Brooklyn group ‘extremely concerned’ about alleged removal of Afro-Guyanese in strategic positions in GECOM

Rickford Burke, president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), addressing hundreds of Guyanese at a rally in Brooklyn in January for the re-election of the incumbent party in Guyana.
Nelson A. King

A Brooklyn-based Guyanese group says it is “extremely concerned” about an alleged operation by the new People’s Political Party (PPP) government in Guyana to dismantle the staff of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by removing all Afro-Guyanese in strategic positions in GECOM and replacing them with PPP supporters.

The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) said on Saturday that GECOM is “an autonomous, constitutional agency,” and that the Guyanese Constitution “prohibits the government or courts from interfering in the agency.

“The PPP is unlawfully dismantling GECOM’s staff ahead of the hearing of the APNU+AFC elections petition, which was filed on Aug. 31, 2020,” said Rickford Burke, CGID’s president. “Their plan entails arresting Afro-Guyanese GECOM employees and recklessly charging them with made-up crimes.

“The charges will then be used as a basis to remove them from office,” charged Burke, an international law consultant. “The PPP is using certain officers in the Guyana Police Force to intimidate, harass, victimize and persecute Afro-Guyanese GECOM employees, as well as members and supporters of the opposition APNU+AFC coalition.”

Burke charged that the police officers are, among others, acting Commissioner Nigel Hoppie, Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken, Crime Chief-Senior Superintendent Wendell Blanhum and Assistant Superintendent Mitchell Caesar.

“These officers have violated the constitutional and human rights of the persons they unlawfully arrested,” Burke said. “They intentionally denied them access to their attorneys; refused to give them meals and access to their families; willfully deprived them of sleep; held them way beyond the constitutionally-permitted period and disobeyed court orders commanding their release.

“Moreover, these officers and other ranks deliberately denied females experiencing their menstrual cycle access to a bathroom,” he further charged. “These are disgraceful abuses for which there must be consequences.

“Some are egregious, constitutional and human rights violations, which constitute torture and crimes against humanity — war crimes,” Burke added.

He said more habeas corpus writs have been filed in the Guyana Supreme Court against the PPP government in the last four weeks since they came to power than have been filed in the five years of the previous APNU+AFC coalition government.

Habeas corpus is a court order commanding the police and state to present a person under arrest in court before a judge to secure that individual’s release if the police have no lawful cause to detain them.

“CGID will relentlessly pursue and expose the above-named police officers,” Burke said, stating that the group’s attorneys in Guyana are compiling the evidence against the police officers.

He said CGID has already asked the United States Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to investigate this matter and “pursue severe political and financial sanctions against these officers and their families.”

In addition, Burke said CGID has asked the CBC to refer this matter to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the International Criminal Court and the War Crimes Tribunal.

“CGID will expose and pursue these officers and their families in extraordinary ways, which will make it difficult for them to function in society,” he vowed. “We will not tolerate racism, constitutional and human rights violations, torture or crimes against humanity.

“The PPP will be made to respect the human rights and dignity of Afro-Guyanese and all other citizens of Guyana, equally, period,” he added.

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