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Clairmont Mingo remains in custody as lawyers call on Bar Association to condemn police abuse

File Photo: Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo (centre) declaring results before he was whisked away under heavy police protection.

Even as police arrested the Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo as part of a probe into alleged electoral fraud, his lawyers accused the Guyana Police Force of violating his constitutional right by refusing them to be present while he was being questioned.

“He was provided with no information about why he was removed from his home. He was afforded no explanation. He had to insist to get some idea as to why he is here. I don’t believe that was put to him in any clear way,” said Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde and Attorney-at-Law Darren Wade.

Police said late Tuesday night that police also arrested 42-year old Carolyn Mikhaik Duncan, an Elections Commission Registration Officer who  was attached to Mr. Mingo’s Secretariat. “They are still in custody assisting with the investigation,” police said.

The lawyers claimed that Mr. Mingo’s legal rights for a lawyer to be present while he was being questioned were breached and that he was arrested from his home without an arrest warrant.

Mr. Forde also called out the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) for being selective on issues such as democracy but silent on the violation of the rights of accused persons by police.  “I would wish my colleagues in the Bar Association to understand that democracy is more than just elections. It’s an entire system; it’s about the rule of law. I have heard them conspicuously silent,” said Mr. Forde who is tipped to be the Shadow Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs when the Parliament convenes.

Mr. Forde singled out GBA President Teni Housty and Secretary Pauline Chase for failing to condemning the conduct and the attitude of the police concerning Mr. Mingo as well as the recent search of People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) executive member, Christopher Jones’ home and the seizure of several barbershop chairs and other equipment he had acquired from a government-funded small business development fund.

Attorney-at-Law Wade said “we made attempts to have discussions with the police but the police did not afford us that opportunity…They said they were busy at this moment,”

Mr. Forde said the Region Four Returning Officer informed him that police asked him questions but he kept “insisting that he would like to have his lawyers present.” Mr. Wade said he was allowed to speak briefly with Mr, Mingo instead of being present during the interrogation.

The Guyana Police Force has  announced that it has received complaints of alleged electoral crimes and that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Hack has since taken over the private criminal charges filed against Mr. Mingo, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform Volda Lawrence. The complainants are Desmond Morean, Josh Kanhai and Charles Ramson.

Mr. Lowenfield and Ms. Lawrence, who are on bail on separate charges, have to return to court on September 11 by which time their Defence Lawyers would be provided with elements of the cases.

Ms. Lawrence, who was an election agent for her A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)  coalition at the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections, is charged with procuring Mr. Mingo to forge a declaration of results. Mr. Lowenfield is charged with misconduct in public office, fraud and conspiracy to commit a felony. They are both on bail.

The results from the national vote recount for nine of the 10 administrative regions matched the declarations, except for Region Four where there were bloated figures that had sought to give it a win in that district and consequently the general election.