The RSS “assessment” – Stabroek News

On August 22, amid growing pressure over allegations of a cover-up made by Police Sergeant Dion Bascom, President Ali told the media that the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) had been asked to ” assess” the murder investigation. of gold panner Ricardo Fagundes.

This was of course not the way the announcement should have been made. The whole country is interested and has an interest in testing Mr. Bascom’s claims. Informal and flippant disclosure from the president is not enough. A week later, the country has absolutely no idea what precisely the RSS has been tasked with doing, how it is going to do it, and whether it was the right organization to undertake the task.

The president’s continued refusal to hold press conferences regularly and whenever events warrant shows an unwillingness to leave his comfort zone when it comes to accountability to the public through the media. This must change. Home Secretary Robeson Benn was also uncommunicative. Asked by Stabroek News about the RSS mission, he said: ‘A review advises us as we did with the Henry boys, where the RSS was also involved as to the quality and nature of the investigation and the actions to be taken and the support needed. bought to do whatever it takes to fix the ongoing problems”. He declined to divulge any further details about it, saying: ‘I don’t go into the details of this case. I have already said that…..When the time when we need to say something (comes), we will have done it”.

As in all cases of this type, the terms of the engagement should have been made public and it should have been known who in the RSS was undertaking what task as well as the good faith of the person or persons. The RSS has had previous engagements with Guyana under difficult security conditions, but there has never been an assessment of its conduct as the public has been unaware of any official reports of its activities here.

President Ali must be aware that what is at stake here is not only the position of the Guyanese police, but also that of his own administration. Any attempt to whitewash Mr. Bascom’s staggering allegations or simply dismiss them will undermine law and order. For the RSS mission to succeed, it must outline how Mr. Bascom’s claims can be credibly tested without this process being compromised by members of the police hierarchy against whom allegations have been made and others who have already tried to slander him. This was addressed in Friday’s editorial entitled ‘Covering up a cover-up?’

The RSS mission must lead to establishing which police officers were at the scene the night of Fagundes’ murder, which detectives were involved in the investigation from the start and if any of them were abducted, the type of evidence collected , including whether there were any attempts to establish coordinates for mobile calls using cell towers and who the prime suspects were and whether they were properly investigated. Have the call records of the victim and the main suspects been sought from the mobile phone companies? Otherwise, it would be a serious shortcoming of the probe. There is also the not inconsiderable question of whether investigators have been eagerly pursuing leads deriving from the alleged getaway vehicle which was found burnt out in Swan on the Soesdyke-Linden highway. Shouldn’t there have been identifiers on the burnout carcass that could have led to records in the licensing revenue department as to the most recent owner of the vehicle? What about the myriads of cameras that would have been aimed at the long road of the getaway? This is the kind of thorough investigation one would expect the Fagundes to be slaughtered. Are there links between senior police officials and suspects who may have obstructed investigations?

Relying on RSS might not have been necessary had the Granger administration and this administration enacted the Protected Disclosures Act of 2018 which is described as “a law aimed at combating corruption and other wrongdoing by encouraging and by facilitating the disclosure of inappropriate behavior in the public and private sectors, to protect those making the disclosures from harmful actions…”

Sergeant Bascom may well be wondering if there are any undisclosed exclusions from this law, as his appeal to President Ali for protection under the law has yet to be answered. Despite the clear requirement to deal urgently with the protection of a suspected whistleblower, the President traveled to Trinidad for an official visit and he has since visited the Rupununi, while ignoring his responsibilities under the law.

What steps will the government take now to activate the Act? The Act provides for a Protected Disclosures Commission which, under section 12(1), would have been empowered to “…adopt such procedure as it deems appropriate in the circumstances of a particular case, hear the person whose disclosure of inappropriate behavior is made, obtain any information, document or thing from any person and make such other inquiries as the Commission deems appropriate.

Further, under Article 12(2), the Commission “…may seek the assistance of experts and enforcement agencies to assist it in any investigation before it or to obtain information, documents or things of an employer or person and experts and enforcement agencies shall, subject to and in accordance with their internal arrangements, do all that is necessary and within their power to assist the Commission in carrying out his investigation well.

Whistleblower legislation is now a well-recognized cog in transparent and accountable democracies. The government must act immediately to shorten the law and allow it to work. In the meantime, the public is waiting for signs from the government and the RSS that Detective Bascom’s claims will be taken seriously.

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