The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has launched an investigation into an assault by an armed Russian guard on an employee of the Hopkinson Mining and Logistics Company.
Rickford Burke, head of the new York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) had posted two videos on social media showing an employee of the mining company communicating with the Russian, explaining to him about the company’s claims to the land and why they did not need permission to be there.
The Russian, who briefly spoke English in the video, was then seen laughing as the worker tried to continue his explanation of his company’s claims to the land. The video ended abruptly and another video showed the confrontation at a later point. The Russian and the mining company’s worker continued the conversation which then took a turn for the worse. The worker was then hit by the Russian and after retaliating, the Russian punched the worker which resulted in a scuffle that lasted a few seconds. The Russian then pulled back and drew his gun which was tucked in the waist of his pants and then the video ended abruptly. Before ending, persons were heard trying to quell the situation.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Commander of ‘F’ Division, Kelvin Adonis related that the assault report was made by the worker on Sunday morning which prompted the GPF to launch an investigation. He said that a team will be sent today, along with the worker, to the area which has been identified as Quartz Stone, Cuyuni.
The issue also attracted the attention of Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman who told this newspaper on Sunday that he is calling on the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to launch an investigation.
Trotman described the video as “disturbing” and said that he has since asked the GGMC Commissioner, Newell Dennison to immediately investigate the matter.
“I am ordering an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident and need to know whether the Russian has a licence to carry the firearm seen in his waist.
Owner of Hopkinson Mining and Logistics Company, Shaun Hopkinson told Stabroek News yesterday that he was informed of the August 3rd assault and condemned it. He is calling for there to be a thorough investigation by the GPF and the relevant authorities.
Hopkinson noted that his company has claims in the area dating back to the 1980s and they would usually send their rangers to make spot checks.
“…And while my rangers were visiting the Russian came out and said that we don’t have any claim even though we had an issue to rectify the claim some years ago because it’s some old, old claims. After the guy was showing him the documents for the claim, and he [the Russian] knows about the claim, (he) punched my guy and then drew his gun and tried to shoot him,” Hopkinson said, while adding that the Russians who work around the area of his claims are known to be aggressive and this is not the first time they have attacked Guyanese.
“I feel bad because my worker could’ve been seriously injured and it’s not an area that you can access easily. It’s a lot of issues with the same Russians that we have and we can’t accept this type of behaviour in our country. It’s not like we are unlawfully occupying these lands. We are lawfully in possession of these claims. They [the Russians] are very, very disrespectful and aggressive and this is how they normally are. A lot of people have had confrontations with them and even the persons they have an agreement with,” Hopkinson added.
The CGID called on the government to investigate “alleged torture, harassment, assault and abuse of Guyanese miners and workers” by Russian nationals who own and operate West Bank Demerara Gold Inc. – a Russian owned mining company.
“In a letter to President David Granger and the Ministers of Legal Affairs, National Security and Natural Resources, acting Police Commissioner Mr. David Ramnarine, and Chairman of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission Mr. Stanley Ming, the Institute’s President, Burke asserted that the Russians allegedly committed torture and other crimes … as well as other human rights abuses of Guyanese citizens, which the government must not condone,” a release from CGID said.
The release noted that the Russian is known as “Batali” in the area and they have also obtained additional evidence of another incident where the Russians handcuffed another mining worker and tied him to the roof of a structure before torturing him.
Hopkinson also echoed similar sentiments and said that he is aware of an incident where a man was tortured the way the CGID described.
The CGID added that “Batali” displayed a GPF supernumerary constable precept, which is used to licence security guards to carry a firearm.
“In light of the alleged reckless actions of the Russian operative, CGID is gravely concerned about the issuance and maintenance of a Guyana Police Force precept for Mr. Batali to bear arms. CGID therefore calls on the Police Commissioner to launch a criminal investigation into the actions of the Russian guard, who should be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if they are found to be criminally culpable,” the release said.
Stabroek News also learnt that the Natural Resources Ministry is preparing a multi-agency investigation which is likely to include ranks of the Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Police Force.