-lawmen urge parties’ supporters to exercise restraint
Several supporters of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) yesterday lashed out at the police for “doing nothing”, claiming that one of their colleagues was doused with kerosene during one of their public meetings at Victoria Village.
Wednesday night’s meeting ended with one PPP/C activist having to discharge rounds from his firearm to ward off menacing opposition supporters.
Both the PPP/C and opposition coalition APNU yesterday gave different versions of what transpired at the meeting.
Both parties pointed accusing fingers at the Guyana Police Force.
But the police in a press release last evening called on all political parties to advise their supporters to exercise restraint at this time.
“Any political party should be free to hold a political meeting anywhere in Guyana without being confronted and assaulted or having their meeting disturbed by supporters of another party,” the police stated.
According to the police, investigations have revealed that the meeting commenced at 18:00 hours and the speakers were Anil Nandlall and Joseph Hamilton.
The police said that while Nandlall was addressing the gathering, a crowd of about 300 persons bearing placards with photographs of APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger and shouting “Granger, Granger, we want Granger” approached and began to heckle the speaker.
During this period, it is alleged that a bottle was thrown in the direction of Nandlall which missed him.
The police said that its ranks on duty called for assistance and a police patrol from the East Coast of Demerara responded and assisted in placing the APNU crowd a safe distance away from the PPP/C meeting.
The two speakers then completed their addresses and were escorted to their vehicles by the police and they departed, while ranks remained with those persons dismantling the equipment used.
At this time both the persons who had attended the meeting and persons who appeared to be APNU supporters were making their way towards the Public Road, during which it is alleged that five supporters of the PPP/C were surrounded and missiles thrown at them.
The police said that it is further reported that an attempt was made to assault PPP volunteer Ovid Wilson with a baseball bat which was taken away from his alleged assailant by another volunteer Clifton Harris.
It is alleged that subsequently kerosene was thrown on Harris, at which stage Ovid Wilson, who is a licenced firearm holder and who became fearful, discharged two rounds from his firearm into the air.
It is not too clear where the police ranks were at this point.
However according to the police, “at this stage police ranks arrived on the scene and escorted the five persons to Cove and John Police Station where statements were taken. They were offered to be taken to seek medical attention but refused.”
Additional patrols were requested and assistance arrived from Georgetown.
The police said that efforts were made to contact those persons identified as the perpetrators by the virtual complainants but they were unsuccessful.
Investigations are in progress and no arrest has been made as yet.
But PPP volunteers at the scene believe that the police job of protecting them left much to be desired.
“Police were there, but they weren’t doing anything, one police officer just came and talk to the crowd when the bottles start pelting,” said Loretta Culley, a PPP/C supporter who claimed that she was harassed.
“The police were behind the crowd that was attacking us, so when they heard a noise and an explosion that is when the police came forward,” she added.
At a press conference yesterday at PPP Headquarters, Freedom House, the party called on all political parties to condemn the actions of persons who contribute to the intimidation, provocation and violations of individuals who attend political meetings countrywide.
PPP/C volunteer Harris explained that he and colleagues were standing peacefully, with a group of persons shouting “Granger, Granger” in the crowd.
“A minibus came up and a set of young people emerged from the bus straight in our direction, and they start attacking us brutally. They had things like baseball bats; bricks were pelted, bottles were thrown at us, and sticks were thrown at us…as I was getting out of the crowd I was doused with a bottle of kerosene…at that time I became the main target because I was wearing the PPP/C jersey with the logo, then I started to run.”
He also claimed that another group came with a placard of PPP/C’s Presidential Candidate, Donald Ramotar, on fire …“so I became scared and run because I didn’t know what would have happened next, if they were coming to light me a fire.”
There was an explosion and the crowd dispersed. Harris said the police later took him and others to the Cove and John police station where they were allegedly harassed.
“They told us that we are liars and nobody attacked us.”
Another woman, Patricia Johnson, said that she was also a target at the meeting since she was showing support.
“While I was standing on the road, a group of people were standing around me, then they start tugging me, one cuffed me on my shoulder, pulling me. They said, ‘yuh old fool, you soup drinker, why you don’t go mine your grandchildren?’….I was rescued by a police woman who placed me in a police vehicle.”
Meanwhile, A Party for National Unity (APNU) said yesterday that it was appalled by the unsubstantiated racist and distorted lies being reported regarding the alleged disruptions at the Victoria public meeting.
Prime Ministerial candidate for the party, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, during a press conference said that he was very concerned about the reports coming out of Victoria, adding that he is far from satisfied with how the police are treating the incident.
He cited a recent reported incident concerning Press Liaison Officer to the President, Kwame Mc Coy, who is accused of assaulting an APNU supporter with a gun.
He believed that the police may be receiving directions on how to deal with the matters.
According to Roopnaraine, the police should act level-handed when dealing with these matters and noted that instead of the police looking to question or arrest the man involved in firing the shots at Victoria Village, their focus is now on trying to arrest the supporters of APNU.
The ruling PPP/C has called on the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs to examine the protocol of the police during the elections seasons.
“I don’t want us to judge if the police acted or if they were inactive in terms of if they could have prevented this, but certainly I am quite sure the police would use this as an opportunity to review whether or not its ranks could have done anything to prevent what occurred,” PPP’s Executive Committee Member, Robert Persaud, said yesterday.
Persaud said political parties signed onto a Code of Conduct for the 2011 General and Regional Elections which contained nine principles in which the use of violence and intimidation are not to be tolerated.
“Violence and intimidation is not conducive to the holding of free, fair and civil elections….we saw a clear breach of the code of conduct by persons representing the opposition particularly APNU…this will be submitted to GECOM.” Persaud warned.
At the same time APNU said that it has continuously urged its supporters to be extremely calm during this period, pointing out that the party is not interested in disturbing anyone.
Roopnaraine further urged supporters/villagers, “go early…. cast your voice for APNU and send your outrage at the PPP.”
“Buxton and Victoria villages are not known for thugs and hooligans but for courtesy,” Roopnaraine said.
The police for their part said that they will leave no stone unturned to ensure that it investigates allegations of breaches of the law at political meetings by supporters of any political party.
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