By Suraj Narine

Almost seven years after receiving compensations they felt were not enough for their loved ones who were allegedly shot and killed by police during a July 18, 2012 protest in Linden, the families of the deceased are now suing the State for a combined sum in excess of $450M. The men, Ron Somerset, Shemroy Bouyea and Allan Lewis, were killed while protesting the then government’s plans to raise electricity tariffs in the mining community.

FLASHBACK: Lindeners walked the streets in protest of the rise in electricity rates

Arguing that their loved ones were deprived of the fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 138 and 141 of the Constitution, the families are contending that police used excessive force and acted recklessly when they randomly and indiscriminately fired gunshots into a crowd injuring the men.

In a Fixed Date Application (FDA) filed by lawyer, Darren Wade, the families are claiming exemplary and aggravated damages, as well as costs and any further or such orders the court deems fit. The FDA comes up for hearing on Tuesday, February 25, before Justice Franklyn Holder at the High Court in Demerara.

It was previously reported that the protest was solely against the increase in electricity rates for the mining town. Police and soldiers were sent to the area. Police ranks began discharging rounds after tear gas and pellets failed to prevent protestors from blocking the main bridge which connects the wards of Wismar and Mackenzie.

During the protest, several buildings were set on fire. They include the office of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Linden Mining Company (Linmine), the Kara Kara bridge, the office of the then ruling People’s Progressive Party and the Guyana Revenue Authority. Several persons were injured during the ordeal.

Following a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) headed by Lensley Wolfe, it was found that the police were responsible for the men’s death. The CoI, however, found that in the circumstances, the police’s discharge of rounds was justified as they were greeted by a hostile crowd, and had no intention to kill or injure anyone.

While the CoI did not conclusively identify any specific rank as having fired the fatal shots, it signaled out the actions of ASP Patrick Todd as reckless as he discharged four rounds in the direction of the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge which, along with its environs had hundreds of persons.

“Nonetheless the discharge of ammunition itself by the police in the circumstances described by ASP Todd was justified having regard to the fact that the police were confronted by a very hostile crowd and there was no clear intention on the part of the police to kill or cause injury to anyone. The apparent intention was to scare the protestors into removing from the Bridge,” the CoI found.

The CoI had recommended that the families of the injured and deceased be compensated for damages. As a result, on the morning of July 26, 2013, several families rushed down to the then Office of the President for their cash. However, it was much to their disappointment. It was previously reported a family of one of the deceased received $1M, while another was awarded some $3M.

Ever since, the families had promised to pursue a more viable compensation even if it meant filing legal proceedings. In 2018, the Coalition government had announced that it will pay homage to the fallen men through the erection of monument; a street in the Wismar Housing Scheme was named ‘Allan Lewis Avenue’.

In December, 2018, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan during his budget presentation made a public appeal for the government to do better for the martyrs’ relatives. “I am asking my section here, to revisit the compensation that was given to those people; they were unarmed people protesting for their rights and they were killed,” the Department of Public Information (DPI) reported the minister as saying.


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