Mar 01, 2013 News
– Rohee exonerated
By Michael Jordan and Leonard Gildarie
The five-member Commission of Inquiry has found the Guyana Police Force culpable in the deaths of three Lindeners who were slain on July 18, 2012, when protests erupted in the bauxite mining town.
The report also fully exonerated embattled Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee in the events that led to the tragedy, while chastising the organisers of the protest.
This was revealed by sources privy to the Commission’s report, which was handed over yesterday to President Donald Ramotar by the Commission’s Chairman, former Chief Justice of Jamaica, Lensley Wolfe.
While President Donald Ramotar was yesterday unable to answer questions on the findings as he is still to study it, the Commission’s Chairman, former Chief Justice of Jamaica, Lensley Wolfe, hinted that recommendations made will see justice and once implemented, will “positively” impact the relationship between Lindeners and the government and police.
COPS ALONE HAD FIREARMS
Kaieteur News understands that while the Commission unearthed no direct evidence that any individual ranks shot the protesters, the Commission deemed the Guyana Police Force culpable, since there was no evidence that anyone other than the police ranks were in possession of firearms when protestors and persons in the vicinity were shot.
During the hearing, senior police ranks who testified had stated that the civilians were shot with copper-coated shotgun ammunition and claimed that this ammunition was no longer used by the Force. Several civilians, including those who were wounded, had testified to seeing police ranks shooting into the crowd that had gathered near the Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge.
This newspaper was also told that the Commission recommended financial compensation to the families of the three slain men, and similar compensation to the wounded, and for those whose properties were destroyed or damaged in the aftermath of the shooting.
The Commission, sources said, concluded that Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee was not to blame for the events that led to the shooting of the protesters on July 18.
Rohee had testified before the Commission that he only gave general instructions to the Police to maintain law and order. Under oath, he had also vehemently denied suggestions that he was responsible for the Linden shooting, saying he had been made out to be the “villain” by persons who have a political agenda against him.
Among other things, the Commission of Inquiry would have had to find out whether Minister Rohee gave any general or specific instructions to the Guyana Police Force to maintain law and order in Linden immediately before, during and immediately after the events on July 18.
However, it was established that phone records tendered indicated that Minister Rohee did not make contact with the then police commander, Senior Superintendant Clifton Hicken using his mobile phone, prior to the shooting.
PROTEST ORGANISERS CASTIGATED
The Commission reportedly strongly castigated the individuals who organised the march that led to protesters blocking the Mackenzie/ Wismar Bridge and failing to ensure that the protestors did not obstruct the flow of traffic.
According to sources, the Commission’s report was also critical of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament Desmond Trotman for supporting the blocking of the Mackenzie/ Wismar Bridge during his testimony.
Trotman had aroused the ire of Commission Chairman Wolfe for saying that he was unapologetic for remarks made in support of protestors blocking the Mackenzie /Wismar Bridge in light of promises made by the government for economic relief in the community.
Trotman at the time was replying to Wolfe, as to whether persons had the right to break the law given the problems facing Lindeners.
This had caused Wolfe to remark: “It is indeed a disappointment to hear a member of the legislature making such statements.”
To which Trotman had replied, “Members of the legislature must understand and emphasize the problems the people are facing, and I say and do so unapologetically.”
President Ramotar had ordered the Commission of Inquiry last August following the July 18 shootings which left Lindeners Shemroy Bouyea, Ron Somerset and Allan Lewis dead, following protests in the Region 10 mining community over plans by government to raise electricity rates.
The protests continued for a month, virtually shutting down mining and other economic activities to hinterland areas as roads remained blocked. There were reports of robbery of citizens, and tear gas was used by police in their attempts to clear the roads, as tensions rose.
Several buildings, including a school, were burnt with the events severely testing the fledgling Ramotar administration.
Government and leaders of the community in late August finally managed to craft an agreement which among other things, stayed the implementation of the electricity rate hikes and promised the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry.
Government agreed that it would allow international jurors on the Commission.
In September, former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Cecil Kennard; former Justice of Appeal, Claudette Singh; former Senator of Trinidad and Tobago, Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, former Security Minister of Jamaica, K.D. Knight and former Chief Justice of Jamaica Lensley Wolfe were sworn in as members of the Commission with government announcing an $80M budget.
Among other things, the Commission was mandated to investigate the death of the three Lindeners; to determine who was responsible; whether police played a role and who gave the order to shoot and whether compensation was merited. The body completed its last hearing on February 1 and during its tenure visited the mining community.
‘JUSTICE IS SERVED’
According to the Commission’s Chairman yesterday, the hearings were a “grueling” experience.
“But the focus of the commissioners was on ensuring justice is done. And we… all of us… are satisfied that justice has been done. And we are sure that when the recommendations that we have made are implemented, it will indeed have a very positive impact upon the relationship between the citizens of Linden and government; between citizens of Linden and the Guyana Police Force and between the citizens of Linden and their neighbours.”
The Commission of Inquiry would have heard from 71 witnesses including Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee; Top Cop, Leroy Brumell; families of the victims, Members of Parliament and even Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington.
Regarding the report, Wolfe said that 267 paragraphs could by no means be daunting for any reader because (the report) is “well written”.
The former Judge urged that the recommendations be given the “consideration it deserves”.
One of the Commissioners, Dana Seetahal, was missing from the handing over ceremony of the report at the Office of the President as she was ill.
President Ramotar, while declining to take questions on the findings of the report, committed to making it public.
The work of the Commission of Inquiry is but a fulfillment of the administration’s position to get to the “bottom of the events” and to have an open and favourable inquiry, he stressed.
“…We are happy that this is now completed. It will be a very instructive document to guide us in our work.”
The report handed over yesterday to the President was also expected to make recommendations to assist the Guyana Police Force in effectively and professionally discharging their responsibilities in maintaining law and order in similar circumstances and communities without endangering their own safety and that of innocent persons.
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