Greene refuses to be drawn on why water cannon not used to disperse protestors

Police Commissioner Henry Greene yesterday refused to divulge why the recently acquired water cannon was not used in last week’s clash between the police and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) protestors.

“I made a statement on that already and I will not be repeating myself. Anything else?” Greene said to Stabroek News when contacted.

When asked if the water cannon was working Greene said yes.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that it was not and that was the reason it was not put into use during the protest. According to sources, there are problems with the steering and one of the tyres has apparently gone bad. This newspaper was also told that no one has been trained in its use as yet. The water cannon, which cost some $37 million, is parked in the compound of the Tactical Services Unit at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary.

When contacted, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said that Greene was the person to whom questions should be addressed.

Greene, in accepting the water cannon last month, had said that part of the force’s strategy in maintaining public order and preserving peace is through the use of minimum force. The water cannon, he said, is just the equipment for non-lethal force.

“The water cannon is intended to be used in environments where there’s crowd disorder, things are totally out of control and there’s need for the police to bring back some semblance of order,” he had explained. He further said that a few years back, during a riot on Regent Street, the force had to resort to assistance from a Guyana Fire Service vehicle for crowd control.

Several protestors, including former GDF chief of staff Edward Collins, attorney James Bond and former PNCR-1G parliamentarian Joan Baveghems, 69, were fired on with rubber bullets last Tuesday. The Police Force has since said that the demonstration was illegal and the marchers had been warned several times to disperse to no avail.

Based on the accounts given, the police had warned the protestors to disperse. At some point the two groups had a clash after the protestors failed to heed the warning. Police later fired rubber bullets into the crowd.

A security source has since said that the incident was a perfect opportunity for the police to put the water cannon into action.

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