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…sloth in Henry boys’ probe, selective enforcement of Covid-19 measures raised
By Svetlana Marshall
In a high-level meeting with acting Commissioner of Police, Nigel Hoppie, Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon reminded the Guyana Police Force of its constitutional duty to safeguard all Guyanese, while expressing concern about the lack of enforcement of the COVID-19 Emergency Measures.
Moments after exiting the meeting, which was held at the Guyana Police Force’s Headquarters at Eve Leary on Friday morning, the Opposition Leader told reporters that the Police were reminded of their constitutional duty to safeguard the nation.
“We wanted to make it very clear that the Guyana Police Force has the constitutional and legal responsibility for law enforcement, the safety and security of every citizen in this country, and that in the manner in which they execute those functions, we have had some issues in the past,” Harmon explained.
He said the Guyana Police Force has a critical role to play in the enforcement of the COVID-19 Emergency Measures, however, there is much to be desired. “COVID-19, we consider it to be the preeminent issue in our country at this time, because it has to do with life and death; and the fact that many citizens were of the view that the enforcement of these measures by the Guyana Police Force, was not consistent with their obligations, we felt it was necessary to make that point up front that. COVID-19 enforcement measures have to be better; too many people are losing their lives,” the Opposition Leader told reporters.
As of Wednesday, 193 persons have died from COVID-19 in Guyana with the country’s total number of confirmed cases amounting to more than 8,457. Region Four has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases with some 3,806 persons infected followed by Region One with 1,019 cases and Region Seven with 770 cases as of Wednesday.
According to the gazetted COVID-19 Measures, which are currently in effect, there is a 10:30 pm to 4 am curfew and restrictions on social activities.
While bars and restaurants are allowed to be opened from 4am to 9:30pm, they can only do so at a 40 per cent capacity. Importantly, the guidelines restrict social gatherings and recreational activities including private parties, receptions, wakes or vigils, however, there have been reports about parties being held in various parts of the country, in particular the city.
Just last Tuesday, a man, Dale Christopher, aka Sun Skull, was shot dead during a party at Hill Street, Lodge, East La Penitence. According to a police report, the party, which was attended by a popular DJ and Selector, had well over 500 people.
The Opposition Leader said it cannot be business as usual as he expressed concern over the loss of life even as some Guyanese continue to flout the COVID-19 measures due to lack of enforcement.
“Every a life is loss, the country is diminished, it diminishes all of us. So we have to ensure that human life is sacrosanct; that all of the measures that are in place to ensure human life, that we must ensure that they are in place. And this is what formed the conversation with the Commissioner of Police, and his senior officers,” Harmon said.
Friday’s meeting with the Opposition Leader and the top brass of the Police Force, marked the first if its kind since the change in Government on August 2, 2020, and according to Harmon it was a good exchange, though some officers appeared “hesitant.”
“We consider this to be an important first step and we look forward to other engagements of this nature,” he said.
The Opposition Leader was accompanied by former Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan; the Opposition Parliamentary Chief Whip, Christopher Jones; A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Members of Parliament, Roysdale Forde, SC, and Geeta Chandan-Edmond, and People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) Executive, Aubrey Norton.
Ramjattan, during the meeting, is said to have frontally address the issue of crime and security. Ramjattan reportedly told the Police that while in the past, statistics on crime were regularly disseminated, such has not been the case in recent time – an issue the Police said they are working to address.
“We spoke of course, about the fact that there were released from incarceration and we did not have the identity of those persons, and the fact that it was creating, a certain level of anxiety in our citizens. When you add to that, persons who would have escaped from prison; that increases that level of insecurity that citizens feel,” Harmon told reporters.
He said the Opposition was assured by the Police Commissioner that the Force is working with the Guyana Prison Service to put in place a mechanism that would allow the public to be notified about the release of prisoners.
The Opposition, during the meeting, also sought an update on the West Coast Berbice murders involving Joel and Isaiah Henry and Haresh Singh.