Last Updated on Saturday, 9 January 2016, 17:02 by Denis Chabrol
The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) Saturday called for a Commission of Inquiry into a surveillance operation by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) that resulted in the death of an army intelligence agent and two civilians including his wife in a vehicular collision during a high-speed chase.
“The deaths and their surrounding circumstances are cause for the gravest concern among citizens. It has now been confirmed that at the time of the officer’s death he was engaged in a surveillance operation which it is now known was directed at a public servant who is on leave.
The Bar Association believes that an explanation is required for the use of GDF officers to engage in such activities and the legality thereof,” the GBA said in its statement.
Sources have told Demerara Waves Online News that the GDF operatives had been staking out the home of Alana Seebarran and her husband, Charles Ramson Jr, on Cowan Street, Kingston, Georgetown instead of the home of the Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICL), Winston Brassington next door.
After Seebarran’s brother managed to escape from a road-block set up by the GDF intelligence agents’ vehicles, a high-speed chase ensued that resulted in a fatal collision with a truck on Carifesta Avenue. Dead are GDF Sergeant Robert Pyle, his wife and a truck driver. The Seebarrans immediately reported their encounter to police.
The GBA has taken umbrage at a comment by President David Granger that he did not believe that a full probe into the incident was necessary because Sergeant Pyle was on an official mission. Expressing fundamental disagreement with the Guyanese leader, the GBA said at a minimum a Coroner’s Inquest should be held. “With due respect to the President, the Bar Association fundamentally disagrees with such a position. At the very least, the law requires a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of the three citizens while the ten issues identified are so serious and fundamental to the normal functioning of a democratic state that they require a proper, independent Commission of Inquiry.”
Against the background of the President being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chairman of the Defence Board, the GBA said Granger “would wish to avoid any perception of any conflict of interest, undue influence or political interference in the operations of the Disciplined Services, or of an operation that went horribly wrong.”
The GBA wants a Commission of Inquiry to consider the duty of the State to act in conformity with the law and to protect its citizens, the role and function of the Guyana Defence Force, a body established under the Defence Act to carry out its responsibilities set out in the Constitution, the role, duties and functions of the Guyana Police Force and the Commissioner of Police in these circumstances, the establishment and operation of Special Organised Crime Unit, its legal underpinning, staffing and reporting lines, wrongful death, criminal liability, civil Liability, immunity and appropriate redress and the scope, operational procedures, reporting lines and accountability of Operation Dragnet which was announced not by the Commissioner of Police but following a meeting of the Cabinet.
Also, the GBA wants such a probe to consider the level of sanctity of human life, the extent of the right to secure protection of the law including the holding of independent inquiries into the loss of human life, the importance of citizens being able to go about their lives and business peaceably, and the recognition and regard for the privacy and private life of an individual.
The GBA noted that the Chief of Staff is solely responsible for the operational control of the GDF but subject to the general or specific directions of the President and that only when police are unable to deal with violent crime in specific divisions the Police Commissioner asks the Chief of Staff for help.
In this case, the Guyana Bar Association said the Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud has not broken his silence on the matter. “By contrast, the nation waits to hear from the Commissioner of Police who is the statutory authority to initiate the call for assistance from the Defence Force. Similarly, since Operation Dragnet was described as a response to concerns about public security, the Bar Association considers it incumbent for the Minister of Public Security to address the nation on the matter.”