Over the weekend, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo called upon officers to enforce the 6pm-6am curfew that was instituted as one of several measures aimed at reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Monday, the entity representing the nation’s legal fraternity, the Bar Association of Guyana, wrote a press statement in response to the Prime Minister’s suggestions. The missive denounced his words and called for the Disciplined Forces to treat Guyanese with respect.
The Statement from the Bar Association is as follows:
“The Bar Council of The Bar Association of Guyana reminds the members of the Disciplined Services including the Guyana 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. We further re-emphasize 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 is not the role of the Police to determine and or ascribe punishment for an alleged breach or enforcement.
These reminders, to prevent excessive authority and abuse, have become necessary as a result of the statements and comments made by Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, in his capacity as Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force, at a Press Video Conference held on April 4, 2020 whereby he suggested that the Disciplined Services may use “creative” means to enforce the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Measures’ issued on April 3, 2020. 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 policy punishment” is reckless and ill-advised.
Guyanese are human beings, not animals, and are thereby entitled to such fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution.
The Disciplined Services, must at all times operate within the confines 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.
We further call on all Guyanese to be responsible in their conduct. 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.”