By Calvin G Brown – wiredja.com
GEORGETOWN, Guyana. August 29, 2020 – All is not well in Guyana as simmering political tension over the arrest and detention by the ruling PPP of several Guyana Electoral Commission (GECOM) officers seem to have exploded in the community of Belladrum, West Coast resulting in the deployment of heavily armed police officers to break up the protest.
The residents are protesting the arrest of the Returning Officer for Region 4 Clairmont Mingo, GECOM Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, Elections Commission Registration Officer, and a GECOM staffer Enrique Livan, all on private charges in relation to the recently held March 2 General and Regional Elections courtesy of the newly installed PPP administration.
Livan was arrested as he stepped out of his car at 12:30 p.m on August 27, 2020. He was taken into custody by Police Officers outside the GECOM office on Cowan Street, Georgetown.
His Attorney, Mr. Eusi Anderson, said Livan was followed by motorcar PWW 5090 in the moments leading up to his arrest. A video recording of the vehicle following him as well as the arrest exists and is in the possession of the Attorney.
Anderson said a person claiming to be a Police Sergeant arrested Livan, but the individual refused to identify himself and has still not done so. “After demanding to know why he was arrested Livan was told that an “Order” has been issued for his arrest. Livan was not shown the alleged order. Repeated enquiries to ascertain the reasons for his arrest eventually resulted in him being told that fraud was the reason,” Anderson said in a statement.
The PPP had also earlier arrested and filed private charges against Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform Volda Lawrence.
Ms. Lawrence, who was an election agent for her A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition at the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections, is charged with procuring Mr. Mingo to forge a declaration of results. Mr. Lowenfield is charged with misconduct in public office, fraud, and conspiracy to commit a felony. They are both on bail.
Mr. Lowenfield and Ms. Lawrence, who are on bail on separate charges, are to return to court on September 11 by which time their Defence Lawyers would be provided with elements of the cases.
Sections of the Guyana media are characterising the wave of arrests as “flat out war, and reign of terror by the ruling PPP, against African Guyanese.”
It is said that Livan is the seventh Afro-Guyanese GECOM employee who has been arrested. Observers have voiced concerns that the trump up charges against the Afro-Guyanese GECOM employees are being investigated by Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, who has been linked to an employee in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
It is said that Blanhum was previously removed from the post after a Commission of Inquiry found serious professional and ethical lapses. However, he was reinstated immediately upon the PPP’s installation as the new government.
Yesterday former Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, condemned the Police tactics and called on the Police Force to act professionally. A Senior Counsel today also condemned the police violation of the rights of citizens, which the lawyer compared to an “authoritarian hit squad.”
The leaders said that the PPP government is inciting civil unrest with its blatantly racist campaign which targets innocent Afro-Guyanese, while the new opposition leader, Joseph Harmon, speaking on a television interview in New York said that the PPP government was a serious threat to the Afro-Guyanese population.
In the meantime, there is concern that Senior Supreme Court Justice, Bassington Reynolds, an Afro-Guyanese, who was performing the duties of Chief Justice, in the absence of Chief Justice Roxanne George, who is herself acting, was yesterday removed from the position by the PPP regime. George is currently on vacation and is reportedly out of the country.
Appeal Court Justice Risi Persaud, who is perceived to be a devoted PPP supporter, and who has ruled in favor of the PPP on every matter that came before the Court of Appeal, has been installed as the acting Chief Justice.
Persaud’s appointment comes as the PPP government continues what observers say is a war on Afro-Guyanese.
Speculations are that Persaud was strategically placed in the position to possibly deny an application to release GECOM Region 4 Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo and several other Afro-Guyanese, who are being held in police custody without charge.
The move comes amidst stern warnings from civil society and union leaders that the PPP campaign against Afro-Guyanese supporters of the APNU-AFC coalition will likely lead to civil unrest.