Last Updated on Monday, 10 July 2023, 17:49 by Denis Chabrol
In the wake of a government minister’s alleged rape of a 16-year old Amerindian ancestry, the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) wants the Amerindian Act to be amended to give communities the right to refuse entry of unsavoury government officials.
APA’s Governance and Rights Coordinator, Laura George said her organisation intends to make out a case for such an amendment when the law comes up for reform. “It is part of our plan to work with communities and for them to understand that and for them to advocate what goes into our revised law. The government is working on, they say, to revise the Amerindian Act so that will be one of the main areas as a way of protecting our children,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.
Meanwhile, she declined to divulge information about the next possible legal steps that would be taken now that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack has advised the police not to take any further action in the rape allegation against now resigned Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall because the complainant has said that she wants no further action. Mr Dharamlall, through Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, had denied all allegations.
Ms George said currently the Amerindian Act allows government officials “who are deemed to have permission” to Indigenous Indian communities because they are going to do government business. She said before the accusation against Mr Dharamlall that provision of the Amerindian Act had been discussed because of the various challenges and experiences that Indigenous Indians had faced. Those, she said, included scant regard for the Village Councils. “Indigenous peoples really now have to come forward and think about what they deem is official business and what permission they are going to give because, in the end, Indigenous Peoples have a right to self-determination,” she said.
The APA official said her organisation, with “our limited resources”, was brainstorming its next steps concerning the case against the former Minister. “There are obligations of the Guyana government which is not meeting so we are looking into those spaces and commitments that Guyana needs to meet,” she added.
Dr Alyssa Trotz- an activist in solidarity with APA and the women’s organisation, Red Thread, as well as ordinary Guyanese from Amerindian communities-reiterated the need for an impartial investigation into the way the entire investigation into the allegations against Mr Dharamlall was handled “from beginning to end.” “The investigation must leave no one untouched,” she said, listing the DPP, Child Care and Protection Agency and the Guyana Police Force as targets for such a probe. The focus, she suggested, should be on whether there had been bribery, why the complainant had been taken to Mr Dharamlall’s residence, and whether the child had withdrawn from the case or had requested ‘no further action’.
After the DPP’s advice to police, President Irfaan Ali last week announced that he accepted Mr Dharamlall’s resignation from his ministerial post as well as a parliamentarian.