12 torches were lit and held up high by women on Wednesday 10th September at La Brasserie, in Forest Side to demand justice for Kaya. Women from the neighbourhood of La Brasserie, members of Muvman Liberasyon Fam (Women’s Liberation Movement), and youth stood with Veronique Topize, widow of renowned artist Kaya, on the streets of La Brasserie. Youth sang Kaya’s songs: Ras Kuyon, Sant Lamur, and these freedom hymns were taken up by the gathering illuminated by the glow of the hand-held torches.
Kaya was found dead, with some 30 injuries on his body, in high-security cells in Alcatraz where he was detained after having been arrested for smoking ganja in a music concert in February 1999. His death, the fourth death of a police detainee provoked a mass revolt by youth, in which 13 police stations were stoned and prisoners of a “remand” prison were released.
Every 10th day of the month, women gather with Veronique Topize and Muvman Liberasyon Fam for half an hour to demand justice for Kaya and a stop to death in detention. Each month, a new torch is lit and held by women standing in a line, like living statues. The action symbolises a quest for justice for Kaya, all who have died in police custody. It is also a warning for the police to stop their methods of violence and torture. The message is clear: “Women are watching”.
This 10th of September gathering was particularly significant as the Director of Public Prosecution has just confirmed that magistrate Kam Sing who presided the judicial inquiry following the death of Kaya shockingly concluded that there is no “foul play”, and that Kaya was supposedly ill and that “certain tiny injuries” on his body were caused by violence. This is the first time ever that the conclusions of a judicial enquiry into a death in police custody has been released to the family of the deceased.
Veronique Topize declared in the gathering that she rejects the findings of Magistrate Kam Sing and called on the DPP to arrest the three police officers Anne-Marie, Nepaul and Ramdin in charge of police cells at the time. “I saw my husband right before his arrest. He was well, in good health. He did not have a mark on his body. 3 days later, he was found dead in his cell with some 30 injuries on his body. I saw these injuries. No-one will convince me that there was no foul play. I reject magistrate Kam Sing’s findings” she declared.
Rajni Lallah who spoke for the Muvman Liberasyon Fam there, also supported this call. She said that if the police officers in charge of Kaya when he died are truly innocent, then they should come out with the truth in Court. “If the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Minister Emmanuel Leung Shing, is not capable of ensuring justice for a detainee in Alcatraz, high-security police cells, then he should resign” she said.
In the judicial inquiry on Kaya’s death, the four pathologists, including the police pathologist: Drs. Ramstein, Oogarah, Graham and Surnam who had examined Kaya’s body, attributed his death to head injury. Dr. Ramstein had stated that Kaya had died as a result of two different brain injuries caused by Kaya’s head having been projected against the floor and by forcible rotation and hyper-extension of the neck and violent shaking. His conclusions were partly based on the findings of Dr. Oogarah’s histo-pathological report of the brain of the deceased. Dr Ramstein also attributed injuries found on the body of the deceased to attempts to immobilise him.
This action of Veronique Topize, Muvman Liberasyon Fam, and people of the La Brasserie region was reported in national TV news on Thurday, by two commercial radio stations, and Le Mauricien.