The army has announced that it will court martial an officer for his role in criminal attacks on miners in the Cuyuni mining district, and four junior ranks were already disciplined for their involvement.
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer and four junior ranks had been charged under military law after they were
positively identified as being present and entering the mining camps at Julian Ross Landing in the Cuyuni, Region Seven, where it was alleged that soldiers were menacing and robbing mining camps.
The Guyana Defence Force’s Chief of Staff Commodore Gary Best told Stabroek News yesterday that the ranks were tried summarily and found guilty of breaching the army’s standing orders. “They were charged, some were found guilty of breaches of the army’s standing orders.
The officer will be court martialled very soon,” Best said.
He explained that three of the four junior ranks, a Corporal and Two Lance Corporals, were stripped down a rank to Lance Corporal and Privates, respectively. The other junior rank, a Private, who could not be demoted since Private is the lowest rank, will have to serve 42 days detention.
The actions of the officer and ranks were being investigated by both the army and the Guyana Police Force, in the wake of complaints by miners.
Last month, Best visited Julian Ross Landing and Guyana Goldfields at Aurora and in discussions with the miners he emphasised the need for the miners to come forward and identify the soldiers who allegedly engaged in the acts. “Once we have evidence that the soldiers came here and went to the backdam and robbed the miners, I will ensure that they are charged and put before the court; and if they have to end up in prison, then they will end up in prison,” he was quoted as saying by the army. “A crime is a crime,” he added.
Miners and their support staff in the community cooperated and had identified the GDF officer and the other soldiers as having been at the area and the GDF subsequently announced that the men who were identified had been taken to Base Camp Ayanganna, where they were charged with military offences.
Best’s visits came after he had issued a public warning that soldiers have no authority to enforce mining laws, following allegations that soldiers were robbing mining camps in the country’s interior.
In a ‘Notice to all miners’, Best, who is also the Chairman of the Joint Services Coordinating Council categorically, stated: “Officers and soldiers of the GDF are not authorised to conduct any mining operations, request to see and inspect any mining licenses or intermeddle into mining activities except in the presence of a [Guyana Geology and Mines Commission] Mining Officer.” It added that members of the mining community therefore must not submit themselves to any actions by officers and soldiers acting alone with respect to the enforcement of laws governing mining in Guyana.