The Home Affairs Minister and the Linden crisis – Eusi Kwayana letter

The Home Affairs Minister and the Linden crisis – Eusi Kwayana

Dear Editor,

The Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, loomed large as a figure in the July crisis of 2012 in Linden, Guyana. Three people were killed by gunfire and over 20 others were injured by firearms.

There was outrage at the news. The Government of Guyana told the OAS, “Agreement (i.e., on the electricity tariff increase) was reached on April 19, 2012, and this was announced on the same day in the National Assembly by the Prime Minister with the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition,. On April 20, 2012, the Leader of the Opposition reneged on the agreement.”   The December 2012 statement of the Government to the  International  Community blamed the  July 18 death and injuries at Linden on people ”inflamed by the Opposition parties.:”\ It seems that APNU agreed in the name of the people without consulting  the people of Region10  and then corrected itself when the people  rejected the high-handed decision. 

The government had been in office for 20 years and should have known the proper Region 10 authorities to bargain with, rather than bargain with proxies. This is a hangover of the political culture developed in post-independent Guyana, where the Party is everything and everyone is a bargaining chip. Both of the parties to the agreement, claimed by the government and not acknowledged by the other showed a surprising lack of respect for the people who really had to pay the  electricity rates. They both believed, falsely, that the people had handed over their destinies to the Parties. Neither party to the so-called agreement cared to find out about the history of disputes in that part of the country. By sheer chance, a new USA publishing entity has just reissued. “The Bauxite Strike and the Old Politics”, a 1972 book written close to the 1971 workers revolt in Linden.  There was no attack on the book when it was first published in 1972.  A hint to the Hon, Prime Minister.- It is too late now to discredit it  from memory.

Whenever and wherever there is  fatal shooting by the police, the Minister  of  Home Affairs cannot be left out.

One possible test of the Minister’s efficiency is this. For the first time in recalled history the police officially  denied shooting.

One good measure of the Minister’s management of his Ministry is the fact that  the acting Commissioner of Police  expressed the view that shooting was unnecessary. There was conflict among the police witnesses.

To me the fact that the Minister was not on the spot is not important.  He does not have to be on the spot to be responsible. The President charged the Minister with responsibility for the Police under Article 107.  The Minister cannot escape political; and constitutional responsibility..The Police Act says,  “The Commissioner shall subject to the general orders and  directions of the Minister have the command and supervision of the Force  and shall be responsible to the Minister for peace and good order throughout Guyana.” (Section 6). This is not on the face of it criminal responsibility.  Evidence must establish criminal responsibility.

Mr Minister had that provision in mind when he denied speaking to anyone on the spot that day July 18. He knew that since the Commissioner was responsible to him, he  as Minister could not be taking reports  from. or de-briefing an officer below that rank and present at the scene.  The Commissioner is responsible to him. The Minister had said that the police radio did not have the range to allow him to have  a conversation with police officers on the scene inLinden.  This would rule out any conversation or meddling by the Minister, Was that an attempt to distract focus on his actions?  Then when advocates presented the evidence of recorded phone records,  it turned out, and he admitted that he had used other means than the police radio. It was established that conversation took place after the shooting.  The  police radio was a red herring.

The allegation that the Minister gave orders to shoot has not been followed up.  The government’s case is that the Minister spoke to some officer on the spot only after the shooting.  That is about the time that tampering with witnesses, if it took place, would take place, not before the offence.  Observers should note that the Minister’s statements are important in and out of the Inquiry.  A Minister, having taken the Oath of Office, is always onoath while discussing official business. He does not have to take the witnesses’ oath to be on his oath.

Mr Rohee testified that he had discussions with the Commissioner of Police the day before the Linden shooting and in relation to the situation at Linden. He is allowed to do that under the Police  Act. The law involves the Minister even more deeply. Section  3 (3) of the Police Act  provides:  “It shall be lawful for the Minister to cause to be issued arms and ammunition to the Force and for any member thereof to use the arms and Subsection ammunition for the purposes of  sub section (2)”.   (2)  includes “ the detection and prevention of  crime, the suppression of internal disturbances, protection of property and the  due enforcement of all laws…:”

The lack of comment on the Minister’s conduct after the shooting is disturbing..If the Commissioner of Police is responsible to him for such matters and the Commissioner was not there, on the scene, it is extremely untidy for the Minister  to hold conversations with any officer on the crime scene, especially after the incident. Worse still, in my opinion, the content of the conversation was not disclosed and questioned.  It was highly irregular and cannot be a privileged conversation in a matter where lives were lost. If the conversation had the status of a privileged conversation, or State secret.  The Commission of Inquiry will certainly  pronounce on it for the benefit of Guyanese  of all political sections and the watching world.

Yours respectfully,

eusi Kwayana.

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Comments

  • de castro  On 02/23/2013 at 10:23 pm

    Am sure the commission of enquiry will report on who pulled the trigger…
    Who gave the order to shoot may also be made public..
    Who was responsible will always be arbitrary…

    Police are no soldiers with different disciplines…if it was absolutely necessary
    will also be arbitrary…fear,self defence,stupidity,ignorance,arrogance,power,
    etc etc are not acceptable …people lost their last Ives…whoever was responsible
    must face the consequences for their action….let the courts decide !
    Justice would not only be ‘seem’ to be done…it would have been done.

    The honourable thing that follows should be the resignation of both commissioner and minister…but are they honourable gentlemen ?

    This is doubtful in the Guyana scenario !
    I remain sceptical…

    Kamptan

  • wycs  On 02/24/2013 at 1:01 am

    Kamptan, The Police was not responsible for the killing. It was said by an expert brought from England that it could not be the Police as the bullets used were not those Police use and this was brought out by the Expert to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Those who started this protest at Linden came from Georgetown. I agree with you, after the report has been submitted by CoI, those who were responsible should be brought before the courts to face the consequences of their action as Justice must be done. You would not be surprised with those who cause those killings and they should be charged for premeditated murder as they went to do just that to blame the Police and the Home Affairs Minister. Further their will be no resignation of the Minister or the Commissioner of Police. Hope you understand that. Guyana has become a country of lawless people within recent times.

  • de castro  On 02/24/2013 at 1:18 am

    Thanks for bringing me up to date with the facts of case…
    However your final sentence saddens me…and my apologies to both commissioner and minister ….
    Now let us see how many will be tried/convicted/incarserated.

    Kamptan

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