Bar Association upbraids Nagamootoo over “reckless” curfew directive
The legal fraternity on Monday upbraided caretaker Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo over his “reckless” remarks directed to ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) on their enforcement of a national curfew as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Nagamootoo – in his capacity as Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force, during a video conference on Saturday last – suggested that the Disciplined Services may use “creative” means to enforce the COVID-19 Emergency Measures.
The Bar Association, in a strongly worded statement on Monday, responded to Nagamootoo and said his suggestion to pull persons by their ears taken together with alluding to examples he saw on social media of Police Officers in other countries beating persons and inflicting other public punishment “is reckless and ill-advised”.
According to the Bar Association, “it is not the role of the Police to determine and/or ascribe punishment for an alleged breach or enforcement”.
The lawyers’ association used the occasion to remind members of the Disciplined Services, including the Police Force, that as organs of the State, they are subject to the rule of law and the provisions of the Constitution of Guyana.
“We take this opportunity to highlight the right of every citizen under Article 141 of the Constitution not to be subjected to inhuman and/or degrading treatment.”
The association went further re-emphasizing “that the components of the right to secure protection of the law under Article 144 of the Constitution require that a punishment be prescribed by a court of law, after following all the hallmarks of due process.”
It was noted that the reminders, to prevent excessive authority and abuse, have become necessary as a result of the statements and comments made by Nagamootoo.
The association pointed out that “Guyanese are human beings, not animals, and are thereby entitled to such fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution”.
It noted that the Disciplined Services must at all times operate within the confines of the law, which we expect them to so do, and cannot employ extra-judicial means in the enforcement of the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Measures’, “the legality and enforceability of which we make no comment on at this time; the necessity of which we appreciate.”
Several videos showing ranks of the Police Force patrolling and using various means to enforce the curfew have been making the rounds on social media platforms and have been met with outrage. Police ranks could be observed closing pharmacies—categorised as essential – in addition to using whips on those who are alleged to have breached curfew.
The legal fraternity has since also called “on all Guyanese to be responsible in their conduct” saying “we owe as much, as a duty to ourselves, our families, our neighbours, communities and our country as a whole…As we exercise our individual fundamental rights, this exercise is not to be in breach of our respective duties of care.”