– says “My conscience is very clear on this matter…I will not run in a cupboard and hide”.
Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, has admitted to having a strategy/briefing session with the Commissioner of Police (ag) Leroy Brummel and then Commander of the E&F Division, Clifton Hickens, among others, on the day before the shooting in Linden.
He explained that he wanted a briefing on what the Police would have been gearing for, on the day of the protest and their approach in dealing with the day’s activities.
The Minister with oversight for the Guyana Police Force said that he was given “all assurances” that no live rounds would have been be used on the day of the planned protest.
The Minister was at the time giving a ‘Situation Update’ which was televised live on the National Communications Network (NCN) last night.
The Minister vehemently denied making any contact with the Commander during the lead up to the fracas, which has since left three dead and dozens injured.
He was adamant that his communications on the day of the protest and subsequent shooting was with the Commissioner.
Rohee sought to explain that it would have been impossible for him to even connect with Hicken via radio, as the equipment simply could not do this.
He spoke of the different frequencies used by the Guyana Police Force’s radio network and said that it was impossible for him to connect with Hicken “on the radio.”
Police followed rules…
The Minister said that based on the video footage of the incident that he has seen thus far, the police “up to a point,” were following the Standard Operating Procedures set out.
The Minister in expanding the SOPs for police engagement with the protestors said, that firstly, a banner must be drawn up, instructing the crowd to disperse.
This was clearly done as there is video footage showing two police ranks donning a banner with the instruction “disperse or we will open fire.”
The Minister said that the Commander, according to the rules of engagement is then required to “use a loudhailer” to read out a declaration.
According to the Minister, up until the shooting of the tear-gas, the actions of the police appear to be in accordance with the SOPs.
From this point where the shots are heard according to the Minister, the video footage gets vague and he is unable to determine what transpired at that point in time.
Asked about the use of force, the Minister said the question is better suited for an expert in the law enforcement field, but from as “a lay person” he suggested that the force used, should be commensurate with the “activities that is taking place.”
The Minister was adamant that he in no way, form or fashion had anything to do with the shooting and that further, he had a “clear conscience on the matter.”
“He is the one that has to exercise the judgment,” said Rohee in reference to Senior Superintendent Clifton Hicken.
The Minister said that it was Commander Hicken who was empowered to make the decision of what level of force to use against the Lindeners on Wednesday last.
The Minister said that he is certain that the then E&F Commander would have had a host of factors to consider before making a decision on the level of force.
He suggested that he as Minister would not be in a position to pronounce on whether Commander Hicken felt that the lives of his ranks were under threat, “because a justification has to be given for the use of force….but I wouldn’t want to speculate at this point I time…I was not on the ground, I don’t know what was operating in the Commander’s head.
Asked about Hicken’s removal from Commanding the E&F Division, Rohee said that it was merely Standing Operating Procedure at work.
“In a situation like that where people are killed, it is necessary that you extricate from the theater of operation the person or persons who were in association…That is a Standard Operational Procedure,” he declared.
The Minister explained that “events moved so quickly” and by the time he had gotten around to the matter, there had already been arranged meetings with a presidential and opposition delegation.
The matter was raised and according to Rohee dealt with within 24 hours.
The Minister of Home Affairs announced that Assistant Commissioner of Police Gavin Primo has since replaced Hicken in the E&F Division.
Hicken has since been transferred to Police Headquarters, according to Rohee.
Asked about calls for the removal of the Commander from the Police Force entirely, the Minister said that this was not something that he could even do.
Rohee said that as Minister, he cannot remove Hickens as he is a Gazzetted Officer and his removal from the Force has to be dealt with at the level of the Police Service Commission
Responding to calls for his resignation as Home Affairs Minister, Rohee said that he will stand by the words of the President.
“I stand by what the President said…I wasn’t there, I didn’t given any instructions oral or otherwise.”
The Minister said that he was rather pleased to see the police issue a release clarifying that the operation at Linden had no political directives
“We don’t have security of tenure,” said Rohee, as he reaffirmed that he serves under Ramotar and “I will stand firmly behind his statement.”
Rohee repeated the section of his Oath of Office related to serving the people without fear or favour, prejudice or ill will and said that he is going to continue to serve as Minister as long as Ramotar will have him.
“My conscience is very clear on this matter…I will not run in a cupboard and hide.
The Minister was said that he is prepared to face a Commission of Inquiry adding that “I have a clear conscience…when I go before the Commission I will have a clear conscience.”
He said that the Commission will decide and he will “let the chips fall where they may.”
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