Last Updated on Sunday, 18 June 2023, 15:17 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali on Sunday said Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall’s request to go on leave to facilitate an investigation into grave allegations of sexual assault against a 16-year old girl who has already denied having such an encounter with the politician.
“The minister came to me yesterday (Saturday) afternoon requesting leave to allow for a full probe into the allegations and I agreed to allow him to proceed on leave,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
The President said “there is no time-line set”, adding that Junior Minister Anand Persaud would assume some of the responsibilities of that “weighty” ministry and on Monday he would evaluate the entire situation.
Though the purported letter in the name of a female was addressed to the President and the Minister of Education, Dr Ali said he never received any correspondence that is being circulated on Social Media.
Asked if it was necessary for Mr Dharamlall to go on leave, the President said “I don’t know if it’s necessary but he requested and I see no problem with it” in the interest of transparency. “I don’t want anyone accusing anybody of being in the way of any probe.”
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton and parliamentary front-bencher Amanza Walton-Desir had both called on the President to remove Mr Dharamlall from office to allow for probe to be carried out without the likelihood of interference.
The President said he was “concerned” about the allegations more so due to the accusations, denial on Facebook by the purported accuser, a report to the police requesting an investigation into the social media posts. “There is a perception as if the President was written to. I was never written to. A Facebook post was made in which the person addressed the President and the minister,” he said. “As far as I am aware, I have never received any formal letter on this… and nobody has pointed to me a formal letter and I think it’s the same thing with the Minister of Education whose name was mentioned in the post too,” he added.
Though police have confirmed that the girl have given that law enforcement agency a statement dissociating herself from the allegations against Mr Dharamlall, and separately described those accusations against him as “untruths”, the Ministry of Human Services’ Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) has launched a “full” investigation. The agency is legally empowered to take evidence from children who have been abused. Police said they would work along with the CCPA if required to do so.
Already, a child rights expert has said that the investigation has potentially been botched because the girl was not contacted soon after the purported letter and had her account video recorded.
The Minister of Education has also come out in supporting a full probe into the matter because she starts of by taking especially sex-related accusations as fact.