Jan 10, 2016 News
The Guyana Bar Association has called for a Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding
the deaths of Guyana Defensce Force (GDF) Sgt. Robert Pyle, his wife Stacy, and Canter truck driver, Linden Eastman. They died in an accident on December 30.
The Guyana Police Force (GPF) had stated that Pyle, driving motor car PRR 9118, was in pursuit of another vehicle during a “Special Operation” on behalf of the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU), when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into an oncoming Canter truck on Carifesta Avenue.
According to reports, Pyle was part of a team that was carrying out the operation in the vicinity of the residence of embattled head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, (NICIL), Winston Brassington.
However, the Association made it clear yesterday that the deaths of the parties brought to the fore, questions about the legal underpinning, staffing and reporting protocol of SOCU, regard for the privacy and private lives of individuals and wrongful death, criminal liability, immunity and appropriate redress.
The GDF had also stated that “it is normal for the Guyana Defence Force to support the Law Enforcement and Regulatory Agencies of Guyana in operational activities, especially at this time, as part of Operation Dragnet.”
Operation Dragnet is a Joint Services collaboration, between the Police Force and the GDF. It was announced by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on December 2, 2015 to deal with the spiraling crime. It is expected to be in place until June 1, 2016, following the celebrations of Guyana’s 50th Independence anniversary.
The association stated that operational control of the GDF rests solely in the Chief of Staff, but is subject
to the general or specific directions of the President, as Commander in Chief.
It went on to note that the GDF is charged with “the defense of and maintenance of order in Guyana and with such other duties defined by the Defence Board.”
“The President is the Commander-in-Chief and Chairman of the Defence Board which includes the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs, now Public Security.”
“So far as the use of the Guyana Defence Force in civilian activities is concerned, where there is a situation involving violent crime beyond the capacity of the police,” the association stated. “The Commissioner may request the Commander in Chief to deploy the Military in support for specific missions and within specific Police Divisions.”
“The Chief of Staff, as Chairman of the Joint Services Coordinating Committee makes his own assessment to the Commander in Chief (President David Granger), to justify the deployment,” the association said. “It is against this background that the association considers it necessary to call upon the government to mount an inquiry into the series of events.”
The association added that while the Chief of Staff has announced that the events on December 30th resulted from a “legitimate operation”, there has been no word from the Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud, who it noted was the statutory authority to initiate a call for assistance from the GDF.
Similarly, the association stated that since Operation Dragnet was announced as a response to concerns about public security, then it was important that the Minister of Public Security (Khemraj Ramjattan) address the nation on the tragedy.
“At the very least, the law requires a Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of the three citizens, while the issues identified above are so serious and fundamental to the normal functioning of a democratic state that they require a proper, independent Commission of
“The President is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and Chairman of the Defence
Board,” the association stated. “He would wish to avoid any perception of any conflict of interest, undue influence or political interference in the operations of the Disciplined Services, or of an operation that went horribly wrong.”
This newspaper had reported that GDF soldier, Sergeant Robert Pyle, was engaged in a surveillance operation targeted at civilians and further, that he was engaged in a high-speed deadly car chase through the streets of Georgetown, chasing a vehicle which he believed contained the teenage daughter of Winston Brassington.
It was reported that minutes after the crash, the son of a popular city businessman had told police that he was chased by two cars, the occupants of which had earlier identified themselves as Intelligence Officers from the SOCU and who had attempted to block his vehicle while he and his sister were leaving a Cowan Street, Kingston residence.
The businessman’s son reported that while on Carifesta Avenue, one of the cars that were chasing him spun out of control and slammed into an oncoming Canter truck.
Sergeant Pyle, his wife Stacy and Eastman, called ‘Smallie’, all perished in the crash.
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