Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud has reportedly admitted that he was unaware of the circumstances surrounding the probe by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) into the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). This includes the identity of the persons under Police surveillance and who gave the order for the Army to get involved.
Persaud made this startling disclosure, as reported in the Guyana Times today, despite the fact that the Police Commissioner is the only statutory authority to initiate the call for assistance from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) in civilian activities.
Guyana Times reported that, during an exclusive interview with the Top Cop on the sidelines of Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly, he made it clear that he dealt only with policy-making matters and not with operational affairs.
The newspaper stated that it specifically asked Persaud if he made the request for GDF Sergeant Robert Pyle to engage in SOCU’s stakeout operation, to which the Police Commissioner answered: “Those are operational things; the Unit (SOCU) deals with that. I deal with policies.”
The GDF Sergeant died tragically following a high-speed chase, which ensued during a bungled covert surveillance activity purportedly targeting NICIL Head Winston Brassington. However, reports eventually confirmed that the Army Officer and his special team targeted the wrong people in a case of mistaken identity. The chase ended with a resounding collision on Carifesta Avenue which claimed the lives of the GDF rank; his wife Stacy and Canter truck driver Linden Eastman.
Since then, controversy has shrouded the entire exercise and the relevant authorities have remained resolutely tight-lipped on the incident. The operation has also generated much public disquiet. However, when asked to respond to the public’s concerns on the matter, Persaud simply said, “That has been a culture of our society. Everybody called on everybody else for everything.”
He also indicated that he was unaware of the identity of the other persons, if any, under Police surveillance as it related to the NICIL probe.
Reports recently surfaced that NICIL Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) Marcia Nadir-Sharma filed a Police report of being shadowed by tinted vehicles, suspected to be those of SOCU officials. But the Police Commissioner explained that the NICIL investigation involved “a volume of matter” and he did not get into every detail.
He also posited that the SOCU Head Sydney James would have more details on the operation, since his task was to simply ensure SOCU operated within the law.
Moreover, Persaud revealed that an investigation has been launched into the incident and the files would soon go to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
According to the Guyana Times report, Persaud is arguably the first public official to break the silence on this matter of national importance.
The GDF had released a statement amid public pressure to disclose that the operation was “legitimate”.
This prolonged deafening silence has generated much uneasiness within the public domain, resulting in the relevant authorities coming in for stern criticism from civil society groups, including the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA); the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI); Red Thread and the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
Sections of society have already expressed that this particular incident resembled several exercises that were conducted during the Burnham regime when the misuse of the security and intelligence community for political purposes was rampant.
A political lightweight, the United Republic Party (URP) also weighed in on the situation, trenchantly condemning the Government for using the country’s Army intelligence to weaken national security and to spy on civilians.
“So the APNU (PNC)-AFC Government, which came to power only last May (2015), has been spying on citizens as it did between 1965 and 1992. One can only assume that it is also eavesdropping on conversations. This is a complete repeat of what occurred between 1965 and 1992 when the PNC (now APNU) assumed total control of the society establishing an ethnic dictatorship,” the Party said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a multitude of questions still remain unanswered including: Why was Brassington’s private residence under surveillance? Who authorised the GDF rank to conduct surveillance? Who gave the political direction to SOCU to conduct surveillance? Who instructed the GDF to assist SOCU in the investigation? and Why was Sergeant Pyle’s wife with him on a legitimate operation?