Report with DPP -Lewis
Disciplining of ranks recommended
October 5, 2000
The police have submitted a 20-page report, containing the statements of 73 witnesses, to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Denis Hanomansingh, on the death of Mohammed Shafeek.
Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis, in his second press conference in a week, said that along with the report were recommendations, including that disciplinary measures be taken against ranks involved.
Shafeek of Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara died in the Brickdam lock-ups on the weekend of September 2. According to the police, he had been arrested at the Wieting and Richter wharf early that Saturday morning. Lewis said the Venezuelan boat, Donna Maria, whose crew allegedly "restricted Shafeek in some measure" had returned to Guyana and the police were able to question them. Lewis said no one was currently being held in the matter.
Last week Lewis had revealed that the Venezuelans had beaten Shafeek on the hand after he was discovered trying to loosen the ropes of their boat. The security officer at the nearby D.Singh and Sons wharf had called the police. Despite reports that Shafeek was seen in the vicinity of Stabroek Market, Lewis was adamant that the fish vendor was transported directly to Brickdam.
Lewis was yesterday served with an order nisi filed by Shafeek's widow that instructed him to send a copy of the report to the chief magistrate for the purposes of an inquest. The Coroners Act is quite clear on the procedure: "An inquest shall be held in every case of the death of any person confined in any prison or any lockup..."
Lewis said he would comply with all aspects of the order. In the meantime, he expected that "the DPP would take three or four days before giving us a direction." When the inquiry "will be held" it will be in an open, public manner, Lewis promised.
Disciplinary action against police ranks would be related to the care and custody of prisoners, Lewis said, as well as the failure of the arresting officers to make a "value judgement" of Shafeek's condition and take him to a hospital.
Lewis recalled that initial police reports had concluded that two men of the Rastafa-rian religion had beaten Shafeek. This had been related to his widow by Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gaj-raj, who reportedly described the unidentified pair as "two Rastas" causing some to question the appropriateness of the description. Lewis said yesterday that he was prepared to apologise to any group that felt offended by such remarks. He said he respected the beliefs and lifestyles of others as long as they conformed with the laws of Guyana.
A coroners inquest or independent inquiry requires that the coroner, in this case the chief magistrate, "shall with all convenient speed summon not less than three or more than five good and lawful men residing in the neighbourhood, of full age to appear before him as jurors at the time and place he directs... The coroner shall summon the witnesses and examine them upon oath touching the matter of the inquest. After the whole of the evidence is closed... the coroner shall sum up the evidence and then proceed to take a verdict of the jury, the finding of the majority being for that purpose sufficient." The verdict and evidence must then be transmitted within seven days to the DPP.
It did not appear initially that the police intended to recommend an independent inquiry. Gajraj had said on September 13, that he was satisfied the police could conduct a credible investigation.
But there has been a consistent public outcry; street protests and statements from political parties and ordinary citizens.
Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today