Private sector calls for independent probe of Colwyn Harding case

Given the seriousness of the alleged offences by the police against Colwyn Harding and its wide coverage in the media, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Saturday said that an independent inquiry should be held into the matter.

Pressure is building on the government to convene such an inquiry given the view that the public lacks confidence in the force to investigate itself. The PSC view adds to earlier calls for an independent inquiry from the Guyana Bar Association, the Guyana Human Rights Association and the Guyana Trades Union Congress among others.  Addressing the matter on Friday, President Donald Ramotar said he supports an independent probe but critics have said he should have taken the lead by ordering one.

A statement from the PSC on Saturday said that it met on Friday with the Commissioner of Police, Leroy Brummel, and his Senior Officers to convey the very serious concerns of the Commission about the public allegations of grievous assault and an act of sodomy on Harding by the Guyana Police Force.

“The PSC told the Commissioner that, in the view of the Commission, there has not been a satisfactory public response to these very serious allegations.  “The Commission further expressed its concern at the growing number of what appeared to be legitimate complaints against the conduct of the Police Force in their resorting to the use of excessive force and violent behaviour towards citizens in the course of their investigations and during arrests”, the statement said

The PSC said it also pointed out to the Commissioner that the “credibility and public confidence in the Force is being dangerously eroded which, if not promptly, openly and fully addressed, would undermine the ability and competence of the Force to carry out its law enforcement responsibilities.”

Heartening was how the PSC described the reception it received by the Commissioner and his Officers.

The PSC related that the Commissioner of Police said that he had directed his Officers to carry out an immediate investigation on his receiving the report on the allegations of assault against Harding and to take the necessary and appropriate action. He said the Office of Professional Responsibility is completing its investigation prior to transmitting its report and recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The file is presently with the Police Complaints Authority after which it will go to the DPP.

Despite this, the PSC said that in light of the seriousness of the alleged offences, and the widely reported coverage given to them, the PSC believes an independent inquiry should be ordered into the matter.

The PSC said it also raised the deplorable state of most of the lock-ups at police stations and “deemed the subjection of citizens to such conditions to be acts of violence against them.” The PSC said that the Commissioner acknowledged the complaint, noted his own concerns and undertook to have the matter addressed urgently. The PSC said the Commissioner made the point that at a number of locations, including Brickdam, where new facilities had been put in place, they had been vandalized by persons held in the lock- ups.

The Commissioner told the PSC that he welcomed the meeting and the views shared by the Commission and agreed to meet with it on a quarterly basis.

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