Senior officer gives chilling account of Police top brass’ involvement in elections mayhem
Retired Police Commissioners Leslie James and Nigel Hoppie were bent on carrying out the instructions of former Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers days after the March 02, 2020 elections.
In so doing, they are accused of disregarding the authority and rank of other senior members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) who were tasked with security outside the temporary office of the District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.
This is according to testimony given under oath by Assistant Police Commissioner and Head of the Presidential Guard Edgar Thomas on Friday before the Commission of Inquiry into those elections.
The instruction from Myers was simple but persistent. Thomas said she repeatedly shouted, in the most aggressive tone, to clear the building of everyone. Thomas was the most senior person in charge of security at the Ashmins Building and the Division altogether, which spans Agricola on the East Bank of Demerara to Cummings Lodge on the East Coast of Demerara.
When Thomas refused to do so, she reportedly relied on his deputy Phillip Azore, Deputy Commissioner Maxine Graham and the two former Commissioners. Hoppie was head of the Special Branch Unit at the time.
Thomas recalled that three days after the elections, on March 05 2020, he received a call about a bomb scare at Mingo’s office where the tabulation for District Four was ongoing. The office was housed inside the Ashmins building on the corners of High and Hadfield Streets, Georgetown.
This is after he had responded the previous day, March 04 2020, to a complaint that a GECOM staff who he identified as Enrique Livan was attempting to change figures already tabulated and placed in an excel document.
The Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield had reportedly given assurances that he would correct any inconsistencies in the tabulation.
But by March 05, 2020, things took a turn for the worse and Thomas came under heavy pressure from his superiors to carry out Myer’s instructions.
Thomas recalled that despite the threat of a bomb in the building, party agents and observers were not convinced to leave because it would mean that the unfinished tabulation process would be left unattended along with Statements of Polls and other related elections materials.
He confirmed, however, that the call reporting a bomb was traced to a house in Georgetown and was made by a male relative of a Deputy Permanent Secretary.
That person was arrested and placed on bail but Thomas could not say what happened after.
After the reported bomb scare did little to empty the building, Thomas said Myers began communicating with Azore instead of him.
This time Myers asked for more police presence at the Ashmins building because an important announcement was to be made.
Azore told Thomas of this request.
Thomas said when he arrived at the Ashmins building he was told that Mingo had made a declaration and he saw police ranks manning the doors to the building. They were preventing persons, including party agents and local and international accredited observers from gaining access.
Thomas told the COI that he then gave instructions for that to discontinue. At this time he did not see Mingo or Lowenfield but said he saw the Chairman of GECOM, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh, leaving the premises accompanied by Azore.
Myers was at this time busy evicting persons from the building but her efforts were resisted by many including GEOCM Commissioner Sase Gunraj who instead insisted on securing the Statement of Polls.
“But she [Myers] didn’t pay attention. She was more inclined on getting people out of the building. She engaged the police to get people out of the building.”
Thomas said at this time, although he was in uniform, he felt like her instructions to leave the building were also directed at him.
The senior police officer said he later heard her speaking to Graham on the phone and informed her that ranks were not compliant with her instructions.
And while all of this was happening, Thomas said he saw Azore headed to Myers but when he (Azore) saw him (Thomas), Azore diverted.
He made it clear that he did not carry out her instructions because flowing from a February 2020 meeting with Myers and Lowenfield at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), he thought the GECOM Commissioners, party agents and observers had a right to be in the building.
He maintained he was the most senior officer in charge at the time. That quickly changed when he saw members of the Special Branch at Ashmins Building.
Thomas said Friday that their presence was not necessary at the time.
“There was no need for the special branch. They were not useful to my operation.”
“My humble opinion is that they were there in support of her [Myers],” Thomas told the CoI.
He said the special branch ranks entered the building, did not speak to him and went to Myers.
He recalled that later, Graham called him and they disagreed on the role of individuals at the Ashmins Building. He said Graham was supporting the case that among other people, Gunraj should not be in the building and that everyone should leave.
Gunraj reportedly continued to express concerns for the security of the SOPs and other related materials.
Thomas said later he received a call from Commissioner James, who was now supporting Graham’s case that everyone should leave the building.
“He was forcing the point that they must be removed. Everyone there except Special Branch.
“I did not comply,” Thomas said.
Thomas recalled seeing Deputy Superintendent Clifton Davis and Assistant Superintendent Ali, who are members of the Tactical Service Unit, arriving at the location.
Again, he did not summon them but they bypassed him and proceeded to tell people to leave the building.
Thomas said when he reminded them that he is the most senior person on the ground, they left and returned with more heavily armed ranks.
Thomas pointed out that Hoppie was in charge of the Special Branch but only the Commissioner has the authority to dispatch members of TSU.
“They were saying they are here to speak with us and the instructions were for everyone to leave the building.”
Thomas said several calls to Commissioner James went unanswered. He was calling the Commissioner to tell him that based on what has occurred he is no longer in charge and was seeking permission to leave.
He returned to the location the following day, March 06, 2020, and saw barricades erected. Again, he did not give those instructions.
But Graham later called to tell him that he was no longer in command of the division. She gave no reason but Thomas said later told that the Commissioner was not pleased with his performance and he will be reassigned.
That was followed by a letter handed to Thomas by Deputy Commissioner Williams which confirmed that he was reassigned as a patrol officer at force headquarters.
Thomas said the reassignment was not in keeping with his rank.
He was given no desk or office to use and only showed up to work twice monthly until he was promoted to head of the Presidential Guard when the government changed in August 2020.
Thomas has served a total of 39 years in the Guyana Police Force and said at that time he got the clear feeling that he was not welcomed in the Force.
The Commission of Inquiry continues on Monday at 9am.