Sunday 27 September, 2020

VIDEO: A father’s pain since son’s detention under SOE

Claud Rowe

Claud Rowe

While most residents have welcomed a level of peace and harmony since the imposition of a state of emergency (SOE) in Clarendon and St Catherine on September 5, an educator is experiencing sheer frustration because his son has been detained for three weeks under the SOE without being charged with any offence.

Claud Rowe, the Principal of Waldensia Primary and Infant School in Trelawny, said his son, 22-year-old Tajhmal Rowe, a tattoo artist of Trafalgar Hill in Chapelton, Clarendon, was picked up on Saturday, September 7 by members of the security forces. Since that time, the senior Rowe has only seen his son once while the youngster was at the May Pen Police Station awaiting transfer to Tamarind Farm Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, St Catherine, where he remains to date without charge.

The father managed to speak to his son briefly by phone over a week ago, and an associate of a lawyer who he approached to represent his son, met with the detainee last Tuesday.

Watch him speak below:

Father Rowe said Tajhmal was being held for another seven days, according to the attorney, but there has still been little information as to when police will officially charge or release him, which has been a source of headaches for his father and other family members.

Tajhmal was initially detained, according to his father, on suspicion of being involved in lotto scamming.

However, on a visit to Tamarind Farm on September 14, where the worried father was denied an opportunity to see his son, he saw records that indicated that his son was being held for “organised criminal association”, or, simply put, he was being investigated for being part of a gang.

“I just want to get him (my son) out (of lock-up). We will defend it in court (if he is charged). If you have evidence against him, why keep him? I don’t know that my child can be kidnapped by the state, and I wait indefinitely for someone to decide that they going to release him,” said the father.

“What do people like myself do? Every night I dream that they kill him in a different way,” the upset father told Loop News recently.

“I haven’t had anything of substance (to eat) from then. I am at school, but I’m not at school. I’m not effective. My students are suffering because I can’t concentrate on nothing. Nobody to tell me anything except police saying that they have tremendous powers,” he added.

Principal Rowe explained that at the time of his detention, his son was spending a week with his grandmother at Harris Street in May Pen, and on the day of his actual detention on Saturday, September 7, he was taken off a bus in Sandy Bay, Clarendon on the way to Spanish Town.

The father said his son was taken to the Denbigh Agricultural Show Ground in Clarendon for an interview with members of the security forces, and he was subsequently detained.

The elder Rowe said he then went to Clarendon on Monday, September 9, where a detective told him that they wished to hold his son for seven days to “check him out” because they had reasons to believe he was involved in lotto scamming.

By then Tajhmal was brought to the May Pen Police Station to be transferred to Tamarind Farm.

“I have not seen my son from that Monday (September 9) when I went down there (May Pen Police Station) and I glimpsed him in the cell with couple others. I made attempts to talk to him, but the soldier said I wasn’t allowed to talk to him,” father Rowe stated.

Being unaware of his son being involved in lotto scamming, the father said he did his own investigations by going to Chapelton in Clarendon.

“After talking to people – not people in his peers who might defend him (Tajhmal), but big people – I am not picking up any red flags,” the dad told Loop News.

He added that he visited the Chapelton Police Station and was told that the officers there were not probing his son for such an offence. He also visited Harris Street in May Pen, where his son was spending time with his grandmother, and said he heard nothing to suggest that his son was involved in criminal activities.

With no word about how his son was doing in detention at Tamarind Farm, the father said he maintained contact with several police officers, some of whom he knew personally, but there was little information that was forthcoming about his son or the charges that may be laid against him.

On Saturday, September 14, Rowe said he contacted a superintendent of police.

“So when I called the superintendent that Saturday (after hearing that) he (my son) was expected to be released (that day), he (the superintendent) is telling me to keep my fingers crossed. With all due respect, I don’t want to keep my fingers crossed; this is my child! And then he (the superintendent) went into the whole thing of telling me about the tremendous powers they (the police) have under the SOE, and they can hold him (Tajhmal) for 90 days,” Rowe indicated.

But there was something of a bright spark, as he was told by other police officers later that Saturday, that he could visit his son at Tamarind Farm on Sunday, September 15.

A file photo of state of emergency detainees in Montego Bay, St James.

“I drove from Falmouth in Trelawny to Tamarind Farm to learn that only lawyers can see (the) detainees, and no police can tell me I’m going to see him (my son),” he said.

Amid that major disappointment, the father said he could not stop thinking of the sharply conflicting reasons why his son was supposedly being detained.

“What is alarming is the police are telling me lotto scamming, but when I went up there (Tamarind Farm), the records up there are saying he has some criminal association, and the police interpreted that to me to say that he is involved in gangs,” the frustrated father stated.

“This young man (his son) has never been in this situations, and I am afraid they will kill him in there…," the worried father added in the initial interview with Loop News.

His plight pushed him to make a social media video outlining the challenges he has been facing in seeking to make contact with his son.

Since that time, Rowe said he managed to speak to Tajhmal for what he explained was "a couple seconds" last Monday. He said his son told him he was "okay", and he had been interrogated several time by the police.

Meanwhile, Rowe said he has contacted a lawyer, but, according to him, she indicated that no tribunals have been established as yet for the state of emergency in Clarendon and St Catherine. That information has not been confirmed.

The emergency review tribunal is to be established to hear and consider appeals by those who have been affected by the state of public emergency. The tribunal, which is provided for in the emergency regulations, will consider any abuse, challenges and concerns by those who have been affected.

However, the father said an associate of the lawyer did manage to speak formally with his son, and it was revealed that he was being held for another seven days. But the father is still unsure of whether the police will charge his son or how much longer he will remain in custody.

The frustrated principal said it seems that his only option is to bring the matter to the media.

“Many of us who have our children caught up in this (the SOE) are left to languish. No recourse other than to come to the media to get some spotlight on this wicked act…," Rowe said last week.

He is hoping that the tribunals can at least be set up so that his son's case can be heard.

And in an update, Rowe indicated late last week that the lawyer, his son and the police had an interview early on Friday, after which it was decided that his son would be released, as there was no evidence to charge him with an offence.

Tajhmal was to be brought back to May Pen Police Station from Tamarind Farm, to be released.

But up to late on Saturday, Rowe said he was still waiting at the May Pen station for his son to be released from custody. He said he was informed that the youngster had not yet been brought to the station from Tamarind Farm, resulting in the father’s nightmare heading into a fourth week.

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