Guyana: Protests outside President’s Office

Two groups of disgruntled individuals on Tuesday protested outside of the Ministry of the Presidency.

One group called for the dismissal of Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence, while the other called for sanctions to be instituted against Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan.

Members and supporters of the local NGO Red Thread continued their protest against Minister Lawrence, urging her dismissal for allegedly including accused child molester Winston Harding on the APNU+AFC list of candidates that contested the March 18 Local Government Elections (LGE).

Even though the coalition had withdrawn support from Harding, he won election in his constituency and is now a councillor at City Hall.

Harding claims the APNU+AFC has not asked him to resign his post, and he therefore has no intention of resigning. This situation has since irked a number of coalition supporters and some NGOs.

Minister Lawrence, who was responsible for the APNU+AFC LGE campaign in Georgetown, was asked about the allegations surrounding Harding when she told the Stabroek News: “This is a family issue that has been going on and on and on and on for whatever reason.”

Harding was charged three times for allegedly molesting a minor, but he has never been convicted.

Head of the Red Thread organization, Karen De Souza, has decried the minister’s remarks. “I really don’t understand how the Minister of Social Protection, who is also responsible for childcare and protection, could be saying in any possible way that child abuse and molestation is a family issue. The Sexual Offences Act says that every single report of sexual abuse must be investigated,” De Souza contends.

De Souza is also saying that very little in terms of policy movement has happened in regard to domestic violence, sexual offences and childcare since Lawrence has become the responsible minister.

Other NGOs, such as Help and Shelter, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, ChildLink Inc and Forward Guyana, supported the protest.

Responding to questions recently asked on ‘The Public Interest’ television programme, President Granger said he had received from Minister Lawrence an explanatory report on the issue, and has forwarded same to the Central Executive Committee of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).

According to the President, any disciplinary action taken against Lawrence will have to come from the party.

The simultaneous People’s Progressive Party (PPP) protest held on Tuesday saw picketers chanting: “Respect our votes!”

This protest was comprised of PPP representatives from various Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), who declared their annoyance with Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan for appointing the Mabaruma Mayor and chairs of five NDCs.

Justice Diana Insanally has granted an interim order quashing the appointment of Henry Smith as Mayor of Mabaruma, as was made by Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan. Smith was sworn in by President David Granger, but will be unable to function in that capacity.

PPP Executive Secretary Zulficar Mustapha said the protest was occasioned by Minister Bulkan’s arbitrary decision in naming representatives of those communities and municipality.


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