Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The arrest and detainment Friday of attorney-at-law, Ms. Tamieka Clarke, for advising her client of his right to remain silent, during interrogation by the Police’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), has come in for blistering criticism from Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Roysdale Forde, SC.
Article 144(7) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana protects the right of any person within Guyana’s jurisdiction from giving evidence on a criminal matter.
Forde told Village Voice he is concerned Superintendent Karim Baksh, who violated Clarke for advising her client of his constitutional right, is either ignorant of the right or ignored the right and ought not to be a member of the Force.
Going further, Forde said what happened is bigger than the police and should not be seen as an isolated incident but another example of the breach of people’s constitutional rights. “This is the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime weaponizing the police to intimidate and terrorise ordinary people.”
They sent a message, he said, to the society of their policy to violate the rights of ordinary Guyanese. “The regime has no regard for the entire legal profession and the law, only those who use the profession to facilitate the PPP’s lawlessness.”
You need look no further than Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s intervention in the unlawful arrest and detention of Clarke, the shadow minister said.
“The AG’s intervention is clear evidence of political interference in the Police Force and the entire legal system. Certainly, if the AG can intervene and ask that a charge be revoked, then he can request one to be implemented.”
Nandlall, on his social media page, said when he heard of the incident, in his capacity as constitutional legal adviser to the Force, he called Baksh and instructed the lawyer to be released.
This is no longer the matter of an officer, but common behavior of an authoritarian state, said Forde. “This is a dictatorship that uses the coercive arm of the state to intimidate and terrorise the populace, the police are mere instruments of the authoritarian state. They are not in charge, and this is reinforced by the AG’s statement.”
The AG, despite his claim he is the adviser to the police, was clearly acting outside of his remit when the Police Force has a legal adviser, attorney-at-law Mandel Moore, said the shadow minister. “Guyanese must now concern themselves with the question, how Nandlall is now functioning as the police’s legal adviser or is usurping Moore’s functions.”
It is scary as a citizen and lawyer to know the AG can engage in this overreach, Forde pointed out, going further to say, “all Guyanese must be concerned about this, for it has dire implications for safety, security, rights and respect for laws under the PPP regime.”
Under the law, the Attorney General has no authority to instruct a charge to be revoked. That authority is vested in the Commissioner of Police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
What is obviously a political intervention, Nandlall’s admittance of acting outside the scope of his authority may have influenced the DPP and or Police to drop charges against him for the alleged theft of law books, and the 19 fraud charges against Irfaan Ali shortly after they were installed in August 2020, the member of parliament said.
Asked for a response to the public’s reaction that the Guyana Bar Association and Guyana Association of Women’s Lawyers are selective in speaking out against police excesses, Forde said, lawyers cannot divorce themselves from society. “We must note these criticisms and respond to them if that is not the perception the bodies want society to have.”
As lawyers, Forde said, they have sworn an oath to uphold the tenets of the constitution and more particularly protect citizens’ rights and they must be allowed to discharge their duties without fear or favour, and the fundamental provisions offered by the constitution are there to protect people from the power of the state.