Hearings at the Caribbean-led commission of inquiry into the July 18 fatal police shootings of three opposition supporters are nearing an end with National Security Minister Clement Rohee testifying on Wednesday that up to this week he is unsure who gave riot police the order to open fire on protestors in the bauxite mining town of Linden.
This is after he admitted that during a briefing with Police Chief Leroy Brummel and then ground commander Clifton Hicken, he was given assurances that no live rounds or any other form of lethal force would be used during demonstrations against planned increases in electricity rates for the town of 30,000.
“No I don’t think I made any inquiry as to who did authorize the use of force,” he told a very packed commission room that included at least half a dozen cabinet ministers and top governing party supporters who came to show support for Rohee, widely blamed by opposition parties and rights groups for ordering cops to open fire on protestors to clear a crucial river bridge to the interior.
Rohee said that he did receive an interim report on the shooting days after the incident but the investigation is incomplete and he could not recall details of mobile telephone conversations he had had with Deputy Chief Seelall Persaud just minutes before pandemonium broke out on the McKenzie-Wismar Bridge.
He said he and top officers who met to discuss the situation in the bauxite mining town on the day before the shootings, did not come up with any workable plan for the use of non lethal weapons such as a water cannon, the distribution of riot shields to officers and other less deadly equipment rather than buckshot used by riot police to gun down protestors.
Nigel Hughes, the attorney representing the injured from Linden grilled Rohee on why most of his calls on that day were directed to Divisional Commander Hicken rather than Brummel. Rohee alleged that he simply could not find Brummel and when he did, no information of substance was forthcoming.
Rohee and the very ambitious Commander Hicken are known to be close buddies with Rohee even receiving an expensive birthday gift from Hicken back in March.
Pressed by Jamaican Commissioner K. D. Knight for proof that Rohee did instruct Hicken to open fire, attorneys say they are now discovering that Hicken had four different mobile telephone numbers, two of which they became aware of in recent days, while no one on the commission had known that Rohee had a second number which he used on July 18.
Whether the lawyers will ask the commission to order providers Digicel and GT&T to produce calls from Rohee’s numbers to Hicken to show conversational trends during the day is unclear as Knight has indicated that he needs more direct evidence to implicate Rohee in keeping with the terms of reference as to who gave the orders to use live ammunition.