The Opposition People’s Progressive Party has written Police Commissioner Leslie James, asking for swift actions to be taken against supporters of the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition, who attacked its members and destroyed the party’s paraphernalia.
The letter was sent by Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall on behalf of the party. He detailed that on January 2, a motor lorry carrying a music system and several party activists was driving through Sophia, Greater Georgetown.
Nandlall noted that they were making public announcements regarding the launch of the PPP’s elections campaign set for today at Alexander Street, Kitty, Georgetown, when they were attacked.
“While in Sophia, several known PNC/APNU activists led by Ms Laurene Nestor, blocked the streets and started to hurl missiles at the lorry and its occupants and threatening them with violence were they to continue these announcements within the locality of Sophia,” the letter detailed.
According to Nandlall, a report of that incident was made at the Prashad Nagar Police Outpost on the evening of the incident. He reminded Commissioner James that each political party has a constitutional right and the democratic freedom to disseminate it’s messaging and, especially so, to campaign for the upcoming March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“Any attempt to interfere with a party and its supporters’ right to do so would be unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal. Additionally, electoral activities aside, it is contrary to the criminal law for anyone to issue threats, hurl missiles or block public access on public roadways,” Nandlall, a former Attorney General, pointed out.
He went on to inform the Top Cop that PPP has mounted the party’s symbolic flag and other branded paraphernalia throughout the country – normal political practice associated with elections campaigning across the democratic world. However, Nandlall reported to the Police Commissioner that these campaign materials are being pulled down and destroyed by “known activists of the PNC/APNU/AFC”.
According to Nandlall, this has been occurring at Charity, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam); Dem Amstel, Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and around Georgetown as well as Hope Town, Lovelylass and Number Five Village, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).
On this note, the former AG outlined in the correspondence to Commissioner James that there are specific provisions in the electoral statutes of Guyana that protect a political party’s right and freedom to campaign and disseminate its messaging. These provisions, he further reminded, create offences if violated.
“In the circumstances, I request that these complaints be urgently investigated by members of the Guyana Police Force and that criminal charges be swiftly instituted where appropriate,” Nandlall requested of the Top Cop.
Copies of the letter were sent to the Divisional Commander in charge of Georgetown; the Crime Chief and the Public Security Minister. It was also forwarded to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), The Ombudsman, Police Complaints Authority, the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Chief Elections Officer as well as the Head of Foreign Missions here including the European Union, United States Embassy, Canadian High Commission and British High Commission.
Only Friday, the PPP strongly condemned the acts.
The destruction of party paraphernalia is nothing new. In 2015, a People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) rally was rudely interrupted by a band of supporters of the APNU/AFC – involving children in their nefarious activities, the supporters urinated on and burned PPP flags, and hurled missiles at the rally speakers, including party stalwart, Dr Roger Luncheon.
The person reported to have urinated on the PPP flag and subsequently set it ablaze was Child Welfare Officer Abigail Baveghems, who is also the daughter of an APNU member.
That incident has been widely criticised, given that it occurred on the same day that political parties had signed on to a Code of Conduct aimed at guiding the manner in which campaigning is conducted.