Allegations of Police brutality should be investigated
- President stresses By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
January 12, 2002

PNC/R says Police cannot investigate their own
`(The allegations) should be investigated...there should be an inquest if required, and then whatever comes out of the inquest we proceed with that' - President Bharrat Jagdeo

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday reiterated that allegations of Police brutality and extra-judicial killings should be investigated and inquests held if required.

Noting recent allegations about Police brutality and extra-judicial killings, he told a news conference, "my position is that they should be investigated, that there should be an inquest if required, and then whatever comes out of the inquest we proceed with that."

The main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Thursday said there was an "unacceptably high incidence of extra-judicial killings by the Police" and claimed it has become quite clear that the public cannot rely on or trust the Police to investigate their own.

Mr. Raphael Trotman told a news conference at the party's Congress Place headquarters in Georgetown that in almost every case of extra-judicial killing, the Police claimed they would be mounting an investigation. He charged, "either nothing further is heard or the matter is alleged to have been referred to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)" and that is the end of the matter.

The lawyer declared that the office of the DPP has "become a funeral parlour where cases are indirectly buried without the benefit of a clergy".

President Jagdeo yesterday said what was worrying was that Policemen are tried even before they have a chance to give their side of the story.

"I don't have a problem with an inquest and the investigations being done but as soon as it happens you already have a trial. They (a section of the public) don't know the circumstances under which the Police have had to use force in some cases...they simply come to the conclusion that once someone dies, it's extra judicial killings," Mr. Jagdeo contended.

The President said he has observed that in about 80 per cent of the cases of alleged extra-judicial killings and Police brutality, "it becomes either a political case, someone with an axe to grind or some media personality fulfilling his megalomaniac ego".

He expressed disappointment that Trotman, at the PNC/R news conference, sought to distort a statement he made on alleged extra-judicial killings.

"I am disappointed that Trotman, who is a young politician, would seek to distort me based on an interview that I gave to (the media)...," President Jagdeo said.

Trotman claimed the President had "admitted that these were political killings" and that this has given fuel to those who have alleged that the killings have the political purpose of terrorising the Afro-Guyanese community and reducing its birthrate by killing young males at the height of their virility.

But Information Liaison to the President, Mr. Robert Persaud, in a statement Thursday afternoon, said the allegation by Trotman was "an act of gross misrepresentation of the President's comment on the matter".

Persaud said that the President, immediately after swearing-in former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Mr. Cecil Kennard as the new Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority on Monday, was asked by a member of the media to respond to charges and allegations of the "extra-judicial killings" by members of the Police Force.

"To this question, His Excellency responded that many of the charges of `extra-judicial' killings are politically motivated," Persaud said.

"The President further explained that his Government would not condone any illegal action and abuse of authority by members of the Police Force," he added.

"It is disappointing that Mr. Trotman would seek to enhance his political fortunes by resorting to misrepresentation of a simple and clear statement by the Head of State," the Office of the President statement said.

President Jagdeo yesterday referred to the case of mini-bus driver Brian King, who was reportedly shot in the mouth by a Policeman and died about a month later.

"'s only subsequently that I learnt from a Police report that he (King) had an altercation (with the Police), and people in the community saw that he was shot in a situation of confrontation and this man was in the hospital for (some 16 days)," Mr. Jagdeo said.

He said his initial impression when he saw a television report was that this "had suddenly happened, just now, 15 minutes ago..."

"...the way it was shown on television (was like) the Police just walked up and shot (King) in his mouth," he said.

The President, however, made it clear that he does not have a problem with an investigation into this case.

He said the "story should be presented in its proper perspective and then people will understand it".

The President said he is not going to condone this type of action if it takes place, referring to extra-judicial killings and Police brutality. He, however, pointed out that Policemen operate in very difficult circumstances.

He noted that Policemen put their lives at risk when they go out on duty, taking into consideration the types of sophisticated weapons the criminals use in robberies.

"When the Policemen go out there they put their lives at risk for all of please don't try them before the actual trial takes place," he urged.

Opposition and PNC/R Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, at the Thursday news conference, charged that alleged extra-judicial killings have become so alarming in Guyana that many people who were silent before are beginning to take note now.

"...what we need to do is to prod more and more people into action, into protesting and into internationalising the issue, embarrassing the Government and embarrassing the Police Force, and I think the Government knows that the public is outraged at what is happening in this particular area of activity," he said.

He accused the Police of shooting and killing people within a certain age range, "young people...people who are at that stage of their life who are very reproductive; and those who are being killed, let's face it, are Afro-Guyanese."

Hoyte claimed the killings are not being done by the vast majority of policemen but by a "specially selected few".

He called for a mechanism where an investigation (inquiry) can be done by an agency other than the Police Force because "there has not been a single case where the Police have investigated a killing which has led to a Policeman being charged, much less convicted".

Trotman said the PNC/R had hoped that with the appointment of the new Commissioner of Police, there would have been a pause in "these unlawful killings", but that has not happened.