional job, but are frustrated because of the circumstances under which they operate.

He referred to the weekend shooting death by Police of Colin Cumberbatch and Sean Hope claiming the circumstances were tantamount to murder.

Police said the men died while cops were trying to arrest them.

Hoyte said the Police did nothing during the protests at Albion, Berbice last week until the mob actually set fire to the Police Station.

One man died in the protests after he was reportedly shot by Police.

Hoyte said Police did nothing when the mob assaulted a magistrate and torched his car and put the Minister of Home Affairs to flight with a hail of stones.

He said Police also did nothing when people blocked the highway and set fires on it, or when they overturned a DDL drinks truck and stole drinks.

"These were the 'do nothing' Police," Hoyte declared.

Commenting on President Bharrat Jagdeo's insistence that the rule of law be observed, he said: "The fact of the matter is that Mr. Jagdeo has no legal authority to transfer or order the transfer of policemen."

"He has no legal authority to issue or promise to issue firearm licences, or to direct that these be issued to anybody. He has no legal authority to arm vigilante groups," the PNC/R leader said.

Hoyte stressed that it is the Minister of Home Affairs who has such powers and not the President.

He called for an urgent and "full-fledged public enquiry" into the leadership, operation, conditions of service and effectiveness of the Police Force with a view to "improving its image, efficiency and effectiveness."