I recently had cause to use the Linden to Lethem road. About 40 miles from Linden we were stopped by a team of four police ranks on an ATV and all heavily armed. Two were in uniform and two were out of uniform.
The leader of the team was very mannerly and courteous and informed us that this was a random security check. They then proceeded to undertake a detailed search of our vehicle, baggage and person. The check was professionally undertaken albeit under an intimidating environment with some large guns trained on us.
Upon completion of the search, which unearthed nothing, the leader wished us a good day and permitted us to continue our journey.
We later got involved in a discussion about the “random stop and search” as intimated by the lead officer.
We are aware that in the city such checks are deemed illegal unless there is suspicion of an illegal activity. Further, such searches should be conducted near to a police outpost or at a checkpoint manned by a senior police officer attired in uniform.
Where we were stopped had no police station within miles of the location, nor was there a road block, nor was there any proper identification as to the rank and authority of the team leader. And most importantly, the police most certainly did not treat us as though they were suspicious that we were doing anything illegal.
It therefore brought up the question whether the search was a lawful one, taking into consideration all of the factors which the Guyana Police Force outlined as necessary before conducting a stop and search operation?
Hopefully someone from the GPF can clarify this question?
A final note of debate which came out of this “stop and search” is the new law which prohibits smoking.
One of our members was smoking a cigarette and was told by one of the uniformed officers that he was committing an offence since “smoking in public is now illegal”. He was ordered to dispose of his cigarette. Could the location of the stop and search (a deserted stretch of road bordered by forest) be deemed a public place hence making the act of smoking illegal? Or was the uniformed officer incorrect in his interpretation of this law?
What this smoking incident clearly indicated is that there is much need for enlightenment on this new law against smoking, both for the members of the public and for the officers tasked with upholding this law.
No knowledge is too much. Hopefully someone in authority can read this letter and offer a public response so that the ordinary citizen will be aware of his rights and ensure that they are not trampled upon.