US-based teacher accuses police officer of indecent assault
“It was just an unfortunate experience for someone to return home and have this kind of treatment from the police. I read the papers everyday from New York and I see and I hear all kinds of stories, but never thought that I would have had a personal experience like this from a senior officer of the Guyana Police Force,” the words of a US-based Guyanese teacher.
The woman has moved to the police Office of Professional Responsibility and the Police Complaints Authority for redress over what she alleges is an indecent assault on her person by a senior police official.
The woman, who declined to have her name published for fear of victimisation, told this newspaper that the officer, who currently is the head of a department, indecently assaulted her during an operation at Grove on the East Bank of Demerara, one week ago.
Relating the sequence of events, the woman who returned to Guyana on holiday after 15 years of working with the New York State Department of Education, recalled that on August 10 last, she was at home when she saw a party of policemen including the senior officer entering her niece’s yard, which is located two doors from her house.
She said that at the time her niece was not at home and the door was padlocked from the outside.
However the police proceeded up the stairs and the officer instructed his junior to kick the door down.
Realizing what was about to happen, the US-based teacher intervened and objected to them breaking into the property, while informing them that no one was at home.
“They started to kick down the door, so I went out and I shouted to them that it was my niece’s home. At that time, the officer, who I later learnt was in charge (name given), turned to me and said, ‘move out the f@#%*g place’. The other policeman continued to kick down the door, and there and then I remembered I had a camera and I went and got it and started taking pictures,” the woman told this newspaper.
She said that the officer in charge of the operation appeared to be upset by her actions and instructed one of the ranks under his command to seize the woman’s camera.
“I became afraid and started to walk back to my house. The uniformed rank grabbed me by my shirt and brassiere, tugging me,” the woman recalled.
Despite the scuffle, the junior rank was unable to take the camera away.
This led to the officer himself confronting the woman, who secured her camera between her legs.
According to her, this did not deter the officer who approached her with gun in hand.
“(Officer’s name) left the yard with a gun in his hand and ran behind me. By that time I was already in my yard and my clothes was all torn down. I just slipped the camera between the upper part of my legs, and locked my feet very tightly. The officer started digging his hand between my legs to get my camera. I continued to lock it off, but unfortunately at some point he pulled out the camera. But I snatched it from his hand,” the US-based Guyanese told this newspaper.
She added that her elderly mother who was witnessing what was transpiring raised her umbrella to protect her daughter and with that the officer and his ranks departed the scene.
“I have taught in Guyana for eighteen years and have never been touched by any police officer and I have never had a problem with the laws of Guyana,” the woman said.
She said that immediately after the police left, she contacted Opposition Leader Robert Corbin, with whom she discussed the matter.
“I contacted Mr. Ian Chang (Chief Justice) and the very next morning I left to meet my lawyer Mr. Nigel Hughes, but he was out of the country. I contacted the Police Complaints Authority who sent me to the Commander of ‘A’ Division, Mr. Brumell, I told my story to him and I know he was dismayed. He made contact with Mr. Cosbert at Eve Leary, who listened to me and immediately had a police officer take a statement from me,” the woman related.
Kaieteur News contacted Mr. Cosbert and he indicated that an investigation was underway.
This newspaper also contacted Police Commissioner Henry Greene who agreed to have an audience with the woman. The Commissioner, to his credit, forwarded the woman to the Office of Professional Responsibility to have the matter addressed.
“I am prepared to return to Guyana to deal with this. I don’t think that anyone living in a free country should have this experience that I have had. I told the police that if I have to remain in Guyana for an extra week to have the matter dealt with, I will. At the same time, I will not like to be victimised by the Guyana police because I am an honest, law-abiding citizen of Guyana and the United States,” the woman said.
IDB backs major education reform in Haiti
At a board meeting of the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) yesterday committed to raising $500 million for an overhaul of the Haitian education system.
The IDB, which has been working on the plan with the Haitian Ministry of Education, the Presidential Commission on Education and many donors since shortly after the Jan. 12 earthquake, pledged to provide $250 million in grants from its own resources and to find an additional $250 million from non-traditional donors.
As envisioned by Haitian authorities, the five-year, preschool-through-university plan will cost about $4.2 billion, an estimate that includes the construction of thousands of schools, the retraining of tens of thousands of teachers and subsidies to reduce or eliminate the cost of tuition for all children in a new publicly funded education system.
Tuition fees represent a huge expense for most families in Haiti, where nearly 90 percent of schools are private and per capita income stands at around $400. Even before the earthquake around half the primary education age children were not enrolled in school.
The resources needed to finance the reform will have to come from both the Haitian government’s budget and external donors. At present, Haiti spends only about 2 percent of its gross domestic product on public funding of education. The average in Latin America is close to 5 percent of GDP.
Under the reform, most Haitian schools will become publicly funded institutions, foregoing or drastically reducing tuition charges. The government will pay teacher salaries for schools participating in the plan. To remain in the new system, schools will have to adopt a national education curriculum and meet increasingly stricter certification standards, including teacher qualifications and building facilities.
The plan will also finance the construction of larger schools in safe locations, following earthquake- and hurricane-resistant standards. Schools will be used to deliver other social services such as nutrition and health care.
A first $50 million grant, soon to be submitted to the IDB’s Board of Executive Directors, will help Haiti fund a quick-start program to clear debris from schools hit by the earthquake, build and furnish temporary classrooms and provide scholarships for hundreds of thousands of students for the coming school year.
To support the Haitian plan, the IDB will work with traditional multilateral donors such as the World Bank and with alternative donors such as foreign universities, corporations and foundations.
Along with financial backing from the IDB and other donors, Haiti is also receiving technical assistance from leading experts in education reform such as Paul Vallas, who led the transformation of the New Orleans public school system after Hurricane Katrina.
Since the earthquake the IDB has helped Haiti in its efforts to reopen schools, financing the construction of nearly 600 provisional classrooms on the sites of 60 schools, mostly in the Port-au-Prince region, allowing some 65,000 students to return to their lessons in safe facilities. The IDB also provided resources for school equipment and teacher financial aid.
During the IHRC board meeting, co-chaired by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, participants were also informed about IDB-financed projects to support development in agriculture, transportation and water and sanitation.
In March the IDB’s Board of Governors agreed to provide Haiti $200 million a year in grants over the next decade as well as to cancel Haiti’s pending debt. So far this year the IDB has disbursed nearly $100 million to Haiti and approved new projects totaling $166 million.