GEORGETOWN, Guyana, October 3, 2021 - The fire that on Saturday destroyed Georgetown’s Brickdam Police Station complex, headquarters of Guyana’s main police division, is alleged to have been set by a 29-year-old Princess Street man, who has reportedly confessed to starting the devastating fire. He is a suspect in an armed robbery case.
In a statement on Sunday, the Guyana Police Force said investigators have managed to secure a confession (on video) from a prisoner – Clarence Greene who was arrested early on Saturday morning (October 2, 2021) and placed in the Brickdam lockups for an alleged Robbery Under Arms, told investigators, during his confession, that he started the fire out of frustration over his detention.
A statement from the Guyana police said “ Following the fire on Saturday, the prisoners who were in the Brickdam lockups, were questioned and two of them, Renhold Charles and Akeem Green alias ‘Buxton’, claimed that after the fire was seen and they were taken out of the cells by Cpl George and escorted to the Sparendaam Police Station, they were placed in a cell with Clarence Greene.
Renhold Charles, a 29-year-old is a Technician of lot 83 Duke Street, Kingston while Akeem Hatton called ‘Buxton’, a 29-year-old is said to be a clothes vendor of lot 15v Lodge Housing Scheme.
The duo said Green told them that he took a piece of sponge, wrapped it up on a piece of wire which he lit and pushed it through a ventilation hole in the cell over to a part that had some documents and it catch afire.
Following this revelation, Clarence was then video interviewed/questioned by detectives during which he ‘confessed’ and claimed that Renhold Charles was actually the one who gave him a piece of wire to help him start the fire.
Clarence told investigators that he then tore off a piece of sponge from a mattress in the cell that he was in, hooked it on the wire and lit same with a cigarette lighter which he then pushed through a ventilation hole in the cell at Brickdam.”
Following the fire on Saturday, President Irfaan Ali strongly suggested that the burning down of the Brickdam Police Station might be politically inspired. Ali earlier Sunday sought to link the blaze to utterances in the United States. While he did not name anyone specifically, he said he would ask for international help to assist with the probe.
“To say I am not bothered would not be a true reflection of how I am thinking. I am bothered because this is not the first public asset that we have lost… this is coming on the heels of threats made on the capital city from New York, this is not the first time, and I am not going to take this lightly… out of concern and out of an abundance of caution at this early stage, we will not spare any effort in reaching out for international support…to investigate, to follow any lead and to ensure that our capital remains safe and stable, ” Ali said.
The President made the comment during a visit to the temporary police offices that have been set up at the St Stanislaus College, in the aftermath of Saturday’s fire, which destroyed over 80% of the Regional Police Division 4 ‘A’ Headquarters at Brickdam, Georgetown.
The Guyana President said that he was disappointed by the response of the Guyana Fire Service, during Saturday’s fire. He noted that since entering office, his administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to equip the fire service with the necessary resources to do its work, and it is sad to see the institution not live up to expectations. He stressed that there must be a strong system of accountability and a sense of professionalism for those persons who perform public services.
“The State can’t provide you with basic things like equipment for you to wear as fire officers and you turn up without them. It means that you are not in any state of readiness to respond to an emergency, it means that from a personal level you are not taking the job that you are entrusted to do with the level of seriousness that is necessary… we can’t be making investments in state apparatus and state institutions and do not get the results from those investments.”
He said Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn has been ordered to put together a team of investigators to probe the response to the fire. Railing against the firefighters’ poor response to an ‘event in your backyard,’ he publicly warned the Guyana Fire Service that such an attitude would not be tolerated and if they could not regard their work as emergency responders they should consider parting ways.
Ali went on to say that he has already requested a list of all the persons in the diaspora who would have worked in a senior position within large cities, in an attempt to retain their expertise and infuse it locally.
Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, has credited the members of the Disciplined Services for their response to the fire. “I would also like to make important note of the courage and dedication of the firefighters and other members of the disciplined forces who despite the intense flames and danger to themselves, demonstrated professionalism in the most difficult of circumstances,” he said.
Harmon also called for a commission of inquiry into the fire as well as a full inventory of what was destroyed, an examination of all aspects related to fire safety, and a review of existing systems, including building codes.
The Opposition Leader also wants an immediate assessment of all the response mechanisms, as well as a review of the available equipment and the human resource capacity. “This investigative mechanism must provide a comprehensive report. The findings must be made available for public scrutiny and immediate remedial action,” he said.
The Opposition Leader has also recommended a review the Fire Service Act with a view to arrive at recommendations for modifications at the Parliamentary level. Since Guyana is moving towards an environment of transformation, new, comprehensive and creative legislative action must be introduced in relation to fire prevention and the safety of all Guyanese citizens,” Harmon concluded.
The historic Brickdam Station is the third public building to go up in flames within the last few months. In mid-June, the North Ruimveldt Multilateral Secondary School was partially destroyed by fire. It was followed by the Mabaruma Secondary School just under two weeks ago. A preliminary investigation by the Guyana Fire Service into the Mabaruma fire, later revealed that the destruction was an act of arson.
The President said he would be requesting foreign assistance to probe possible links between the alleged threats and the Saturday morning fire that razed the colonial era wooden structures. “I’m going to ask for international support to investigate, to follow any lead and to ensure that our capital remains safe and stable,” he said.