Pro-democracy activists charged for picketing Gov’t over blocking of Carter Center’s return

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Activists Neil Kumar and Rapheal Boodhoo at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts 

Two pro-democracy activists, who, on Saturday, were picketing the Foreign Affairs Ministry, were brought before the courts to answer to the charge of breaching the COVID-19 measures – a charge the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is contending is based on political intimidation.

Former PPP/C Parliamentarian, Neil Kumar and Rapheal Boodhoo appeared before Magistrate Leron Daly at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning, to answer the charge which stated that on May 16, they breached No 2 (1) restriction on social activities in the COVID-19 emergency measures.

Kumar was also accused of hosting a meeting of a fraternal civic organisation.

The duo was arrested when they picketed the Foreign Affairs Ministry calling for the Carter Center to be allowed to return to Guyana to complete their observation of the March 2, General and Regional Elections.

The caretaker Government, via the heavily politicised National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), has consistently denied the Carter Center Observers’ return to Guyana to oversee the ongoing recount of the votes.

This denial is what prompted the pro-democracy activists to take to the streets to register their disagreement with the government’s handling of the situation.

The defendants’ lawyers, via audio visual means, made an application for self-bail, however, Magistrate Daly granted them bail in the sum of $25,000 each.

The defense, in court, contended that the charges are bad in law and should be immediately dismissed.

The duo will make their next court appearance on June 18.

Following the hearing, Kumar said that the charges are aimed to intimidate them but he promised to continue the fight for the restoration of democracy in Guyana.

“This extremely frustrating. What we were doing were protesting peacefully. All of us had our masks on. We were 12 ft away and we had our peaceful picket hand-bands. I have been picketing for over 40 years now and I have never seen such rude police and this type of action.

“What we were protesting for in for Guyana, is for the people of Guyana we were protesting for so that the Carter Center and the IRI (International Republican Institute) could come back here and be at the recount. This is nonsense that is going on in this country,” Kumar noted.

Former Opposition MP and attorney at Law Priya Manickchand said that the charges signal the beginning of an entrenchment of dictatorial behaviour from the caretaker government.

In fact, she pointed out that police never arrested the APNU/AFC supporters who have been gathering outside of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre – where the recount is ongoing.

Manickchand posited that Kumar and Boohoo were part of a group who were exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protests and they were adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines which state that they should be 6ft apart, wearing masks and not be out after 18:00h.

The duo will make their next court appearance on June 18.