PNCR-1G MPs walk out after torture probe request turned down

PNCR-1G Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday walked out of the National Assembly after a request for a debate on the police investigation of the alleged torture of suspects, including a teen boy, while in police custody was denied.

The walkout was prompted by Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran’s refusal to grant a request by PNCR leader Robert Corbin to move the adjournment of the Assembly on a definite matter of public importance, citing the ongoing investigation as well as the charges against two policemen that are engaging the attention of the court. Two policemen, Narine Lall and Mohanram Dolai, have been charged with unlawful wounding in connection with two prisoners but no charges have been filed in connection with the boy, who was burnt in his genital region. “Bye, bye,” PNCR-1G MPs said as they were led by Corbin out of the parliamentary chamber, where AFC MP Sheila Holder and GAP-ROAR MP Everall Franklin remained the sole occupants of opposition benches.

In the absence of the PNCR-1G, the government yesterday proceeded with the passage of the Private Security Services Bill 2009, the adoption of the report of the Special Select Committee To Make Recommendations on the Parliament of Guyana Manual of Rules of procedures and Operations of Committees. Another Bill, the Credit Reporting Bill 2009, was referred to a Special Select Committee.

The torture case has attracted wide condemnation along with calls for an independent inquiry. Corbin yesterday told the Assembly that he did not propose to deal with the issues currently before the court but felt compelled to raise the Terms of Reference for the investigation as well as the systematic deficiencies and other issues that he felt contributed to the situation.

Further, noting that President Bharrat Jagdeo last week gave the force two weeks to complete its investigation, after which all the perpetrators will face the full consequences, he argued that the urgency of the issues cold not be disputed and given the national outcry, the public important was obvious.

Ramkarran, who agreed that the allegation of torture is indeed a serious matter, noted that the issue of the Terms of Reference of the investigation was not a matter of urgent public importance. “That is a matter for the President,” he said, “That is not matter for the Parliament.” Corbin sought to frame his request in the context of ensuring a credible investigation before the expiration of the two-week deadline given by the President, while reiterating that he would refrain from traversing any issue under adjudication. Ramkarran did, however, suggest to Corbin that he consider exploring whether the government would be inclined to listen to legal advice to set up an inquiry into a specific incident while it is also before the court.
Last week, President Jagdeo said that if the report of the investigation by police does not satisfy him, an external inquiry may be considered. He said that he had called for an “open investigation” and noted the need for “the strongest possible action” to be taken against all the perpetrators. “This action will not be limited to the direct participants, but all those involved will have “to bear some of the consequences,” Jagdeo explained. When questioned, he ruled out extending the current investigation into other allegations of torture by members of the joint services. Questions have, however, been raised about the propriety of an internal police investigation.

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