Recuperating has been extremely hard for him, but Victor Jones who was tortured allegedly at the hands of the Joint Services just under a year ago is just happy to be alive.
Jones remembers being in his farm aback of the troubled East Coast Village of Buxton where he was born and had lived most of his life, and then finding himself in the lock-ups being severely beaten and brutalized. But despite all he endured the pigeon peas farmer who is determined to return to the only thing he knows, harbours no grudge against anyone and finds his peace in the fact his life was spared and in his determination to bring return to a normal existence.
In an interview with this newspaper recently, Jones, who still complains of pains if he tries to do any exercises or play his favourite sport of football, recalled that he was on his farm when he felt a hard hit and then later when he woke up found himself in police custody.
“It’s like I didn’t know nothing that was happening. I did take off my clothes and was in my bare shorts. Nobody never come and ask me nothing; I din see nobody, I was in the backdam picking my pigeon peas and I don’t know if the person came from behind or what. I’m not sure if maybe it was my condition, because I only had on my shorts, or that I must have been mistaken for someone they were looking for,” Jones told Stabroek News.
Jones said he had moved to the front of the village to live with his sister after it had become known in the village that gunmen were around. He said that on that particular day he was supposed to have gone down to his farm earlier, but for some reason he was delayed and ended up going down there later than anticipated.
“Even my girlfriend at the time told me not to go down that day, but I turn and tells she that I had to pick the peas cause if they stay on and dry they could kill the tree. Plus I would prefer to be in there doing up my crops than be idle. And my aunt did insist that I move and come up front just to avoid problems,” he said.
However, Jones preferred not to recollect the full details of the days during which he was subjected to torture, although in a fragmentary way, he did recount how he was taken to Eve Leary and Brickdam Police Station and then up the highway. He noted too that the men who had beaten them were extremely cruel, although if he saw their faces today he doubted whether he would recognize them.
Jones expressed gratitude to the media for highlighting the injustices which he and Sumner had endured. However, he was not optimistic that any kind of investigation would bring them the justice they deserved.
Jones has moved to another location where he resides with relatives. He said his love for farming would never end, but in order to earn a living at present he sells shades. He has already started to plant a small garden in the family yard which has produced bora and other vegetables.
He has since attended meetings with the farmer’s representative committee of Buxton where plans are ongoing to clean up the bulldozed backlands. Jones is hopeful that he would be selected to win himself some gainful employment.
His farm was one of those destroyed during the clearing of the backlands and he has since received partial compensation from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Since his traumatic encounter with those who tortured him, Jones says he has only once been in confrontation with the police. He said he was in the vicinity of where some youths were being arrested, but he was only stopped and searched and the lawmen allowed him to go on his way.
“Otherwise I am usually at home. When I’m ready I go out and I buy and sell shades and chains and so, and I make my little hustle from that. I am just thankful that I am alive. Even though I still have some pains I just don’t fatigue myself too much.”
Jones and his childhood friend Patrick Sumner had told their stories the day following their release from custody. The two had been picked up during a Joint Services operation in Buxton on Monday, September 17 last year.
The men had told Stabroek News that they had first been taken to Camp Ayanganna where they had their photographs taken and names recorded and then to the Criminal Investigation Department at Eve Leary. There they had been questioned about their lifestyle and whether they knew the gunmen in Buxton. They were then taken to the Brickdam Police Station where they spent the night and the next day were escorted back to CID, Eve Leary.
The men were separated upon their return to Eve Leary but were reunited that night. Sumner, who seemed to be in less pain and better able to speak, said that they had been asked if they were hungry and after responding in the affirmative were promised food and water. He said they never got anything to eat but were later handed a bottle of Viva water. Around 11 that Tuesday night the men said they had been handcuffed. Sumner said shortly after he had been questioned by around three soldiers, two policemen and other men who were not in uniform. Sumner said he had been asked about his reason for being in Buxton. He had replied that he was a resident in the village and had not been further questioned.
After this, however, the men’s ordeal got worse. He said the soldiers present had exchanged the handcuffs they had on with a pair they supplied, led them down the stairs and bundled them into the back of a pick-up. “Y’all lay down… We want the guns you took from us in Buxton,” Sumner had quoted one of the lawmen as saying. He had replied that he did not know about any guns and denied being a gunman.
The men said they had then been taken to a military camp on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, where they had been shackled to posts and clubbed with pieces of wood. During the torture, Sumner said the men had also thrown a corrosive liquid on their bodies as well as gunpowder. Jones had then been carried a little way from him.
He said the lawmen spent about two hours with Jones in thick bush and when they returned they had been offered tennis rolls and water which they accepted.
The men were then placed on sheets on cardboard, face downwards, and their feet bound and eyes blindfolded and beaten on their heads.
Sumner said thereafter both he and Jones had fallen asleep and when they had awoken it was already Wednesday and they had again been separated from each other, but he had heard from afar Jones crying as he was being whipped. Once finished with Jones, Sumner said the lawmen had then returned and told him they would kill him. He said he had heard three gunshots ring out and thought that Jones had been killed, and this made him extremely fearful. He said a gun had been placed in his hands and his finger placed on the trigger and he had been told to shoot. However he had refused.
They had later been dumped into a police vehicle, taken to a pool on the highway and thrown into the water.
Sumner said they had been escorted back to the Brickdam Police Station, examined by a doctor and released on Thursday afternoon. During the interview Jones could hardly raise his head and seemed to have received the brunt of the torture. His feet showed burns and his eyes were swollen.
Jones had suffered for months thereafter and had to be taken for private medical attention on several occasions. Sumner had been resident in Trinidad and had only come to Guyana for a visit. He too was born and grew up in Buxton. He has since returned to Trinidad and has also recuperated.
The stories of the two men had brought widespread condemnation and calls for inquiries. The allegations have since been investigated, however until now nothing has publicly been said about the findings of the investigations.
Days after the incident but before Sumner and Jones were released, the Joint Services in a statement had said that their operations in Buxton would continue, adding that in the execution of their duties ranks would conduct themselves professionally, displaying due respect for the rights of the public irrespective of the taunts, insults and false allegations of ill treatment being hurled at them.
The statement further said that it was the presence of criminals in the community that had triggered the deployment of ranks.