Young burn victim’s lawyer plans to sue Guyana gov’t

By RON FANFAIR

The lawyer representing a Guyanese teenager tortured while in custody plans to file legal action against the state and the Guyana Police Force for malicious injury.

The 14-year-old boy’s genitals and thighs were badly burned after police allegedly doused him with alcohol and set parts of his body ablaze while he was detained for questioning in connection with the murder of ruling People’s Progressive Party /Civic member, Ramnauth Bisram.

Khemraj Ramjattan said the young man was badly beaten and tortured by police after failing to admit to the murder. Two older youths were also detained.

“The boy, who had no prior arrests, was taken from his home while watching TV with his sister,” Ramjattan, who is also the chair of the Alliance for Change (AFC) political party, told Share while in Toronto last week. “He was moved around to a couple of police stations before I was able to locate him about four days after his arrest. When I found him at Vreed-en-hoop police station, he was in terrible shape.”

Ramjattan, who agreed to take the case on a pro bono basis because the boys’ parents can’t afford a lawyer, said the teen was interrogated by police for several days in the absence of a lawyer or his parents. The youth, who was not charged, was released from hospital last week.

“What was done to this boy was wrong and I am going to sue both the police and the state for their actions to my client while he was in police custody,” said the lawyer.

Ramjattan met with several organizations and individuals in the Greater Toronto Area while on a private visit. His party, founded in 2005, won five seats in the 65-seat parliament and is contesting another following the last general elections three years ago.

“We secured about 28,000 votes which was not bad for a party that was around for just a year,” said Ramjattan, a member of the PPP/Civic central committee for seven years before he was expelled in 2004 because of disagreements with the party’s leadership. “Since the last elections, we have expanded our reach nationally to capture disaffected voters from the two major political parties (PPP/Civic and the People’s National Congress/Reform).

“We are also going after the younger generation because we feel that party paramountcy and democratic centralization are outmoded and will not take our country anywhere…There is a need for meritocracy so that if you are competent, you should be able to be in any field or area of endeavour you wish to be.”

A former Progressive Youth Organization (PPP youth arm) chairman, Ramjattan said the Diaspora, which makes significant contributions through remittances, is crucial to the existence and functioning of a new party like the AFC.

“As we see it, the Diaspora represents the epicenter of knowledge of the advanced world,” he said. “We have nationals outside of Guyana who have done well for themselves in every sphere. Nearly 80 per cent of skilled people and university graduates leave Guyana annually. That knowledge base, if networked and sourced properly, can be the human capital that Guyana desperately needs for its development…That’s why having a register of Guyanese with skills is so important because we will know exactly where to find them and how they can be used to help us.”

Raphael Trotman, a former PNC member, is leader of the AFC.

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