One day after government announced it would not pursue charges against the nearly two dozen persons detained for alleged illegal mining in the Kaieteur National Park (KNP), two others were detained in Amatuk, a Potaro riverine area, brought to Georgetown, then later released on the basis that there was no evidence to hold them.
Those persons, who have been in Georgetown since Monday, are still awaiting official word on how they will return home.
While it appears that police had only intended to hold Slade Jeffrey and his wife Pamela John, Jeffrey’s father Errol Jeffrey and his wife Judy Quinn, were also transported to Georgetown, over alleged disorderly conduct. They were, however, not charged with the offence.
After being held on Saturday, June 3, they were all brought to Georgetown on Monday and subsequently released from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that same evening. They were then taken to the Amerindian Hostel by someone from the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.
Slade said the police stated that their release was based on the fact that there had been no evidence against them, noting that they had just been acting based on information received from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
They related to Stabroek News yesterday that the encounter that led to their apprehension was done under the pretence of officials hosting a meeting for miners.
It was related that on Friday, June 2, the owner of a nearby campsite informed them that there would be a meeting for miners the next day on the river involving officials, including ministers.
When they arrived there, however, they were greeted by three boats full of CID ranks, soldiers, and a GGMC employee.
“When we got up there, you just seeing sheer guns and them things so you done know is not no meeting; you walk into a trap,” Errol stated.
“They said that they never told anyone that they’re having meeting and the GGMC officer including the detective, thought I was flashing at them and they told me no pictures, no recording and they asked me if anywhere here does get signal. I told them maybe… and I put on my phone and the person thought I flash at him and he come and snatch away the phone, run the phone. No pictures mustn’t be with them on the phone,” John recollected.
It was related that there were six of them there at the time, including a shop owner and a man from the North West, but the other two persons were sent away. Errol said Slade and John were asked to leave the boat and go with the ranks, but he said he was not prepared to leave his son.
According to Quinn, the police had told them initially that she and Errol were being taken in for disorderly conduct as she had become abrasive towards the police and Errol had tried to pacify her. According to Slade, they had claimed at the time that they were found in the buffer zone of the KNP, and CID ranks had related that they were acting on information received from the GGMC.
“When they hold us Saturday, they hold us [barefooted], one clothing, no money, no phone, no nothing. We asked them…as you claim to say that we have to go to Georgetown, could you please take us back to our site that we could pick up our belongings and our documents and so forth? They said no. We were there Saturday with one set of clothing—Saturday, Sunday, Monday—it was until Tuesday we got some things from the ministry… some clothing, and that is how we got to change,” Quinn stated.
“We have no money, we have nothing, all we want right now is just to reach home back and get back we belongings, and if we have to move from the area as they claim seh we deh in the buffer zone, we don’t have a problem. But not fuh seh they come and reach anybody working or anything, they reach we on the river,” Slade said.
Slade said he was not currently mining at his camp, but stated that his camp was some distance from the KNP. He did comment on the alleged boundaries for the KNP, however, saying that “there is no line” with his father chiming in to add that the boundaries seemed to change with each assigned officer.
He further stated that they were informed by the police that as the GGMC had passed the order for them to be transported to Georgetown, it was that agency’s responsibility to have them returned.
It was related that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs had been in contact with them as late as yesterday morning informing them that someone would be sent to collect them but they received no other information throughout the course of yesterday.
As was previously reported, on May 28, the order for a raid was issued by President David Granger after recent aerial reconnaissance showed about 15 illegal operations in the KNP, a documented protected area where mining is strictly prohibited.
Those detained were subsequently flown to Georgetown and taken to CID Headquarters. Reports reaching this newspaper indicated that among those detained were two women and a baby, who were released on their own recognizance.
As regards the other detainees, it was explained that authorities at CID were awaiting a report from a GGMC officer on the ground to determine the way forward.
Edward McGarrell, Toshao of Chenapau Village in an invited comment told Stabroek News that he did not believe those who were detained were mining at the time of the raid, as some were said to have just been passing through when they were arrested.
He argued that there was no clear boundary between the KNP and the village, which continues to pose a problem for those who are involved in mining operations as they were often unsure of the actual boundary. He stated that while there is a signboard that is often used as a boundary indicator, people who were mining two to three hours away from that signboard were still arrested.
On June 2, the government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, announced that as an “act of goodwill” charges would not be pursued against the 20 persons arrested over alleged illegal mining in the KNP.