Harassment and intimidation Guyana style

Dear Editor,

I’m very sleepy and tired and it is not necessarily due to the extreme August heat or the work I opted to undertake. It’s not as if there is an immediate necessity for water filtration. I will still continue to buy bottled water. There is also no dire need for pressurized water supply or on-demand heated water faucet at the kitchen sink. The latter, however, felt good. Hot water for the dishes made a world of difference. The greasiness previously encountered no longer exists. The mind feels at ease that the dishes and utensils are squeaky clean and fully sanitized.

The last match of the Guyana leg of the CPL T20 tournament was over just before 10 pm on Tuesday night. Getting out of the stadium and the drive to Corentyne was surprisingly faster than on previous match nights. It was a comforting reprieve from the stifling heat to be in an air conditioned room and in bed by 1 am.

Summer months in Guyana are known to be hot. It’s the main reason that I avoid being in the country during this period. The heat is stifling and suffocating. The high humidity hangs in the atmosphere and water is literally wrung out of the air. I have taken to shower 3 to 4 times per day.

Fajr (dawn prayer) comes early but in true country manner, the denizens are up earlier. The clanging of pots and pans intermingles with the crowing of the cocks. Indian music blares amid the din of the obnoxious horns of speeding vehicles. The village comes alive way before the sun rises above the gentle undulations of the Atlantic. Carried by the tropical north eastern trade winds, the sounds of the rolling waves upon the beach a quarter mile away, add a measure of calm and serenity to an otherwise clamorous dawn.

The past couple days here in Corentyne have been very long and eventful.

On Wednesday morning, I drove to Maida and observed large boulders and a Hymac on the property. I took a few pictures. On the rear of the Hymac was a for sale sign with a name and number.

Grandpa had an investigative bone in him. After all, he was an ‘Old Policeman’. Most of his children possess similar qualities and mindset. It is in the blood. It is this investigative mindset that changed the prospect of me being wrongfully arrested and locked up.

An unscrupulous contractor had illegally trespassed and occupied a private property at Maida. When contacted, he was belligerent, hostile and nasty. Little did I know that he would resort to false accusation and use the ranks at Whim Police Station to bully, harass and intimidate.

I knew they would come. They had come before.

The first time, they came in civvies, driven by the contractor in his classy private vehicle. I invited them inside, offered something to drink and eat. They declined. They had called before coming. I was informed that they were investigating a report by the contractor and was told I had to go down to the station. I refused.

This time around, they again insisted that I go down to the police station on the direct orders of the sargeant. I declined after asking for their IDs. My suspicions were later confirmed. The two officers had deliberately misidentified themselves which I discovered on Friday, two days after the initial visit. One of them had also declined to provide his first name and another had refused to provide a badge number when asked.

I found it strangely unprofessional that the two officers were investigating a matter under the direct behest and guidance of a civilian accuser. Robberies, assault and killings are a daily occurrence across the country and it’s a known fact that the typical police response is sloth like for a lack of resources. In a mere couple hours following his accusation, two detectives and the contractor were knocking at my door.

The second time, other ranks passed by in their familiar blue and white pickup truck. The officers were in uniform, armed and sitting in the tray of the truck. The pass by was slow. It was deliberate. They drove across the opposite lane and rolled by in front of the house, casting a long look, scanning the premises.

As I reflect upon this matter, it becomes more apparent that not much has changed in the ancient county. Professionalism is wanting in the security services. Most rank and file can and will be bought at some juncture of their career for the right price. Once they go rogue, they remain rogue.

Corruption runs rampant. The current economic downturn does not help. Money talks. Civil servants find it extremely difficult to make ends meet. Salaries are meagre. Needs and wants are confused with what is broadcast on the local airwaves. People hunger for the decadent American culture splayed in grainy images across their television screens.

It is this hunger that propels them to wanting the latest, the best and to be seen as being upwardly mobile. It comes with a price. Without an income to support the lifestyle, corruption burgeons and remains endemic in the cultural mindset. It continues to flourish unabated. Corruption thrives upon corruption across all sectors of the society.

Sister Nazmoon, the widow of Brother Tullu, Grandma’s murdered cousin, had granted permission to the original contractor to stockpile material on the property. She is a kind and gentle soul but not wise to the ways of the world. Her husband’s cold-blooded death by shooting remains unsolved. Her naïveté has led to the property still being occupied and stockpiled with granite blocks almost two years after she made that innocent decision.

Fatboy has an old friend from Philippi, Walter Bagot, also known as ‘Chubbstick’. Walter sits on the Maida-Tarlogie NDC as a Councillor. The NDC is the new age equivalent of what was the Local District Council. Earlier this year, in February, I made some enquiries and was told that Chubbstick was in charge of the sea defence project at Maida. He would therefore know of the circumstances of the stockpiling of the material on the property.

That initial meeting and discussion with Chubbstick was very amenable. Aside from establishing the usual “ya who papa Pickney” and reacquainting ourselves, he gave assurances that the material would be moved and that the property will be filled, graded and restored to better than it was originally found.

With not much to do except to eke out a subsistence existence, one of the favourite preoccupations of the locals is minding peoples’ business. Nothing happens without it being bought lock, stock and barrel by inquisitive men and nosy housewives. News (real or figments of the imagination), are peddled for measly profits … tidbits of more gossip and rumours. Innocuous minutiae become big news within seconds of occurrence.

The rumour in the district is that some time after the transition of the current administration, the original contractor for the sea defence remedial work at Maida, lost part of the contract. His material still sits on the affected property.

A new contracting firm, has been currently engaged by the ministry responsible for the sea defences. A man of about 24 years identifies himself as the CEO of this contracting firm.

This company has trespassed upon private property. It has stockpiled material and equipment on said property without authorization or permission. When asked to remove his material and equipment and pay restitution for his illegal occupancy and use of the property, the young CEO accused me of stealing the battery of his earth moving equipment. He filed a false report with the police at Whim and used the arm of the law to bully, harass and intimidate.

Little did he know that first-hand accounts exist that point back at him. These accounts support the fact that he had wilfully filed a nefarious and false report with the police.

The CEO had not paid his watchman for 7 weeks. The watchman walked off the job. The battery was then removed and the watchman accused of theft.

Several days later, after the schedule of the Guyana leg of the CPL T20 was over, I observed the trespassing and illegal occupation and immediately contacted the CEO. To avoid eviction and financial restitution, he made his accusation against me. I was falsely accused of stealing a battery.

When they came for the third time on Friday, armed to the teeth and with the CEO in tow, I was not home. They left a message that I must go down to the Whim Police Station. I did so a couple of hours later in the company of a brilliant local news reporter and with evidence in hand. Walter ‘Chubbstick’ Bagot and the watchman featured in the video evidence.

A senior officer listened to what I had to say and was presented with the evidence. Partway through, he had seen enough. He surmised and pointed out to the investigative detective that the battery had been removed and the watchman had been accused because he did not want to pay the outstanding salary, and that he was now accusing me because he was trespassing.

The CEO is a bully. He has the classic ‘wrong and strong’ swagger about him. He is not averse to paying off anyone including law enforcement officers and resorting to harassment and intimidation to get his way.

The least I’d hope for is a charge of public mischief against the CEO and an apology. I would not hold my breath. After all this is Guyana! Men like these are best left to their own devices; sooner or later, they earn what their hands have wrought.

Yours faithfully,

Jay Mobeen

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