Monday, March 3, 2014

An Attack On One Man Sheds More Light on Security Lapses In Blantyre

An ambush is a very tricky thing and it is the rare victim who carries it off because, more often than not, the attacked individual is left with the impression that had they only come a little earlier, or later, it would never have happened to them. This is the situation Dr. Tommy Hamilton, a precious stones’ expert, found himself in recently. RICHARD CHIROMBO writes:

Twice, they floored him. And twice he screamed. But his shouts for help were no less than a soliloquy. He was like a man standing on a bare stage surrounded by big men with big knives.

“There were people close by but, no matter how loud I shouted, nobody came to my rescue. Nobody seemed to care,” says Dr. Tommy Hamilton, an expert in precious stones.
He is referring to his ordeal at the hands of unknown assailants who attacked him at Kandodo Corner Shop in Blantyre. This happened on the Saturday of February 22 this year.

“What surprises me is that the thugs who singled me out committed their hideous crime during what I would describe as ‘near-day’ evening; it was only 7 o’clock in the evening, for God’s sake. What’s more? There were armed police officers at a filling station close by. All these factors could not hinder the attackers from committing a crime,” says Hamilton.

For this attack on his person, Hamilton sustained serious injuries on his neck and right leg, while his left arm was lifeless, unable to raise itself up or bring itself down. Not even his muscles could move it an inch.

But this (the injured hand) is what remained on his body; things the thugs could not take away.

Some things were, however, portable.

“For instance, they went away with my travel bag, Nokia N97 mobile phone, ATM cards, and K35, 000 cash. I could not handle them alone; seeing, as it were, that they had dangerous weapons. They had sharp, shiny knives; they had big pipes, one of which was used to hit my neck. The pain has not eased down,” says Hamilton, some three days after the attack.

Hope amidst pain

As a responsible citizen armed with the knowledge that fore-warned is fore-armed, Hamilton reported to Kabula Police Station. Part of a letter dated February 22, and written by one of the police officers on duty, reads:

The bearer of this note has been wounded, so we have sent him to your good office for medical treatment. Please assist him then feed us with your findings for our records’ purposes.”

And a medical report from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) indicates that the patient suffered trauma, sustained minor injuries, and described treatment for his injuries as a “priority”.

“I reported the issue to police because I did not want others to fall into the same trap. But I had also hoped that some police officers would accompany me to the scene of the incident because I had hit one of the attackers in the head with a stone and his friends fled, leaving him there.

“To my disappointment, however, I was told by some police officers that ‘You should just thank your God that He has spared your life and you are alive’. Others were even more brunt; they told me that since the current administration was against the Shoot-to-Kill policy (touted by former president Bingu wa Mutharika), ‘This is the price you have to pay. Do you want us to injure the suspected criminals and be subjected to criminal justice for trying to save your soul? It doesn’t make sense’.”

Hamilton says he tried to reason with the officers, to no avail.

“But I was shocked that, during my first 50 minutes at Qech, four more people came. They had been attacked at the very same spot. One of them was badly injured in the leg, and I do not think he still has that leg on him. I heard one of the medical workers talk about amputation,” says Hamilton.

Not that he does not trust the Malawi Police Service. He remembers that armed robbers once descended on his house in BCA Residential Area in 2010, and that police officers tracked the attackers and brought them to justice.

However, when unknown people attacked him around 8 o’clock in the evening in Bangwe Township in 2011, Bangwe Police Station failed to arrest anyone and, just when he was about to forget that incident, thugs have attacked again, leaving him with a left arm that cannot hold anything.

That is not all, however. Hamilton, who stays in Lilongwe, came to Blantyre to finalise preparations for a Night of Prayer at Hill Crescent in Kabula (location) scheduled for February 28. Instead of attending the prayers, he was forced to go back to Lilongwe to continue medical treatment.

In fact, he did not even have the cash on him, and, so, he depended on well-wishers who gave him a ride to Lilongwe in a freightliner.

Official side
On her part, Blantyre Police public relations officer, Elizabeth Divala, says officers have intensified security patrols, and that the area in question is well-monitored by officers.

“If he (Hamilton) says he was attacked around 7 PM, I can assure you that we had police officers working around that area and, in terms of security, the area was well-covered,” says Divala, adding:

“You may wish to know that we have intensified security patrols in Blantyre and police officers, in both uniform and civilian attire, are always on the look-out for suspects. This is because we are committed to providing high level security to residents through our station and sub-stations such as Ndirande and Chilomoni.”

Divala also says the police station has patrol vehicles that move from place to place, in the course of responding to residents’ calls for help.

“In the past, we used to have 997 response vehicles. We now have 990, and those who want help should call 990 and they will be helped accordingly. But some residents abuse the facility, and make bogus calls. This is bad because it deprives other people of service and puts their life in danger,” says Divala.

She says all these efforts- all these interventions- are premised on one goal: To rid Blantyre of that biggest problem, the loneliness that hits one when criminals pounce!

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