Kaieteur News – There is a tendency of local spin doctors to use the passage of time to revise history in relation to incidents. This is happening in relation to the findings of the Linden Commission of Inquiry (LCI).
The LCI was initiated by then President, Donald Ramotar, after an incident on July 18, 2012 when three persons – Allan Lewis, Ron Somerset and Shemroy Bouyea – were killed after being exposed to gunfire at the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge, Linden. Several others were injured.
The protests in which the above persons were involved came after a decision for a phased increase in electricity tariffs. The people of Linden enjoy the lowest rate for electricity and the attempt by the government to increase same over a period of time was met with rejection and protest action, including the blocking of the main bridge, an act which was in contravention of the police permit for the protest march and which is also in contravention of the constitutional rights of citizens.
The LCI consisted of legal heavyweights of the Caribbean. It was chaired by retired Chief Justice of Jamaica, Lensley Wolfe. The other members were Justice Cecil Kennard, former Chancellor of Guyana; Justice Claudette Singh, former Justice of Appeal of Guyana; Senator K. D. Knight, a Queen’s Counsel of Jamaica; and Dana S. Seetahal, a Senior Counsel from Trinidad and Tobago.
After the tragic shooting incident, the usual suspects had attempted to concoct a tale that the protestors were shot following orders which were given by the then Minister of Home Affairs. This turned out to be nothing but the usual political spin by the sidekicks of the PNC/R. The LCI found that there was no evidence that the Minister gave instructions to anyone during the events of July 18, 2012.
The LCI found that while there was no direct evidence from which one could unreservedly conclude that the three deceased were shot to death by the police, there was also no direct evidence that anyone other than the police were armed that day. The metal fragments removed from the bodies could not be associated with that which is used by or issued to ranks. But based on deductive logic rather than direct evidence, the LCI concluded that it is reasonable to assume that the fatal shooting was done by the police.
The LCI found that the center of the circumstances surrounding the events at the bridge was the breach of the conditions imposed in relation to the march. The Commissioners were of the opinion that had the protestors responded favourably to the withdrawal request made by the police, the result of the event would have been completely different.
The LCI found that there were conditions attached to the permission for the march and that these conditions were breached. And that was the source of the problems which followed.
The Commissioners found that the bridge was blocked at several points both by persons and foreign material, e.g. logs. Persons going about their lawful business were unlawfully denied access to the bridge and some were set upon and beaten. They noted that in those circumstances the police had an obligation to prevent the blocking of the bridge and the assault of persons from continuing.
Blocking of bridges, entrances, roads and rivers has become familiar tactics used by protestors. And it may have led some to believe that these are lawful measures. They are not. And further they are unconstitutional since they impinge on the lawful rights of others.
This is what the Commissioners said in their report, “The justice of a cause seldom if ever justifies a breach of the Constitution and certainly in this situation we are of the view that, whilst we empathise with the citizens, resorting to unlawful means could not have been condoned by the police.”
The LCI found that the organisers must accept some responsibility for what transpired since blocking of the bridge was unlawful and unconstitutional. The Commissioners concluded that “Organisers of and participants in demonstrations, we hope, will agree that obedience to the law in carrying out justifiable demonstrations can enhance their cause amongst well thinking members of the society whilst behaviour that is chaotic can cause mayhem, death, injury and alienate empathisers.”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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