A number of whistleblowing Berbice cops are not comfortable giving evidence in person to the police’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
While three of them did reportedly appear at the Eve Leary office yesterday, reportedly making statements, a number of others made it clear that they are hesitant to submit any.
Rather, they said under the current situation, they would prefer to submit unsigned statements.
The policemen are deeply fearful for their safety.
Those fears would conflict with the statements of the government which appeared dead-set on OPR, the internal investigative arm of the police, probing the allegations of corruption.
On Wednesday, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, expressed confidence in OPR being in charge of the probe which involved allegations that appear to implicate Deputy Commissioner of Law Enforcement (Crime Chief), Lyndon Alves.
Alves, who performs the duties of the Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, when the latter is out of the country, was sent on leave Monday in the public’s interest to facilitate the internal probe.
Yesterday, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, during his weekly press conference, made it clear that President David Granger should answer to give clarity to the situation.
Jagdeo believes that the President, who appointed Alves and three other Deputy Commissioners last year August, is hiding from the matter.
“The minister (Ramjattan) says…oh we looking into it…they have absolutely no concern.
This is a major issue about the credibility of the (police) force…and at a senior level, the president personally made those appointments …personally chose those people.”
Stressing that the matter is one of credibility that could undermine public confidence, the former president was convinced that it is an issue that cannot be dealt with in a “routine manner”.
“This is not like a constable getting into trouble. You are talking about the leadership of the police force but that is what we have in this area like in any other areas. This is no leadership in our country.”
The matter is attracting serious attention. In Berbice, the private sector and regional officials had called on Government to conduct an independent inquiry in the allegations which surfaced two weeks ago and have been gathering significant traction since then.
Sources told Kaieteur News that following a call for statements, three Berbice policemen visited the OPR office yesterday and gave their statements.
Two of the ranks were detectives who claimed that they were unfairly taken off their duties and reverted to uniform.
Whistleblowing ranks, in shocking disclosures to Kaieteur News, gave details of colleagues taking money to protect criminals, and even on one occasion to kill a policeman who was set to give evidence in a drugs case.
Even more damning were allegations that a now dead bandit had made calls hours before his death to a senior cop in the city. There were numbers of policemen in the dead bandit’s phone.
There were allegations of ranks providing protection for drug shipments; interference on police cases; and even collection of bribes.
Berbicians claimed that police ranks openly mingled with known criminals.
Alves was one of four deputies appointed last year August by President David Granger in keeping with police reforms.
The reforms were spurred by the findings of an inquiry into an alleged assassination attempt into the life of President Granger. The inquiry report recommended sweeping changes to the police force’s leadership.
On Wednesday, Ramjattan acknowledged that indeed there is an investigation going on involving Alves, a former commander of Berbice, a stronghold of the Opposition.
According to Ramjattan, such actions are “normal” when investigations this serious are being conducted.
If the Crime Chief is cleared, he will be back. If not, it is the President who will have to take the decisions.
OPR will have to take statements and then send those for legal advice.
Asked specifically if he was comfortable with the OPR investigating such a high profile case, the Minister said yes.
“Given the gravity, I am very comfortable with OPR, because who you want us to put?”
He said that whoever investigates, there will always be criticisms.
Alves’s sensitive position as Crime Chief with access of security matters had raised alarms after the allegations came out. Earlier this year, there were reports that he was due to retire since January, but Alves insisted that he will not be 55 until next year.
The private sector in Berbice and regional officials recently called for an investigation into a spate of crimes in that eastern county.
On Monday, the People’s Progressive Party, as the opposition, called for a separate, independent probe.
Last August, during the swearing in ceremony of the new commissioner and his deputies, the President urged them to ensure that they work vigorously not only to fulfil the mandate of the Guyana Police Force, but also to root out corruption and rebuild and regain public trust.
“Unless those officers are persons of integrity, intelligence and impartiality, this country will never be secure and our women and children will never be safe. This country cannot move forward unless the Guyana Police Force preserves the environment, the peace and security of the State and the people to allow us all to go about our work without being harassed, without being threatened.”
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