In the wake of accusations by Surinamese drivers that they are being harassed by police who they have to bribe to escape charges, Guyanese police on Tuesday urged visitors to go to the police station where reports can be made to senior officers.
“If a demand is being made, let them go to the police station where the matter is taken over and say ‘charge if you want’ and then make a complaint to the senior officer,” said Police Chief of Criminal Investigations, Deputy Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud.
He, however, cautioned that foreign-licensed vehicles entering Guyana must comply with local laws and regulations including those governing tint on doors and windscreens.
Complaints about Guyanese police harassing Surinamese mirror one in which a Brazilian man was allegedly robbed by two cops. They were identified and prosecuted.
Persaud said when police are aware of corrupt transactions, sting operations are usually set up to catch the perpetrators. He also noted that various concerns are raised with Suriname in cooperation with meetings.
Suriname’s privately-owned newspaper, De Ware Tijd, on Tuesday reported that corrupt policemen in Guyana seem to have targeted Surinamese drivers. Roland Vervuurt’s experiences are a case in point. This year, he was stopped six times by policemen during two separate visits to Guyana.
The policemen wanted money, claiming his Surinamese driving license and insurance were not in order. Vervuurt explains that as soon as he arrived in Guyana, he went to the nearest police station to register, the normal procedure, after which Surinamese are free to drive around in the country. During his first visit, Vervuurt was detained at the police station four times so he could be fined. He refused each time, and advised the policemen to draft the necessary documents and take him to court. He was allowed to leave afterward, but only after people he knows in Guyana came to ‘vouch’ for him. “They wanted money each time, but I refused to pay,” Vervuurt tells de Ware Tijd.
The Surinamer immediately knew that the policemen were corrupt and wanted a bribe. During his second visit to Guyana last week, things went differently. He was held twice in Berbice, close to the border. His car was seized and would only be returned if he would pay a fine for driving with an invalid driving license and insurance papers.
At a certain moment, Vervuurt was told that if he was willing to pay 5,000 Guyanese dollars for each of the so-called violations, the matter could be settled quickly. “I told them to take me to court, as I was not willing to pay for something I did not do,” Vervuurt says.
Last Tuesday, the case was brought before the judge and it turned out that the statement about the ‘invalid’ driving license was not in the case file. When he complained to the Surinamese Embassy in Georgetown, Vervuurt was told that he should be glad to have his car back, as it could have ended differently.
Surinamese drivers are often harassed by corrupt Guyanese policemen, and they gladly pay out of ignorance or fear when they are told they could end up in jail or will lose their car. Attempts to reach the Surinamese Embassy in Guyana for comment were fruitless.
There are frequent media reports about corruption within the Guyanese police. Due to the low salaries traffic violators in particular are extorted by corrupt policemen.