Minister of State Joseph Harmon has distanced himself from several individuals from the Ministry of the Presidency who on Friday last attempted to remove the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) from Red House. Asked yesterday by Stabroek News to explain who sent the ministry staff to Red House and for what purpose, Harmon who holds responsibility for the ministry responded “I can’t say that.” He clarified that he was “not familiar” with any situation where instructions were given in relation to Red House.
On Friday, one day after President David Granger announced that the lease held by the CJRCI to the heritage building would be revoked, a battery of lawyers representing CJRCI rushed to court and obtained an interim order in chambers before Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards. The conservatory order freezes the government instruction that the High Street premises be vacated. The matter is returnable for February 20, 2017.
A short while after the court issued the order, several men with the insignia of the Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) on their clothing descended on the wooden, colonial-style Red House, broke the signboard for the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre and changed a padlock. Police were called in and the men eventually left the building after they were confronted by the occupants.
When Stabroek News arrived at Red House, the sign was seen broken and thrown in a corner of the compound. A small truck was also seen parked nearby.
Three men, one of whom was in possession of a hammer, were standing across the road and they were identified by witnesses as the MotP employees who had allegedly removed the sign.
In a brief address to the media, PPP/C Executive Member, Indra Chandarpal said that she had left the centre around 2 pm and when she returned several men tried to prevent her from entering. She told them that they could not stop her and she pushed her way in but her vehicle was left outside. The staff were busy and unaware of what was transpiring.
The men informed Chandarpal that they had instructions from Minister of State, Harmon that nobody should enter and nothing should leave the building and that they were taking possession of it.
According to Chandarpal, she noticed that their shirts bore the ministry’s name and she recognised some of them. She said she “started to quarrel with them” and informed them that “the place has everything for the Jagan family at the research centre. It doesn’t belong to the state. The building is a state one yes, but nothing inside belong to the state…”
In the meantime, she “heard a commotion outside” and noticed that they had pulled a huge garbage bin and stood on it and proceeded to break the sign board. They then padlocked the gate.