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WPA, PNC question use of SWAT team

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 September 2021, 8:18 by Denis Chabrol

Orin Boston (Stabroek News picture)

Two of Guyana’s opposition political parties have questioned the use of the police force’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit,  in the wake of the gunning down of a resident of Dartmouth, Essequibo Coast.

The Working People’s Alliance, in expressing outrage at the “brutal slaying” of 29-year old Orin Boston by the SAWT team that police had said had gone to the Essequibo Coast based on intelligence in search of prohibited items.

“WPA  also asks whether the stated objective of searching for and recovering prohibited items necessitated the use of the SWAT team,” that party said. The Guyana Police Force has bluntly refused to say what were those “prohibited items”.

The WPA notes that another citizen has come forward claiming similar treatment by the SWAT team on that very night. According to that party, he has revealed the shocking tale of being tied up while the team carried out its search. “What kind of police force and political regime facilitate such barbaric behavior by lawmen who took the oath to protect and serve?

Questioning how such an operation quickly deteriorated and ended with the execution of a citizen, the WPA cast serious doubt that Boston attacked the police with a gun,  and added its voice to a call for an independent investigation rather than one conducted by the Police Force’s own Office of Professional Responsibility.

“We have no confidence in the police investigating itself in these circumstances. We therefore lend our voice to those who have already called for an independent investigation. Of course, such an investigation is expected to tell us what happened and serve as the basis for prosecution of the accused,” the WPA said.  The Police Force said the policeman, who shot Boston with a force-issued rifle, has since been placed under close arrest.

But PNCR Executive Member, Retired Rear Admiral Gary Best said the Guyana Police Force should be allowed to conducts its probe before his party decides its next move. “We are deeply concerned and I think we ought to give the Guyana Police Force the opportunity to conduct its own investigation into this matter because we, as a whole do repose confidence in the Guyana Police Force and the Commissioner and we ought to give them that opportunity to conduct that investigation and, based on that outcome, the party will then reflect on what will be its next stages,” he said.

Rear Admiral Best, who is a former Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, said the SWAT team is used to go “after targeted criminals and it is based on targeted intelligence.” “If you are going to go into someone’s home without a warrant, as stated, then there is a particular section within the law that allows you do that,” he said. He added that the decision to deploy the SWAT team “must come from the top brass of the Police Force because that is the Commissioner’s most important asset that he has available to him.”

The PNCR expressed concern about who might have instructed the SWAT team to go to the Essequibo Coast. “This is very disturbing to the PNCR, and to the people of Guyana, to think that it is unclear who gave instructions, if at all, to the Guyana Police Force’s top law enforcement unit to conduct an operation against the unarmed Orin Boston, his wife and little daughter. Surely such an order must come from the top brass.”

Police have said that the SWAT team has arrested two murder suspects in the backlands of Onderneeming, Essequibo Coast.

The WPA assailed the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for its “pronounced” track-record of extra-judicial killings of especially African Guyanese males whose by a police force which “seems to become more trigger-happy under the PPP’s stewardship of the country.

The WPA notes that there are still unsolved executions such as the Henry cousins and Haresh Singh and the case of Peter Headley who was killed while in police custody. “WPA therefore heaps scorn on those who are more concerned with the stemming the flow of protest than with stemming the flow the blood of human beings.”

A number of persons have been charged with the murder of the Henry cousins and Haresh Singh. The Police Commissioner, Nigel Hoppie has said that the Police Complaints Authority was due to dispatch the file with advice back to the police force shortly.