Calls by National Insurance Scheme (NIS) inspectors, for charges to be laid against businessman Omprakash ‘Buddy’ Shivraj and workers accused of holding an inspection team captive and assaulting them, have been ignored.
A month since the alleged attack, a source close to the investigations told Stabroek News recently that the last word from the police was that the matter was with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The source questioned how this could be so when neither Shivraj nor any of the implicated employees were ever arrested or questioned.
“We were unsure before but we are sure now that nothing will come out of this matter. It will be allowed to run its course and then die a natural death,” the source said, while adding that it is a clear case where Shivraj was untouchable and above the law.
It was noted in that days after the July 22 incident, a senior NIS officer had told the affected inspectors that “they have to ride the wave of popularity that will be generated from the case.” The officer reportedly went on to say that it must be noted that if they target the “untouchable” Shivraj, then it means they can go after anyone.
Asked about the mindset of the affected inspectors, the source said that four of them were directly affected by the incident. “They are the ones who are really under the weather and who are really threatened by the future,” it was noted. The source pointed out that while what was done was wrong and should have been dealt with in the appropriate manner “people are more concerned about bread and butter issues.”
The source told Stabroek News that Chairman of the NIS Board Dr. Roger Luncheon promised a number of things relating to improved transportation and communication systems but up to now nothing has been done. “While I expect nothing to be done, I didn’t expect totally nothing. I expected at least a bluff,” the source stressed.
Stabroek News was told that several inspectors had asked the Board to consider retaining an attorney to file charges against Shivraj under chapter 36:01 of the NIS Act. This section of the Act, it was explained, states that failure to produce documents on request by a NIS inspector who is on duty is an offence. That offence carries a fine of $100,000 for the obstruction of the inspector’s course of duty.
The source pointed out that there are at least three offences that Shivraj could be cited for under the law. It was noted that an inspector is empowered to prosecute cases but it was due to the fact that Shivraj could have hired “competent attorneys who could run rings around the NIS prosecutor” that the request for legal representation was made.
Shivraj has denied the incident, saying that “I wasn’t even there. It’s all lies.”
In a statement, NIS had explained that the inspection team, which was headed by Senior Inspector Nicholas Yearwood, and included Inspectors Regan Baxter, Carolyn Peters and Leslie Allen, who were accompanied by driver Horace Richards, “came under attack” while visiting the construction site at New Providence, East Bank Demerara. The officers, it said, were conducting routine exercises and visited the site to execute a full compliance check.
During the visit, the officers impounded three wages record and time sheets for inspection. As a result, NIS said, they were surrounded by Shivraj and several of his employees, who prevented them from leaving the property. Shivraj and his employees allegedly held the officers hostage whilst using threats and force in demanding the return of the impounded documents which were forcefully wrenched from the hands of Inspector Regan Baxter, it added.
The release said that the matter was later reported to the Providence Police Station. Ranks from there failed to visit the scene of the incident conduct investigations.