Opposition leader David Granger on Friday condemned the recent promotions of two policemen who had tortured a teenage boy and vowed that once his coalition takes office after the upcoming elections steps will be taken to correct the situation.
“In future there will be action…We expect that after May 11… we will be in a position to correct this error,” Granger told reporters at the coalition’s weekly press conference.
“The crime of torture is a crime against humanity and I will not be in any position of authority that will tolerate the crime of torture. As far as I am concerned, the crime of torture has been committed. The evidence is there and this matter needs to be pursued to finality,” he later added, while noting that it is a scar on the reputation of the country that there are persons inside the police force who committed torture and are not only being retained but are being promoted. “It is quite possible that one day the man can emerge as the commissioner of police,” he also warned.
The two policemen, Sergeant Narine Lall and Constable Mohanram Dolai, were found liable of torturing a 15-year-old boy in 2009, when they poured methylated spirits on his genitals and set him alight while he was in custody at the Leonora Police Station as part of a murder investigation. After the collapse of the criminal case against them– owing to the failure of the teen and other witnesses to appear to testify–the duo was reinstated in the force. Their promotions were made public in January.
Lall was promoted by the Police Service Commission (PSC), based on a recommendation from acting police commissioner Seelall Persaud, while it was Persaud who directly promoted Dolai. Both the PSC and Persaud have since sought to defend the promotions, saying that persons ought not to be punished indefinitely.
Granger, reading from a coalition statement on Friday, said APNU was against the promotions and held the PPP/C administration, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Guyana Police Force and the PSC as being responsible for the men’s elevation. He said the PSC “doesn’t drop from the sky” but rather it works on recommendations from the Commissioner of Police. At the same time, he suggested that the promotions were inspired by the political powers that be.
He pointed out that the child was detained for questioning into the murder of Ramenauth Bisram, who was the PPP/C’s former Vice-Chairman of the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region.
Granger also reminded that the government is a signatory to UN Convention Against Torture. “Torture is a crime against humanity and torturers are the ‘common enemies of all mankind.’ It is a crime against humanity, it is a crime of international jurisdiction, a torture could be prosecuted in any country of the world, so if someone commits the crime of torture in Guyana or Suriname, he could travel to Spain or Greece and be prosecuted,” Granger said.
Meanwhile, Shadow Home Affairs Minister and former Police Commissioner Winston Felix said the duo should have faced some form of discipline by way of departmental action. “They should have been charged departmentally for some act of misconduct because there are several acts of glaring misconduct in that matter. The charge sheets ought to have been endorsed with a view to dismissal from the force and reduction of rank where necessary”, he said.
Since Stabroek News made the promotions public, there has been a public outcry as well as calls for the ranks to be stripped of the promotions or even removed from the police force. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) went as far as to say that Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee should resign, while accusing him of attempting to wash his hands of the case. The Rights of the Child Commission (RCC) has also condemned the promotions and called for them to be rescinded.