In wake of concerns expressed by the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), the Ministry of Natural Resources will conduct a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into circumstances that led to the recent fatal shooting of a miner at Puruni, in Region Seven by a policeman.
The planned CoI was disclosed yesterday by Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who also used the opportunity to highlight the difficulties the security forces face in providing security in the hinterland.
“A situation in which you may have a policeman allegedly shooting somebody is more an aberration rather than the norm… so where a situation like that develops, it is going to be investigated. We have said that anytime a Guyanese life is lost by unnatural means… there must be some inquiry into the circumstances which led to the death of that person, so there is going to be an inquiry,” Harmon told reporters during a post-Cabinet press briefing.
In a press statement issued earlier this week, the GGDMA called for an immediate investigation into the “execution” of Estevao Costa Marques, a Brazilian miner was working legally on a legal claim. Marques was shot to the back of the head on Saturday. Two policemen, inclusive of the alleged shooter, were subsequently detained.
As a result, the miners’ body called on President David Granger to establish a CoI into the ongoing “neglect, corruption, shakedown and extortion and now murder of miners at the hands of the security forces and appointed government officers.”
When asked, Harmon yesterday confirmed that a CoI would be held and informed reporters that the Natural Resources Minis-try would be responsible for it. He did not indicate a timetable.
“Let me say also that the question of security in the hinterland is one which we pay very careful attention to,” he said before reminding that a few months ago government had organised “a small restructuring” of the police force to ensure there was a greater amount of manned responsibility for the hinterland areas. He also reminded that over the last two years government has established a corps of wardens under the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is an additional element in the security provided to these areas. Recently, he added, government acquired fixed-wing aircraft, which will assist in the surveillance of these areas, while the use of drones is being explored “aggressively.”
While making mention of the large border areas shared with Brazil and Venezuela, Harmon said that the effectiveness of the police and the army to police and provide security in these areas is “something which is a bit of a challenge.”
According to him, the security architecture of the interior is something that government is paying careful attention to.
He pointed out that while many miners have their own security forces, ultimately the responsibility for security rests with the Guyana Police Force.
The Guyana Police Force, in a statement issued on Sunday, said that it was discovered that the two accused cops “abandoned” the Kurupung Police Station, to which they had been assigned, sometime on Friday morning. They left on an ATV “for patrol duties, armed with a .30 Carbine Rifle and subsequently joined a boat and proceeded to a Landing along the Puruni River.”
It noted that initial investigations revealed that the two policemen arrived at the Puruni Landing “around midday on Saturday. The Subordinate Officer claimed that he remained in the boat while the Constable, armed with the rifle, exited and proceeded to a shop and shortly after two loud explosions were heard which caused him (the Subordinate Officer) to proceed to make enquiries.”
Upon enquiring, the police said that the Subordinate Officer saw the body of the Brazilian miner, later identified as Marques, 37, of Pinheiro, Maranhão, Brazil, lying on the ground.
“The Constable told him that a male (Marques) discharged a round at him and he returned fire,” the police statement explained.
It further stated that two other members of the force, a Subordinate Officer and a Detective Con-stable attached to the Bartica Police Station, who were in the area on duty investigating a report of alleged threats, arrived at the scene and took away the firearm which was in the possession of the Constable and alerted the Divisional Commander, Kevin Adonis.
The police constable, this newspaper was informed, has admitted to shooting Marques, whom he said fired upon him first. The constable was scheduled to participate in an ID parade on Tuesday but he refused.
The GGDMA issued a strong condemnation in which it severely criticised the government on its stance on the industry. It also said that more than three years later, President Granger is still refusing to meet with the largest private sector employer in the country.