Crime Chief Seelall Persaud yesterday said the police are treating the allegations against ranks implicated in the rape of females rescued from a trafficking operation in Region 7 seriously, while concerns are once again being raised about the treatment of the victims in state custody.
When contacted, Persaud told Stabroek News that the investigation of the trafficking is ongoing and the police are taking statements from the witnesses. Asked about the allegations levelled against the two ranks, accused of raping two of the females, including a teenager, at the Sherima Police Station some months ago before allowing their alleged trafficker free pass to the interior, he stressed, “We are taking this very seriously and we have to speak to all witnesses.”
The allegations against the lawmen surfaced after five females, who are ages 26, 20, 18, 16, and 14, were removed from the 14 Miles backdam, in Region Seven, by members of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) over the weekend. Upon arrival at the Bartica Police Station, one of the police officers accused of rape was pointed out by a female and following a confrontation with the victim he was placed under close arrest. The second policeman was also summoned to the station and he was also placed under close arrest and they, along with the alleged trafficker and the five females were brought to the city on Monday.
The five females spent the entire day at police headquarters yesterday and members of the GWMO, including President Simona Broomes, provided support to them. Broomes yesterday questioned why the young women who are victims of a horrific crime were being forced to spend the entire day at a police location where they are made to sit in one place. She said that there should be a system in place for the police to take statements from the victims at a secure location and away from the glaring eyes of others.
“Things have to change,” she said.
Broomes was also very critical of a senior functionary of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) department and said she plans to take up the issue with Minister Jennifer Webster.
Broomes noted that the five females left Bartica on a police boat that had no shed and by the time they arrived at the Parika stelling, they along with their bags were soaked.
“They were then herded in a bus like criminals and taken straight to CID headquarters in the wet clothes,” Broomes said, while adding that they remained in their wet clothes, which eventually dried on their bodies, for the entire day.
“Why is it that the victims could not have been taken to a location to have a bath and change? Why are we continuing to treat these female victims like this? It hurts me to see this and it has to stop, it must stop,” Broomes said.
The females were eventually taken to a state home —from where five females that were removed from a backdam by the Human Services Ministry last month vanished—where they spent the night before being brought back to the city yesterday.
The clothes in their bags were damp but they were made to use these for the second trip to police headquarters and Broomes said no amount of appeals to the ministry functionary helped the situation, even after she suggested that her organistaion take the girls to be groomed and to provide better clothing for them. The official refused to have the females be taken by the GWMO members.
“You have to understand that these girls came from backdam and there they were wearing skimpy clothing and you can’t have them dressing like that and going to the police and moving around in public like that to attract unwanted attention. Why is it, after all this time, the ministry cannot have ready clothes available for such victims? This is what you call preparation to fight this serious crime,” Broomes lamented.
And while at the police yesterday, it was the GWMO that provided food for the females as the official when asked said she was not at the office and they would have to wait until she got there. Broomes said she has been building a working relationship with the Child Care and Protection Agency and with Minister Webster but she would refuse to work with official in the future because she is unhelpful to the persons she is employed to assist. She said the individual’s behaviour in the field whenever she collaborated with the GWMO has also been unbecoming.