Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Winston Felix says the alleged assault of John Adams by a Presidential Guard during President Donald Ramotar’s visit to Aishalton on December 3– whether it was a ‘school boy tap’ or a slap- was criminal and should be followed by criminal charges or some form of disciplinary action.
He shared this position during a press conference today at which time he cited Article 21 of the Summary Jurisdiction Offences Act (SJOA) as the basis of the assertion.
The article says: “Everyone who unlawfully assaults any person shall be liable to a fine of not less than five thousand dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for six months.”
The question of whether this provision is applicable in the current situation can only be answered after determining if such acts on the part of the police, and specifically, members of the Presidential Guard Service, are within the parameters of the powers they are afforded with which to execute their mandate. Felix’s own contention, as former Commissioner of Police and A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) point-man on public security, is that no special powers are given to presidential guards to take the action they are alleged to have taken against Adams.
Even if such powers are available to presidential guards for the execution of their responsibilities though, liability may still be found since the act allegedly perpetrated does not seem to fall within the parameters of their responsibility.
In a letter carried by Stabroek News on December 17thSenior Superintendent of the Police Force, and Head of the Presidential Guard Service Rohan Singh said “even though he (Adams) appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, he was more of a nuisance than a threat. Therefore, there was no need for verbal or physical intervention which does not translate to not being prepared to neutralize or intervene.”
At the same time, it is worthy to note suggestions by the Presidential Guard Service that the entire incident may be fictitious; intended to gain political mileage.
Felix, nevertheless, says that, at the very least, an investigation should have been carried out.
On January 4, Adams, a 29-year-old Math teacher, told several media establishments that he was “slapped” by a presidential guard for asking unpopular questions during the president’s address to the community during his visit on December 3rd. Felix noted subsequent reports alleging that Adams was not “slapped” but instead was “schoolboy tapped.” The Head of the Presidential Guard has said that the guards who accompanied the president on the visit never reported a confrontation with Adams, and that he suspects it is because this never happened.
Felix though, says a fact verification exercise he undertook confirmed the authenticity of Adams’ claims. Adams, he told reporters Friday, attempted to make an official police report soon after the incident but could not since the police outpost in the area was not manned. This is not something unusual, Felix noted, and said that Adams should have returned subsequently to lodge his complaint and make a report.
Felix fears that nothing will come of the alleged incident, as has been the case in several other high profile incidents. In February of last year Finance Minister Ashni Singh left the scene after the vehicle he was driving collided with another. Though the minister’s leaving the scene violated Article 63 of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act there is no indication that he was even questioned by police. The matter was eventually settled out of court. He also pointed out an incident involving KellawanLall, who, it is alleged, struck a teenager with his gun, after which he is said to have fired said firearm at an establishment on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD). The incident reportedly took place in 2007. Felix noted that this matter was also settled out of court. Lall eventually became Local Government Minister and then Ambassador to Brazil. On each of these occasions, Felix criticized, the police “copped out” of their responsibility.