Lamenting the fact each member of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the killings that occurred during the July, 2012 protests in Linden was paid more than the total payout to those injured and the families of those killed, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan has said that he will be lobbying for a review of the package.
“I am asking my section here to revisit the compensation given to those people because… the total compensation given to those people was less than the compensation given to one commissioner. Shame! I am asking my government to see it in their heart sometime before our term is finished to correct that egregious wrong that was done to those people,” Jordan told the House, as he closed the five-day debate on the proposed 2019 Budget.
The event in question involved protestors being injured and killed, after police fired upon them during a demonstration on July 18th, 2012.
At the time of Jordan’s announcement, he was correcting opposition parliamentarian Vikram Bharrat, who allegedly told the House that $100 million was allocated to build a monument for the Linden martyrs. The sum allocated for this monument was $5 million.
In the report on its findings and recommendations, which was handed over to President Donald Ramotar in 2013, the CoI found the Guyana Police Force responsible for the deaths of Allan Lewis, Shemroy Bouyea and Ron Somerset. It also said that the discharge of ammunition was justified, as the police were confronted by a hostile crowd and noted that there was no clear intention to kill or injure anyone.
As a result, having analysed the contributions in terms of earnings made to their families by the three deceased men, the commissioners recommended a compensation of $3 million to Bouyea’s estate, $3 million to Lewis’ estate and $2 million to Somerset’s estate.
A total of 13 persons were also recommended to receive compensation for injuries they sustained during the shooting. These sums ranged from $50,000 to $1.5 million.
At the time, retired Justice Cecil Kennard had said that that the sums were just a recommendation and it was up to the government to decide how much to pay.
Kennard served on the commission along with Senior Counsel K.D Knight of Jamaica, Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal of Trinidad and Tobago, former Justice of Appeal Claudette Singh and former Chief Justice of Jamaica Lensley Wolfe, who was the Chairman. Kaieteur News had reported in 2013 that Wolfe was paid $16 million for a month’s work, while the others were paid approximately $15 million each.
Asked why the compensation recommended for Somerset’s family was lower than the others—the figure was increased from $1million to $2 million just before the report was handed over—Kennard said that this was based on what the man’s mother told the commission, and because of doubt surrounding whether he was employed at the time of his death.
Kennard said that he had noted the comparison that was being made with the case of the teenager who was tortured by police and subsequently awarded $6.5 million by the courts. He pointed out that in that case, the police ranks involved had set out to commit the act, while the same cannot be said for the ranks at Linden.
The CoI report called the compensation recommended a gratuity rather than a legal obligation. “In making our recommendations we considered all the circumstances in which persons suffered losses,” the report said.