Corbin calls for review of Buxton crime crackdown
Charges brutality, wanton destruction of property

Stabroek News
May 23, 2003

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PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin, has written to President Bharrat Jagdeo, the Commissioner of Police (ag), Floyd McDonald and Army Chief-of-Staff Brigadier Michael Atherly requesting a meeting to review the current joint forces' operations in Buxton.

This followed a visit to Buxton on Wednesday after what he says were numerous appeals from residents who say they are being brutalised and harassed by police and army patrols. There was no response yesterday from the Office of the President or the security forces on the letters from Corbin.

And at a press conference yesterday, Corbin said the party was "particularly disappointed by the Guyana Defence Force somersault on the nature and extent of its involvement in internal security operations and hopes it is not too late for corrective actions to be taken. The PNCR wishes to remind the commanders of the Guyana Defence Force that compliance with legal orders to carry out illegal acts does not absolve them from liability for their individual actions in an International Court for gross violation of human rights."

Over the last week, the army and police have intensified operations in Buxton to root out criminal enclaves. Several suspects have been arrested, dozens of persons questioned and over one hundred houses searched. There have also been several armed confrontations and in one of them a soldier, Shemton Dodson, was killed. A notorious wanted man, Mark Anthony Phillips was also killed in that incident. Last Saturday, the joint services rescued kidnapped businessman Viticharran Singh from a house in Buxton. In the ongoing operations, a large quantity of goods suspected to be stolen was seized by the security forces. The stepped up operations have been widely welcomed in many sections of society.

In the letters, Corbin said the manner in which the security forces conduct themselves serves to aggravate a tense situation and further alienates the law abiding majority of residents in Buxton.

Corbin said he had seen evidence of wanton destruction of stalls and homes. In a statement, the PNCR said "reports reaching the party indicated that homes were being indiscriminately fired upon by members of the forces, (there was) savage beating of youths who have been barred from walking on the streets of the village or participating in recreational activity (and) malicious damage to stalls, freezers and other materials used in pursuit of economic activity."

According to the party's statement, Michelle Blair, a stallholder, was ordered to close her stall and go home. It was reported that soon after she locked the stall, members of the security forces broke open the stall, throwing all the contents into a nearby trench. One grandmother reportedly complained that her grandchildren, aged 3 to 12 years, were taken out of her home and interrogated by soldiers and policemen who were armed with automatic rifles.

Corbin stated that he could not condone such blatant acts of injustice as a responsible citizen and as a leader of a party.

The PNCR called for an independent fact-finding team to visit the community and listen to the residents' grievances. "The PNCR is on record as supporting legitimate efforts by the Police to arrest the serious crime situation in Guyana. Our support is unequivocal in so far as the acts of the security forces are within the law and achieve results. We cannot and will not, however, condone or support the flagrant breaches of the people's legal and constitutional rights in the guise of security exercises."

In light of the observations made, the party says a review should be done of the present exercise being conducted in the village of Buxton by the joint forces.

The PNCR, in addition, expressed profound sympathies to the family and relatives of Shemton Dodson, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) soldier who was killed in the line of duty on May 15. The party also expressed congratulations to the GDF for its successful operation which led to the rescue of Viticharran Singh last Saturday, calling such efforts "commendable."

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