Linden shooting victims opt for compensation despite objections

The government yesterday began paying out compensation to persons who were injured after police fired upon protestors during the July 18, 2012 protest action in Linden, but Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon indicated that some victims were dissatisfied with the awards and signalled plans to seek more money through the courts.

The payouts were made yesterday at the Office of the President (OP) and Solomon said that those awarded compensation were made to sign a document before they received their money but were not given a copy of the document.

Solomon later told reporters that the victims collected the money with the understanding that they would seek to get whatever more they deserve. He added that “the Regional Democratic Council wishes to express its intention, at the request of the families of our slain brothers… to pursue all legal options to ensure a better compensation settlement for the victims.”

Those who signed the document clearly stated that they objected to what they were signing but were not allowed to put their objections in writing. As a result, they voiced their objections and said they did not understand what they were signing but they were told that if they did not sign, they would not be paid, Solomon said.

The document included fine print which stated that the person who signed it was satisfied with the amount given to them. It is in their interest to object to say they were not satisfied, the Chairman said.

The payment made yesterday by an OP staffer was in the form of cash. About 90% of the persons who turned up received their compensation but relatives of the three protesters who were shot and killed were asked to return with the probates of the deceased’s estates before payments can be made.

Ron Somerset, 18, Shemroy Bouyea, 24, and Allan Lewis, 46 were fatally shot when police opened fire and discharged tear smoke in the vicinity of Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge as townsfolk protested against proposed electricity tariff hike.  The compensation awarded in each case was determined by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the shooting, which resulted in the deaths of three men, injuries to several others as well as property damage during the ensuring unrest. The inquiry had found the Guyana Police Force (GPF) responsible for the deaths but said that in the circumstances, the discharge of ammunition was justified as the police were confronted by a hostile crowd and had no clear intention to kill or injure anyone.

To determine compensation, the commissioners analysed the contributions in terms of earnings made to their families by the three deceased men and recommended compensation of $3 million to Bouyea’s estate, $3 million to Lewis’ estate and $2 million to Somerset’s estate.  Solomon noted that the victims are not officially referring to the money as compensation, while explaining that it cannot compensate for the loss of life and the injuries they sustained. He questioned “how a father, who was killed in his prime, can receive a mere $3 million dollars?”

He also noted that the amount allocated “symbolises a slap in the face of the people who deserve so much more and truly did not deserve this. The damages awarded by the Linden COI [do] not constitute just compensation. The COI should provide details of the formula used in awarding the compensation.”

Some of the victims said that they were robbed while others said that they are not satisfied but were still thankful as they exited OP.

The report of the COI had recommended that bystander Michael Roberts, who was shot in the mouth, be awarded  $1.5 million while Dexter Scotland, a shop owner, who was shot in his left nostril and spent 20 days in hospital, was awarded $350,000. Aliesha Barker, who was not part of the protest but had gone in search of her son, suffered injuries to both legs and a pellet was removed from her left leg. She was awarded $280,000 as most of the expenses she incurred related to her medical treatment.

Reuben Bowen, who was shot in the left leg, was awarded $390,000 and Ulric Cameron, who sustained injuries to the chest and on the left side of his back, was awarded $400 000. Mortimer Cornel, who was shot and suffered injuries to his left arm, left wrist, abdomen and left leg, was awarded $200,000. The other persons identified for compensation were awarded sums less than $200,000.

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