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A group, calling itself ‘Advocates for Article 149’ is publicly registering its unqualified condemnation of the Government of Guyana, the criminal justice system, and all other civil society stakeholders complicit in the state-sponsored disposal of the official rape and sodomy complaint filed by an indigenous minor against a then-sitting member of government and parliamentarian, Mr Nigel Dharamlall.
Dharamlall is accused of sexually violating a minor last December. The minor who participated in a Indigenous pageant was sponsored by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, which Dharamall at the time held ministerial responsibility for.
In a statement, the body drew attention that over the past three (3) weeks, the Guyanese public, at home and abroad, watched incredulously as the turn of events unfolded into a well-coordinated plan that was designed to sinisterly muzzle the complainant and dissuade similarly affected victims; pointing out that throughout the course of the investigation, allegations of several glaring anomalies marked its seemingly ominous descent into the shadowy underworld of the abuse of coercive state power, which included:
“1. Reports of the alleged initiation of contact and attempts to organise a ‘meeting’ with the victim by the Minister of Education, Ms Priya Manickchand, and Chief Education Officer, Mr Saddam Hussain, independently and in the absence of representatives of the Childcare and Protection Agency.
“2. Reports of Mr Dharamlall allegedly travelling to the community to meet with the victim and her parents to procure a settlement.
“3. Reports of a statement allegedly signed by the victim denying any and every claim into the allegation of rape and sodomy, that was recorded and signed by Police Superintendent Khemraj Shivbaran at the Regional Police Headquarters, Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast.
“4. Reports of the victim being allegedly denied access to the legal advice of her preferred Counsel, Mr Dexter Todd, and of his request for access to the victim being denied while in the protective custody of the state.
“5. Reports of the Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Shalimar Hack, allegedly refusing to advise that a charge of rape be laid against Mr Dharmlall as clearly disclosed from the facts of the complaint, and abnormally requesting that the investigation is completed thereto.
“6. Reports of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Shalimar Ali-Hack S.C, allegedly basing her advice for a charge of rape not to be laid against Mr Dharmlall on a request by the victim not to be further interviewed. “
The group, naming itself off Article 149 of the Constitution of Guyana which speaks the protection of discrimination, is a friendly society established to promote the constitutional norms of non-discrimination and equality in the governance of the state, seeks to advance its cause by advocating for the dismantling of structural inequalities and inequities in the state from the perspective of an autochthonously developed critical race theory.
Speaking to the rape allegation, the group made known, whether taken individually or cumulatively, the reports present an ineluctable inference that in the conduct of the investigation, the Government of Guyana, and the machinery of its criminal justice system, coordinated and executed a successful plan to obstruct and pervert the course of justice, to violate the Constitutional right of the victim to the equal benefit and protection of the law, to weaponize the monopoly of State power over the investigation, and to breach any and every International Human Rights obligations theretofore undertaken by Guyana to protect similarly-situated Indigenous minors from sexual abuse and exploitation
This striking instance of abuse of state power, the group pointed out, fits into the grander scheme of systemic oppression and discrimination exerted upon Indigenous Guyanese at a national level – but “in this particular case its exceptionally dehumanising and demoralising effects are inflicted upon poor, underaged, and underprivileged Indigenous girls across the State who have been hereby dispossessed of their bodily autonomy and dignity.”
The advocates are therefore calling on all civil society stakeholders interested in the promotion and protection of Human Rights – including representatives of the International Community, to wit, the US, UK, Canada, EU, CARICOM, and all Other Regional groupings, the Guyana Human Rights Commission, the Rights of the Child Commission, the Guyana Bar Association, the Indigenous People’s Commission, the National Toshaos Council, the Guyana Council of Christian Churches, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana, and the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha – to agitate vigorously across all spaces of power for the immediate realisation of victim-centred justice in this unfortunate case.