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PSC, GTUC want independent probe of alleged baton sodomy

The Private Sector Commission’s headquarters, Waterloo Street, Georgetown.

Dissatisfied with the Guyana Police Force’s public response to allegations that police brutally assaulted and sodomized a detainee with a baton, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) have issued separate calls for an independent probe.

“Given the seriousness of the alleged offences, and the widely reported coverage which has been given to them, the Private Sector Commission believes that an independent inquiry should be ordered into the matter,” the PSC said in a statement after last Friday’s meeting with Police Commissioner, Leroy Brummel and other top police officers.

“GTUC supports the calls made by others for an independent enquiry into the events leading up to Harding’s hospitalisation and surgery and extends a call for further investigation of the state employed doctors and nurses involved in every aspect of his care,” said the confederation’s General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis.

Expressing grave concern about what appears to be a calculated media-driven campaign to cover up the alleged “sexual torture” of 23-year old Harding, the GTUC called for his medical records to be handed over to an independent probe team.

“GTUC calls on the Director of Public Prosecution to subpoena all medical records related to Colwyn Harding’s surgery at the state run institution and strongly condemns what appears to be a collaborative public relations stunt and attempt to cover up a crime committed by members of the law enforcement section of the State and  involving various departments of the state,” said the GTUC. Demerara Waves Online News has learnt that Harding has granted formal approval for a copy of his medical records to be handed over to his lawyer, Nigel Hughes.

The calls for an independent probe echoes one made by President Donald Ramotar at a weekend news conference.

The Guyanese leader has said that based on facts at his disposal and a number of the political personalities associated with the Harding case, there was a calculated effort to create instability.

Well-placed sources said a probe by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) has found that Harding was severely beaten by police at Timehri between November 15 and 19, 2013.

However, according to the sources, he was never sodomized with a baton. Rather, investigators have found that Harding had jumped from a 15-foot high stair to the ground in the Georgetown Prison, causing him to develop a hernia. He underwent surgery twice in December for the condition. He had later claimed that he was ashamed to tell the court, police and prison authorities about his alleged ordeal at the hands an identifiable Constable. Several policemen have since been transferred from the Timehri Police Station and the Constable placed under close arrest pending recommendations by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The PSC delegation told the Police Commissioner last Friday that there has not been a satisfactory public response to these very serious allegations.

The Commission said it also expressed its concern at the growing number of what appeared to be legitimate complaints against the conduct of the Police Force in their resorting to the use of excessive force and violent behavior towards citizens in the course of their investigations and during arrests.

The PSC pointed out to the Commissioner that the credibility and public confidence in the Force is being dangerously eroded which, if not promptly, openly and fully addressed, would undermine the ability and competence of the Force to carry out its law enforcement responsibilities  

The business organisation also raised concerns about the deplorable state of most of the lock-ups at police stations and deemed the subjection of citizens to such conditions to be acts of violence against them.

According to the PSC, the Commissioner Brumell acknowledged the complaint, noted his own concerns and undertook to have the matter urgently addressed. He, however, made the point that, at a number of locations, including Brickdam, where new facilities had been installed, they had been vandalized by persons held in the lock- ups.