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The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is a legal team to represent Guyanese who have been wrongfully detained for 72 hours or more by the Guyana Police Force, its Leader, Aubrey Norton has said.
According to the PNCR, it has received numerous reports from citizens particularly in Regions 4, 7 and 10 about elements in the Guyana Police Force abusing their power by wrongfully detaining residents for 72 hours without any reasonable suspicion of them committing a crime.
Speaking at a recent press conference, Norton said the party is building its legal team to legally challenge the actions of the Police Force on behalf of the affected.
The United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits, among other things, the arbitrary arrest or detention of individuals, and according to Norton should the Guyana Police Force continue to abuse its power, the matter will be raised at the level of the UN, the diplomatic community and other relevant authorities.
Painting a vivid picture of the situation, the PNCR General Secretary, Attorney-at-Law Geeta Chandan-Edmond said in Bartica, Region Seven, there are reports of the police detaining citizens for 72 hours in cases where the law does not apply.
“In another case, it is alleged that two persons were brought to the Sparendaam Police Station for wounding each other. The family of one of the accused complained that the police set free one of the accused and kept the other in the lock-ups and proceeded to indicate that it was the police prerogative to do so. This is a clear case of police discrimination and abuse of power,” Chandan-Edmond, a former Magistrate, said.
She said too that there have been complaints about the poor being harassed and incarcerated by the police at the behest of the rich and powerful.
“The citizens of Linden are also complaining about the discrimination and the abuse of power by elements in the Guyana Police Force. Many Lindeners, the PNCR and the wider Guyanese population are concerned that the rule of law is not being upheld and as a nation we are returning to the lawless state of affairs that existed between 1992 and 2015,” the PNCR General Secretary reported.
According to her, many of the affected citizens are fearful to speak out due to fear of further victimization, however, the PNCR will seek redress on their behalves. “…Most of these complainants, they shy away from the redress stage simply because they do not want to be further victimized,” she explained while assuring that the PNCR will do its best to have actions of the police legally challenged.
She said the matter has been brought to the attention of the Commissioner of Police (ag), Nigel Hoppie with the hope that the abuse and discrimination meted out to citizens at the hands of the police will end.
“The PNCR believes that law and order must be maintained and that is best done in keeping with the law. It is in this context we wish to condemn these rogue elements in the Guyana Police Force for violating the rights of law abiding citizens. We urged them to operate professionally and in keeping with the law,” Chandan-Edmond said.
The party is also seeking an urgent meeting with the Commissioner.
The General Secretary noted, however, that since the return of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to Government, “trumped-up” charges have been laid against its political opponents and other citizens in total violation of the law.
Since August 2020, a number of public officials have been charged including former Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield; former Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers; Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo; PNCR Advisor, Volda Lawrence; Political Activist, Carol Joseph-Smith; Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones; APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Annette Ferguson; former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan; former Commissioner of Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission Trevor Benn and former Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Paul Slowe among others.
“… it can be easily concluded that it is the lawlessness that is practiced by the Ali/Jagdeo regime that has created the conditions for the said discrimination and abuse of power,” Chandan-Edmond posited.
As such, she blamed the Government for the actions of the police.
“We call on the PPP regime to restore the investigative capacity of the Criminal Investigation Department by returning those who were trained to investigate and solve crimes to the said department. To do otherwise is to indicate to the people of Guyana that the government has little or no interest in solving and reducing crime,” the PNCR General Secretary urged the Government.
The Leader of the PNCR also laid blame at the feet of the Irfaan Ali Administration.
“I think also that one has to recognize that a government has to set the standard and if the government itself, is involved in incarcerating people outside of the confines of the law; if a government is involved in arresting people and then looking for the evidence, then to do that they have got to instruct police men to violate the law, and once people are aware that they are being instructed to violate the law, they will take it as a normal practice and begin to do the same,” Norton reasoned.
He said the Government and the Police Force must abide by the law.
Just last month, Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones; APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Annette Ferguson and six other persons were freed of a charge that they participated in an illegal procession in 2021.
In dismissing the charge against the accused, Magistrate Rhondel Weever said the police presented conflicting testimonies and failed to provide supporting evidence.