The Working People’s Alliance has expressed outrage at what it termed the ‘unwarranted physical attack on the Henry family” by police ranks at the Sparendam police station. WPA says it does not contest the unlawfulness of a citizen driving a vehicle without the required documents. “But we contend that the violence meted out to Mr. Colwyn Henry and Ms. Gail Johnson should not be part of the police reaction to a non-violent offence. Here is a family which has suffered the loss of two family members in the worse possible circumstances having to again contend with the ugliness of extreme violence,” the party said in a statement.
WPA draws attention to what it says has now become a pattern of unprovoked police violence against ordinary citizens since the coming to power of the PPP in August. “Having viewed a recording of the events at the police station, we are left to wonder whether in four short months, Guyana has not returned to the Police State that obtained before May 2015. Freedom from arbitrary State violence is a sacred human right of every human being within a country’s borders. In this regard the police must be reminded that its primary function is service and protection. While we do not wish to paint all ranks in the police force with a broad brush, the charge of institutional violence, particularly against selected groups in the society, must be confronted by the leadership of the force and the government.”
The WPA said it is noteworthy that the Commissioner of Police was quick to take Attorney Nigel Hughes to task for allegedly misrepresenting the events at the station. “But Hughes’ account is supported by what is seen on the recording that is being circulated. Further, the commissioner has failed to frontally address the issue of violence in this instance and previous instances. In this instance one of the victims is a woman.”
The party said Guyana has come too far and too many lives have been sacrificed to make this country a place where the ghosts of plantationhood are forever banished. We have had cause over the last four months to call attention to the new government’s propensity to tilt the coercive forces toward a practice of order over freedom. Such a policy, WPA said is unacceptable in a free Guyana. “WPA, therefore, calls on the government to change course—return Guyana a zone of non-violence where citizens do not live in fear of arbitrary police aggression. The government cannot call on citizens to act non-violently while it creates the conditions for and enables police violence.
WPA calls on all Guyanese to raise their voices in righteous indignation at this latest instance of police over-reach. To remain silent or to excuse the behavior of the police ranks as routine is inexcusable. We also note that sections of the media are more preoccupied with the “crime” of not being in possession of a drivers’ license than with the police violence that ensued. How long will we continue this habit of justifying the brutalization of the poor and powerless in our midst?”
Finally, WPA takes this opportunity to demand the police and the government to come clean on what it knows about the murder of the three young boys of West Berbice—the Henry cousins and Haresh Singh. The refusal by the police High Command to share documents relating to the crimes with the Argentinian forensic expert must be cause for great concern. We are forced to ask–what are they hiding? WPA has concluded that relentless pressure on the government and the police must be maintained to get them to come clean.