Guyanese beaten removed from plane in Barbados
Stabroek News
March 12, 2002

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A Guyanese-born Swedish citizen was beaten and bundled off a BWIA at Grantley Adams airport on Saturday in full view of more than 200 passengers on the plane bound for Guyana, including his three-year-old son.

According to reports reaching Stabroek News, Colin Gaul had complained at the inconvenience of having to board the plane from the back, and was taken off the flight after the captain of flight BWIA 431 refused to leave Barbados with him on board.

In a brief interview with Stabroek News yesterday evening, Gaul said that after he was removed from the plane he was accommodated in a hotel at BWIA's expense and put on flight on Sunday, but only after being required to sign a waiver absolving the airline of any injury he would have suffered as a result of the incident.

Gaul was checked by a doctor yesterday for a swollen neck and bruises about his body, which he suffered as a result of the assault at the hands of four members of the Royal Barbadian Police Force.

Gaul was travelling from Sweden via London and Barbados to Guyana with his son whom he said was sick, suffering from swollen tonsils and a sore mouth. He said that he was unable to lift his son up as he had three bags to carry.

Gaul's version of his treatment at the hands of the Royal Barbadian Police was supported by one of the passengers who witnessed the incident. That passenger gave a statement to the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA). The GHRA described the passenger as "thoroughly disgusted" and has forwarded the statement to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a request that the matter be taken up with the airline and Barbadian authorities. The ministry was said to be taking up the issue with the airline and the relevant Barbadian authorities.

Relating the incident to this newspaper, Gaul he had asked one of the BWIA cabin crew why he had to walk from the back of the aircraft to his seat in row 12, located near the front of the aircraft. To this question, Gaul said, the response was that he "better shut your mouth and sit down." He said he then asked if he "can't talk for his rights."

He said that before leaving Barbados, he was made to sign the waiver with the additional condition written in by hand absolving the airline of any liability as a result of the incident.

The statement by the eyewitness released by the GHRA said that Gaul was "complaining loudly about this treatment, noting that normally passengers with children are allowed to board first and that other passengers with children near the front had been allowed to board from the front of the plane.

"The man was loud but did not threaten anyone, did not curse, swear and was not physically aggressive either to the crew or the other passengers."

The statement continued that whilst Gaul and his son had been making their way to their seats, one of the cabin crew shouted across the aisle that "he would call security."

After Gaul and his son had been seated quietly for about five minutes "four heavy set security men boarded the plane."

The statement said that the security men were calm and neither verbally nor physically aggressive. Gaul, the statement said, explained "in a civil manner why he had been angry and one of the security men said that he was sorry but that the captain had ordered him [Gaul] off the plane and that they, the security officers, could not contradict the captain's decision."

The statement said that "at no time did the captain come out of the cockpit to ascertain the situation" and that this, according to the eyewitness, "contributed to the subsequent mismanagement of the situation."

The statement said too that while the discussion between the security men and Gaul was taking place, several passengers had gathered around the man's seat and also explained to the security that the man had not been aggressive, had simply been annoyed by what he perceived was ill-treatment by BWIA but had since been quiet and should be allowed to stay on the plane with his child.

However, the statement added, the security remained polite and calm, simply repeating the captain's decision.

Thereafter four Bajan policemen and one policewoman boarded the plane, one reportedly with a holstered firearm and ordered the man off the plane. The majority of the passengers on the plane verbally objected.

"The man remained passively seated as he had since taking his seat and did not move. A steward announced over the tannoy that all passengers were requested by the captain to leave the plane. A loud noise of protest ensued throughout the plane and no one moved."

The statement said that a woman in row 13, and another in row 12, directly behind Gaul were ordered to move by the police and that they reluctantly did so, all the while verbally protesting his treatment.

"One of the policemen moved into row 13 and grabbed the seated man from behind with one arm and started punching him in the head with bare fists. Other policemen did the same from the side-front of the aisle."

The eyewitness could not see if the child had been physically affected during the assault on his father but all on board heard his screams.

Gaul, the statement said, was then "dragged into the aisle and huddled off towards the front of the plane, still with his arms over his face and head, as he continued to suffer punches from the policemen."

It said too that as he reached the front of the plane, Gaul "was pushed into the front seat on the A-B side of the aisle whereupon at least one of the police officers punched the man who had fallen into the seats."

The eyewitness said that after Gaul and the police officers left the plane a policeman returned to the plane to remove the women whom they had ordered to leave their seats in rows 13 and 14. They said that the captain wanted them removed as well and because they were wanted as witnesses.

"The woman in row 14 remained quiet and passive in her seat. The woman from row 13 stood up and faced the officer telling him that she knew her rights, and that there were about 200 witnesses on the plane apart from her and that she would be making a full report of the incident."

The statement said that the policeman was insistent but she sat down and asked him if she would be removed in the same manner as Gaul had been. The policeman then left the plane and the cabin crew began their preparations for take-off.

Stabroek News understands that on arrival at Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri security personnel escorted the captain and crew of the aircraft through the airport.