Elections Inquiry: Fmr. Top Cop says wanted to control ‘mayhem’ at Ashmin’s Building but ranks defied orders

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Former Commissioner of Police Leslie James was fingered in the plot to rig the 2020 elections but on Wednesday he sought to distance himself from that plot.

In appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into the elections, he claimed he wanted to control the ensuing “mayhem” at the Ashmin’s Building (the elections headquarters) but reasoned that those efforts may have been hindered by defiant ranks.

James was Guyana’s Police Commissioner at the time of the March 2, 2020 elections and the five months that followed when the then government of David Granger colluded with key elections officials to derail the elections process and keep Granger in power.

James said that ahead of elections there were briefings and planning sessions on the security arrangements for election day and the ensuing tabulation and verification processes.

But what unfolded at the Ashmin’s Building in Georgetown, which was the headquarters for the tabulation and verification of votes for District Four, signalled a departure from prior plans.

On March 5 in particular, James said that there was some “mayhem” in the building based on news reports he was viewing.

“Ranks were being assaulted, verbally and physically,” James recounted.

He also said that based on an engagement with the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Justice (retired) Claudette Singh, he asked police officers to “secure the place”. Securing the place, he later clarified, meant securing both personnel and property in the building.

The media outside the Ashmins building during the 2020 elections. Photo: News Source

At the time, there was also a fake bomb threat.

He said he gave no order for officers of the Guyana Police Force’s Tactical Services Unit to vacate people from the building.

These events were the subject of much questioning because of the testimony given under oath by Assistant Police Commissioner and Head of the Presidential Guard Edgar Thomas.

DIFFERING ACCOUNTS

During that period, Thomas was the Regional Commander for Region Four and the police officer with oversight at the Ashmin’s Building.

And in his testimony before the CoI last year, Thomas said that the Police top brass, including James and Deputy Commissioner Maxine Graham, were working along with former Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers to clear the building, and leave the Statements of Polls (SOPs) unattended during the bid to declare false results for District Four.

Thomas also said that when he refused to comply with such actions, Myers reportedly relied on his deputy Phillip Azore.

Head of the Presidential Guard Edgar Thomas

While Myers, allegedly with the assistance of Azore, attempted to evict people from the building, many party agents, observers and even GECOM Commissioners resisted that.

James, in response to the accounts from Thomas, told a different story.

According to him, he could not make contact with Thomas via his cell phone nor via the police radio. Because he could not make contact with the Regional Commander, he let Azore assume responsibility for security at the building- a move he did not inform Thomas of.

“… in all fairness to Mr. Thomas, he may have been ignorant of the change in command,” James admitted when grilled on his engagement, or lack thereof, with Thomas.

Thomas during his testimony last year also related that 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 then.

The Former Commissioner maintained that he made no contact with Thomas but later admitted that Thomas eventually called him later on March 5.

James said he declined to take that call.

He also said that it was his view that Thomas’s actions- including his failure to answer his calls- amounted to him abandoning his post.

The day after, March 6, Thomas recalled that Graham told him that he was no longer in command of the division. She gave no reason but Thomas said that he was 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. That reassignment was not in keeping with his rank.

Aside from differing accounts, some inconsistencies were also identified.

For instance, James said he was unaware of officers from the Police Special Branch at Ashmins Building- though those officers also fall under his command.

James related his suspicions of armed individuals- who were not police officers- at the building. He did not, however, order his officers to investigate this.

The Former Top Cop also admitted that GECOM Chairman told him that she felt “afraid and alone” but even then, he believed that the “systems in place on the ground” would suffice.

1 Comment
  1. Matthew says

    Dear Ex-Commissioner: Every single person in this Country knows the who, what, why, when and where the riggin was attempted……it was disgusting, but no person was fooled.

    Thank you ACP Thomas for your honesty, decency and integrity.

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