Consistent with the Terms of Reference the Report by the Linden Commission of Inquiry is an achievement for all Guyana – see Linden Commission of Inquiry Report. This report exposes the underbelly of the beast seeking to consume law and order in the society and rob the people of the needed security and protection to peacefully co-exist and go about their daily business. A report that says: 1) “the police were responsible for the shooting to death of the three persons as well as the injuries caused to several other persons at Linden on July 18, 2012;” 2) “an examination of the relevant evidence reveals that ASP Todd and Constable Rodney were the only police ranks who discharged shots from shotguns;” 3) ‘00’ buckshot cartridges were used on the unarmed demonstrators and the “use of the ‘00’ in the circumstances would not have been reasonable but would constitute excessive force;” 4) “The use of such lethal force was not justified in the circumstances.” 5) “Even though Mr. Todd using the ‘shotgun…discharged a round into the ground to take off the velocity, to scare and chase the protesters who were gathered’ this was fraught with danger. Discharging a shotgun is hardly the way to ‘scare’ persons and ought never to have been used in the circumstances;”
6) “the policy on the use of force should be reviewed and done urgently.[…] in order to adopt international best practices;” 7) “entries in the [Arms Book] cannot be relied on as there were numerous irregularities evident therein;” 8) “it must be noted that the Chairman of the Complaints Authority has made several requests for independent investigators to be made available to that body but to no avail; 9) “Some of the procedures for engagement of the police before carrying out operations appear to be very militaristic and aspects of their standard operational procedures support that position;” and 10) “recommend the government urgently implements the ‘Human Rights Standards and Practice for the Police’ as developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” is not a report to be treated with disdain or disregard.
A holistic and dispassionate examination of this report will find areas of concerns and disappointments and where such are evident they should be noted in efforts to ensure this society adheres to Rights and the Rule of Law and hold accountable those placed in positions to execute and safeguard these tenets. Also, where there is misapplication of the Report it must be corrected. There is a mixed up in understanding of the Commission of Inquiry take on the use of ammunition. Persons question if the commissioners concluded that “ASP Todd was somewhat reckless when he discharged four rounds of ammunition….” can it similarly be said that “nonetheless the discharge of ammunition itself by the police in the circumstances described by ASP Todd was justified…” This has created fodder, knowingly or unknowingly, and leads to projecting an impression that the police’s actions were justified. A look into the report confirms the commissioners were looking at ammunition holistically- lethal and non lethal weapons- both of which were employed on July 18, and the use of the former (lethal) condemned.
Further, no where in the Report is it stated the Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee is “exonerated.” The report said, “There was no evidence given at the hearings before the Commission to support the assertion that the Minister gave instructions to the GPF in relation to the incident in Linden” and “All that the Minister and the parties who testified on interaction with the Minister admitted was that the Minister was trying to obtain information as to what was happening in Linden on July 18th in his telephone conversations with the police during that day.” The absence and the duplicity of evidence by the police, along with the acting Commissioner of Police’s November 2012 statement to “support the boss” open discussions regarding the believability of the statements made by the police and minister. But an absence of evidence does not constitute a pronouncement of “exoneration,” the latter of which the report never stated.
The report in addressing Human Rights said “The Lindeners had complained bitterly and with justification….” about police abuse. It is against this backdrop all arms of government must seek to treat expeditiously all concerns of the citizens because this is one of the primary functions of government –the citizen’s rights. And while the people of Linden, by their resoluteness, paved the way for this report, it opens the doors for everyone and every institution to be held accountable and provide the needed impetus for attracting and retaining honourable officers. Lusignan, Bartica, Agricola, Lindo Creek and every area or individual seeking answers to unsolved deaths or injuries this report serves as a catalyst for pursuing justice and closure brought for loved ones. The Report is the property of the people and its fruition requires individuals and civil society holding those in government, both executive and opposition, accountable in making sure they work in implementing the recommendations.
The performance of the Force has been put under the laser beam and coupled with the findings that the Police Complaint Authority (PCA) has been denied the requisite resources to carry out its task indicate that there is an orchestrated policy to allow the police to transgress people’s rights, violate laws, and immobilise an institution that would cause them to account. This must be fixed and civil society along with the politicians must add their muscles to strengthen and depoliticise the PCA. Administratively the acting Commissioner of Police (CoP) can began the process of police reform as noted in the chaos and lawlessness record keeping, ammunition audit, tracking, deployment and destruction, among other inefficiencies. The CoP needs no ministerial direction (policy) to act and his failure to put systems in place to correct the shortcomings will communicate to society that there are other motives for allowing the situation to continue. The sum total of this report presents a damning outlook of the Police Force, whose policies are developed by the subject minister and by extension he shoulders the responsibility for the state of affairs.
The examination of compensation for the deceased families are recommendations and any caring government will take on board the responsibility to negotiate with the respective attorney packages that are appropriate for injuries and loss of lives. The failure of the government to take on board appropriate consideration can see this said report being used in the Court to justify claims by affected persons and their loved ones. And let it be clearly known, this report holds the police responsible for the killings and injuries. It is now the responsibility of the Force to offer favourable compensation, failing which civil action can be taken in the Court of the land.