The Brickdam lock-ups death

By Miranda LaRose
Stabroek News
October 2, 2000

How did fisherman Mohamed Shafeek of Canal Number one die is what is on the minds of many Guyanese who have heard the stories surrounding his demise. Shafeek was arrested for loitering during the early hours of September 2. He was taken to the Brickdam Police station where he died. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear as there are conflicting reports as to how he met his demise. Shafeek has left to mourn his wife and two children ages, 14 and five. We asked the man/woman-in-the-street for their reaction to his death in the lock-ups and the police's investigations and findings. Their views follow:

Reshma Singh - private sector employee: `I am joining with those calling for an independent investigation into the death of Mohamed Shafeek as I am at this time, too, questioning all the stories put out by the police and the government on this matter. The stories which keep changing every day become more and more confusing. I do not know what to believe. First, there is the claim that he was arrested for loitering under the influence of alcohol, then there was the claim that two prisoners under the influence of drugs beat him in a cell, after that we heard that he was beaten by Venezuelans. The police themselves should be blamed for his death. If they picked up a badly beaten man for loitering the obvious thing would have been to take him to the hospital.'

Anthony Ishmael - stevedore: `This is not the first time that people go into the lock-ups alive and come out dead or they go into the lock-ups and then disappear. Now I think is the right time to call on government to mount an independent enquiry into the death of Mohamed Shafeek and probably others who have suffered similar fates. Police brutality is at a peak. We either put a stop to it now or let it continue. It is embarrassing that we are getting different versions of the story from responsible people. Even a little child would not believe that the Venezuelan sailors beat up the man. This story needs to be investigated by private individuals and government should set up a commission with persons of integrity to do so. This story has left me with more questions than answers.'

Mohamed H. Rafeek - security guard: `I want a private investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Mohamed Shafeek. A similar story like this should not be allowed to happen again in our police force under any circumstances. The policemen who arrested this man should be indicted and be removed from the Police Force. If he was picked up in an unstable condition after being beaten as the Police Commissioner [Laurie Lewis] claims it is only logical that he should have been taken to the hospital. There are others loitering on the streets in broad daylight and at nights, why is it that the police ignore them. The police took an oath to protect and serve, not to inspire lack of trust and confidence in them.'

Lorraine Jones - housewife: `I do not believe that the police have conducted any enquiry into this matter and they are hiding vital information which will not be made public... not by the police at least. I believe that a woman has lost her husband and the children their father for no apparent reason. That is very unfortunate because I am a wife and a mother and I could imagine what the family feels. Someone must be held accountable. I do not believe that we will get the truth from the police and because of this an independent enquiry is needed. In this case I feel that government should compensate the wife and her children for the loss of a breadwinner and a loved one. If as it was said that he was badly beaten, he should have been taken to the hospital.'

Mohamed R. Ali - clerk: `At one time you heard he was picked up at around parliament buildings, another time you heard it was under a wharf; at one time you heard he was loitering and drunk and another time that he was badly beaten by Venezuelan sailors. What must I believe? I feel that justice could be meted out if only we get to the bottom of the story. But we cannot depend on the police to investigate themselves so that we have to have an enquiry by persons of good character. Also what has become of the witness who was reported to have seen the police beating the man in the lock-ups? What has become of him? The mother is now looking for her son. This calls for another investigation as well.'

Clarence Jones - carpenter: `There is need for justice for this man and his wife who is denied a breadwinner. If left to the police alone the family will get no justice. So I would suggest that an enquiry independent of the police should be held. If I am to tell anyone about the story I cannot say what is the cause because there are so many different versions of how he died. All the versions coming out of the press are making no sense to me. It is all confusing. I would like an independent enquiry and someone to be held accountable simply because it could happen to me, my brother or my friend. It could also clear the bad name which the police are getting out of it and help to restore some confidence in the police.'

Jitlall - private sector employee: `The police are taking advantage of many people today. If you have money and probably influence and good standing you might get off but not all of good standing are that lucky either. Anyway because of what has happened to Shafeek I think that an independent investigation should be held. My belief is that the police are trying to cover up a crime they themselves committed and are making a bad job of it because there are people who know the truth. When an independent body is set up to investigate people knowing the truth should come forward to give evidence. The fact that they took a badly beaten man to the lock-ups instead of the hospital is cause for concern in itself.'

Sheik Khan - student: `This story is a sad one. The man has left behind his wife and small children. To me there was no reason for the fisherman to die. In the first place there was no reason to place him in the lock-ups either, especially if he was badly beaten. The police have to be held responsible for what has happened. They should have taken him to the hospital. That is what I cannot understand. Government should appoint a commission of enquiry to investigate what took place. I feel sorry for the woman and her children. Government should compensate the family for his death.'

Ralph Khan - private sector employee: `I think the police investigators investigating the case should have investigated thoroughly what took place. I do not believe that what has been revealed so far in the press is what actually took place. Because I know that many feel like I do, I think that this case needs to be investigated independently of the police. We cannot put the police to investigate the police. If the man was beaten regardless by who... Venezuelans, Surinamese or Japanese, the police had a right to let him seek medical treatment or they had the right to take him to the hospital. The police are there to serve and protect.'

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