Mystery gunfire erupts in the vicinity of PNC/R headquarters
Police Commissioner cites conflicting reports

Stabroek News
April 25, 2001

Gunfire of unknown origin erupted in the vicinity of the PNC REFORM's (PNC/R) headquarters at Congress Place, on Monday night startling residents in the neighbourhood and causing a sometimes violent crowd to gather there to vent their concerns.

No-one was injured as a result of the gunfire.

Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis yesterday called for an inquiry into the gunfire incident given the conflicting reports received.

He also said checks will have to be made to determine whether the shooting came from outside or inside of Congress Place.

Residents as far away as D'Urban Backlands were startled out of their sleep when the shots were fired.

One woman said she was watching television at around 23:15 hours when she heard the shots. She became frightened and turned off all the lights in her house and peeped through the window, thinking it was thieves in the area. She said she heard what sounded like automatic gunfire followed by single shots.

A Sophia resident said when she heard the shots she thought they were coming from within the Sophia Exhibition Complex on the block next to Congress Place.

A PNC/R press release yesterday said that at approximately 11 pm an incendiary device was thrown into its compound and started a fire.

Security personnel rushed to extinguish the fire but came under "heavy gunfire from at least three different points on the southern road outside of Congress Place."

The release said the rapid nature of the gunfire suggested that automatic weapons were used.

A call was made to the police from a New Nation staffer located within the compound informing them that Congress Place was under siege.

The PNC/R said during this period a white car was seen travelling south on the Eastern Highway and as it approached the gates of Congress Place, heavy automatic gunfire erupted.

The security guards at the gate had to take evasive action and sporadic firing continued outside the compound for about 20 minutes, the release stated.

According to the party, members of its security personnel observed members of the police Target Special Squad taking up positions on the western and southern sides of the compound.

It said a number of persons with weapons were later observed trying to enter Congress Place by crossing the canal at the south-eastern side of the compound but withdrew after encountering difficulties.

Members of the Target Special Squad, and other police ranks, assembled at the entrance of Congress Place while the shooting was continuing, the release said, but left at around 12.30 am.

PNC/R general secretary, Oscar Clarke, had left the compound a few minutes before the gunfire, the release added. He was contacted at home by a senior police officer who informed him that there was shooting at Congress Place. After investigating, Clarke later advised the officer that the party headquarters was under sporadic gunfire.

The PNC/R said it will carefully review the events of that night.

NBTV Channel 9 has carried a message early yesterday stating that Congress Place was under siege and calling on all PNC/R supporters to report to Congress Place.

Commissioner Lewis said he was at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, on Monday night when he received a report of shooting in the vicinity of Congress Place and ranks had been dispatched to investigate.

Lewis said he advised the police divisional commander to contact a certain "senior functionary" of the PNC/R. This commander also reported there was shooting on the southern side of Congress Place. Lewis said he found this difficult to comprehend.

The Police Commissioner said he instructed the commander to contact the party's senior functionary again to ensure that Congress Place knew that the police were on their way to investigate.

He stated that upon the arrival of the police, a man attempted to approach them but was pelted by persons inside Congress Place and the man had to withdraw.

The Commissioner stated that after some time the police were instructed to remove from the scene since no-one from within Congress Place was coming forward to give details of the shooting.

He said because of the confusion surrounding the reports received from various sources a proper investigation is required. He cited the reports on channels 9 and 69, the PNC/R press release and testimony from citizens

Lewis said he was satisfied that there indeed had been a shooting incident there but the police had not been able to get into Congress Place so much could not be done at the time.