MP for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews has called for “an immediate investigation” into the death of a Chateaubelair woman, who suffered a stroke during a police raid at her home last Thursday.
Neighbours and relatives of 49-year-old Sylma “Codo” Thomas, told I-Witness News that police did not act promptly to provide her with medical attention when she fell ill.
Her brother, Alfred Howe, took Thomas to the Chateaubelair Hospital in a private vehicle. She was transferred to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, where she died on Friday.
Matthews, an opposition MP, speaking on the New Democratic Party’s radio programme on Monday, said Howe told him that police, “giving the impression that she (Thomas) was faking”, continued their search after Thomas collapsed,
“I am not against the police carrying out their responsibility as police officers. However, in a situation like this, the police might have acted improperly in terms of the way the search was done and the fact that they continued even after the woman took sick,” Matthews said.
He said Matthews had “no record of wrongdoing with the police…
“There must be an investigation into this matter. As a matter of fact, I am calling on the authorities to conduct an investigation into the manner in which the police acted to find out if … their inaction, [or] negligence … resulted in the death of this young woman,” Matthews said.
He said that after the 2010 general elections, he wrote to the authorities, and spoke on radio, “asking them to stop what they (residents) considered police harassment of innocent people in Chateaubelair.
“This thing has been going on too long and who knows if this has resulted in the tragic loss of this lady’s life,” Matthews further said, noting that Thomas is a mother of two and a grandmother.
“The community in Chateaubelair is very distraught; … they are not saying that the police were directly responsible, but the way in which they behaved…” Matthews said, adding that Howe “had to lift his sister, even though there were police present in the house”.
He said that a police officer later assisted Howe in taking Thomas to a vehicle.
“And the fact that you had the police transport there and the woman was sick, she collapsed, one would have thought that the first thing would have been to help to get this woman to the doctor. Instead, private transportation had to be arranged so that she could have been transported to the Chateaubelair hospital,” Matthews said.
“All these actions … are pointing to something that should not have happened in terms of the way police behaved,” Matthews said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, was in Chateaubelair on Saturday, and visited residents of the town, but did not visit the family of the deceased, although his convoy drove past their house.
“…I suspect that because he felt that going to talk to the family, or going to see them would not have resulted in any votes, so while he might have passed by their gates on one of his many political outings in North Leeward, he didn’t see the decency to at least go and express his condolences … to the family. But that is another story,” Matthews said.
Carlos James, who is vying to be the candidate for the Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party in North Leeward in the next general elections, who was touring the area with Gonsalves on Saturday, visited a sister and brother of the deceased.
“I just want to say that as the Member of Parliament for the constituency, I consider it my responsibility to call on the powers that be to launch an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Sylma Thomas,” Matthews said.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, on whose programme Matthews spoke, supported the call for an investigation into the death.
“Sometimes, we do things without the necessary due care and attention. And while that might not have been their intention, that was the result, and therefore, it has to be investigated,” Eustace said.
Commissioner of Police, Michael Charles, told I-Witness News on Sunday that police would meet to discuss the development.