Parking meters pressure group protests for city officials’ removal over handling of reported rape

Protestors outside of City Hall yesterday.

The Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) group yesterday led a protest against Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, Town Clerk Royston King and councillor Sherod Duncan, and called for their removal and arrest after their failure to immediately report an allegation of sexual assault on a minor to the police.

Don Singh, of the MAPM, said that the group’s stance is that the officials acted “out of order” and as “accessories after the fact” in the presumed assault by taking matters into their own hands, rather than calling in the police and social services.

The nine-person silent protest began around midday yesterday across from the City Hall. Also present were representatives from Citizens against Rape and Help and Shelter.

“We are saying that the Mayor, the Town Clerk, the Chairman of the Legal Affairs committee should be arrested as accessories after the fact and the police should do their due diligence. It is ridiculous. We can’t have in City Hall rape occurring and then investigations—they sit on it for two months. Two months. What, because the child is poor? Because he’s a street child? What is it? Where are we going with this? We need to send a strong message that no one is above the law and if you do wrong, you will be penalised for it,” Singh stated.

On October 17, two months after the allegation was made, King dismissed the constabulary officer who was accused of sexually abusing a juvenile in the custody of City Constabulary for misconduct and finally contacted the police force’s ‘A’ Division Commander Marlon Chapman for assistance with the investigation.

MAPM representative Don Singh holds a placard that speaks to the inactions of City Hall officials in the alleged sexual assault.

This was just a day after he had said that there was not enough evidence for the administration to act. Also dismissed was the Corporal who reported the alleged incident.

“What message are you sending that way? What you see, shut up? I don’t get it. These guys have got to go. Mayoral elections are coming up in December, I suggest we get a new Mayor,” Singh said of the “whistleblower’s” dismissal.

Singh also questioned how the Town Clerk had the authority to interview the child without the consent of his parents or in the presence of counselors.

“…At the end of the day, this was a cover-up by the Town Clerk, the Mayor, the Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Mr Sherod Duncan, who says it was a “misjudgment” on his part, which is utter nonsense. How can it be a misjudgment?” Singh asked.

During an interview with Stabroek News, Duncan, Chairperson of the council’s Legal Affairs and Securities Committee, had said that the committee’s failure to contact the Childcare and Protection Agency or the Guyana Police Force was a “misjudgment.” The committee had reportedly known about the allegation one month before the police became involved.

The report said Duncan related that he was willing to submit himself to legal judgement of his actions if it becomes necessary.

Singh suggested yesterday that moving forward, procedures be established for dealing with sexual assault cases, but such protocol already exists in the Protection of Children Act.

Section 7 (1) of the Act states that “where a person has direct information that a child is or may be in need of protective intervention, the person shall immediately report the matter to the CPA director, a probation officer appointed by the Public Service Com-mission or a Police Officer.”

It further states that a person with this knowledge who fails to report is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $50,000.

Swept under the carpet

Protestors lobbied for the arrest of the Mayor and Town Clerk.

Also speaking up for the cause yesterday was protestor Renata Chuck-A-Sang, who opined that such matters involving boys are not always given the weight they deserve.

“…A child in the care of our protective services shouldn’t have to fear them. He should be cared for and he should be protected, he should not be abused. This is a 15-year-old boy. Sexual improprieties against boys I find, particularly in this country, keep getting swept under the carpet. We don’t pay attention to it as though boys don’t have any feelings; that you can do them anything and they have to suck it up. And that shouldn’t be,” Chuck-A-Sang commented.

She referenced the murder of 13-year-old Leonard Archibald, of Berbice. “…What is wrong with us? Why don’t we speak up when we see things that are wrong? …And particularly with crimes like this. People get raped. People are assaulted. People are beaten up and we stay in our corners. It’s only when our pockets get hurt then we start making noises? That’s not nice. We should be mindful of our neighbours, we should be mindful of our fellow citizens,” Chuck-A-Sang said.

She noted that the onus is greater on public officials to observe and uphold the law.

“The idea that the Mayor and Town Clerk can hear about an alleged sexual offence and take it upon themselves to investigate when it is not their mandate to investigate under the Sexual Offences Act of Guyana, it is the police’s responsibility to investigate the matter—that’s wrong. And because the boy is 15-years-old, even if he was a willing participant, he’s 15-years old, it’s automatic statutory rape,” she related.

Stabroek News was informed that the group intends to keep up the protests until the key players are either removed or arrested and charged.

Parking meters pressure group protests for city…

People get raped. People are assaulted. People are beaten up and we stay in our corners. It’s only when our pockets get hurt then we start making noises? That’s not nice. We should be mindful of our neighbours, we should be mindful of our fellow citizens,” Chuck-A-Sang said.

She noted that the onus is greater on public officials to observe and uphold the law.

“The idea that the Mayor and Town Clerk can hear about an alleged sexual offence and take it upon themselves to investigate when it is not their mandate to investigate under the Sexual Offences Act of Guyana, it is the police’s responsibility to investigate the matter—that’s wrong. And because the boy is 15-years-old, even if he was a willing participant, he’s 15-years old, it’s automatic statutory rape,” she related.

Stabroek News was informed that the group intends to keep up the protests until the key players are either removed or arrested and charged.

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