6th of February, 2022. Guyana, South AmericaLast updated: February 6, 2022 at 15:52 pm
Editor’s Note: We decided to reprint this article copied from the Facebook Page of Mr. Ronald J. Daniels because it’s an impartial and comprehensive exposition on the recent tragedy involving the police and two young Guyanese.
So let’s talk…. The tragic accident at Mahaica two days ago claimed the lives of Christopher Bhagwandat and Shereeda Persaud, both of whom were just children. Might I pause, and ask you to do the same, to let their families know the deep sorrow we feel at their unfortunate and untimely passing. This should not have happened.
The Guyana Police Force and, in particular, the officers who were part of the high speed chase that claimed the lives of young Bhagwandat and Persaud, have come in for massive criticisms. Some have even expressed their emotions as strongly as the police, by their actions, murdering the children.
This loss of life has created an emotionally charged atmosphere across the country, and understandably so. I dare ask us, however, to take, perhaps, a wider look at some of the factors that might have been operating upon the minds of young Bhagwandat and Persaud, and the police officers. And let us see whether these factors put into a broader context the outcome of the accident.
Bhagwandat, according to his mom, was a young mechanic. She does not know whose car he was driving leading up to the accident. The harsh reality about rural mechanic shops especially is that many young men apprentice at these shops – sometimes boys as young as 9 – 10 years old. They invariably learn to drive at these shops. It is all too typical for them to take a spin around the block to confirm whether the mechanical adjustments made to the vehicles they are working on fixed the complaints the vehicles had. Out of these experiences are birthed the appetites for broader adventures. I’ve grown up in these environments; I can tell you this. Many of these young men at tender ages develop impressive competence in both their mechanical work and driving. Still yet many of them are at the lower end of the financial bracket and may have no sense of urgency in acquiring a driver’s license as the prospects of owning their own vehicle are not sharply in sight. So they would take a chance here and there when a vehicle becomes available.
This may or may not have been the circumstances under which young Bhagwandat was driving.
Young Persaud was a promising student. She was a youth parliamentarian and was expected to distinguish herself at her CXC exams. She was clearly her parents’ pride and joy, and appeared to have been loved with matching passion by her relatives and friends. There she is, away from school, in company with a boyfriend her folks and relatives don’t know about, and a great distance away from home with him.
Who knows the combined thoughts that bombarded their young minds when instructed by the police to pull over. Were he unlicensed it means that he would have been deemed uninsured as well. And it was a car that he had borrowed with or without permission; this too would have factored into his consideration. For young Persaud, her fears might have been were her parents to be called in then how would she justify being away from school, way out of her home and school zone, and with a boyfriend no one knew about? These, I dare say, are human and realistic considerations and fears; even though I speculate about the precise factors that influenced them both.
I’m sure we can see how under these circumstances fleeing the police may appear a more seductive risk than facing the other consequences. I was once young and daring with my heart, so I won’t even blame them strongly for the ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ adventure they were on. Which of us hasn’t taken risks under the rage of youthful hormones?
Now as for the police…the police were on traffic exercises I understand. On these exercises, they confirm whether documents are possessed and if they are, whether they are dated; whether vehicles are too heavily tinted; whether persons are driving under the influence; etc. The consideration on these exercises is to ensure that road uses are compliant, lest other road users are affected. And this is as honourable as it is necessary, though we are oftentimes irritated by the long lines of traffic this sometimes causes. And no, the focus here is not on officers who may have their own motives when out there!
The police’s responsibilities are not confined to matters of traffic though they are on traffic exercises. They have a broader responsibility to detect crime and halt the commission of same when they can. There is a range of reasons they could have contemplated that would excite young Bhagwandat to drive away when they gave him a lawful command to pull over. And it would not be profiling or prejudicial in anyway for them to speculate that the occupants of the vehicle, whomever they are, might be trying to avoid the detection of a crime – whether traffic, trafficking, firearms and ammunition, etc. So I can certainly understand their automatic response of springing into action and giving chase.
We may ask whether they could not have alerted Mahaica Police Station to set up a road block and let them detain the car. They were in hot pursuit; there is no telling whether they gave thought to this. Also, even if they did, there is a stretch from Mahaicony to Mahaica and, as far as I am aware, no other station is in-between. And I imagine a reasonable consideration is that if the car was laden with something illegal, the occupants could have either diverted course or discharged those items on the way to Mahaica.
Also, we may wonder why the police did not just take the number plate and track down the vehicle after. Perhaps they did not think about this in their impulsive decision to pursue. And if the driver of the motor car is so emboldened to persist in a police chase, won’t this create an even stronger impression that there is an even stronger incentive to evade the police and maybe a deeper concealment of crime? If they did go the course of going after the registered owner, another dimension might be the distress he has to go through for a vehicle he was not controlling at the time and may not even know whom it was. Sadly, there are so many angles to regard.
I ask this with no sinister motive of course, but would we have celebrated the police if their chase yielded stopping in his tracks someone who was smuggling drugs or guns…or even people?
The thing is, my people, we cannot shy away from this whole situation being too tragic and avoidable…on all fronts. Both the police and young Bhagwandat made choices on that fatal day; choices which I imagine neither of them expected to produce fatal consequences.
I shall await the outcome of the investigation that the Commissioner of Police promised. In the mean time, I will continue to empathise with the police, while my heart and my eyes remain moist with sympathy for the loved ones of young Bhagwandat and Persaud.
Ronald J. Daniels
February 5, 2022