(CMR) Guyana's Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall, was arrested Monday in relation to rape allegations leveled against him by a 16-year-old Indigenous girl. He was subsequently released on $1M station bail.
According to Kaieteur News, The Guyana Police Force (GPF) confirmed that an investigation had been launched into the allegations made against the minister. The minister presented himself to the police in the company of his lawyer, Nigel Hughes. He was told of the allegation, cautioned, and arrested.
An official report was reportedly made to the police by the teen girl in the company of an officer from the Child Care and Protection Agency (CPA).
In a statement on Monday, the minister’s lawyers said, “Mr. Dharamlall remains willing and disposed to assist in a full investigation of the matter. All the allegations are denied. In the interest of a fair investigation and the necessity to protect the interests of all parties concerned, we urge that speculation, wild accusations, pre-mature judgments, and unsupported conclusions be avoided.”
Kaieteur News reported that Dharamlall told President Irfaan Ali on Sunday that he was proceeding on administrative leave to facilitate the investigation.
However, Opposition MP Juretha Fernandes has questioned the course of action taken by Dharamlall.
“You were supposed to send him on administrative leave. Not put him in a position to be presented to the public as though he is in total control of the situation… There is nothing comforting about this, absolutely nothing! What next? Are you gonna ask him if he accepts the finding of the investigation? Is he gonna be selecting the people conducting the investigation? #justiceforourindigenousgirls,” Fernandez said.
“As a government, we are committed to having any facts fully investigated as we hold dearly our girls and women in every community. And we will continue to do everything to ensure their safety and well-being,” President Ali told the News Room.
President Ali also told Kaieteur News that his government would not tolerate such acts and that he has already informed the police that any such report must be thoroughly and comprehensively investigated.
Two female ministers had also issued statements underscoring the seriousness of the allegations while indicating that a thorough investigation would be conducted.
Kaieteur News stated that Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, in a statement on Saturday, said that allegations of rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence are not to be made lightly and must always be taken seriously.
“I begin by believing complainants, always, every time. Because the statistics are clear. Despite the myths, victims of rape and sexual assault do not lie about their experiences any more than victims of any other crime,” Minister Manickchand said.
She also emphasized that when the complainant is a child, the complaint must take on even more urgent dimensions.
Minister of Human Services and Social Protection, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, said that the Child Care and Protection Agency is carrying out a full investigation into the allegation made against the male minister while reminding that no one is above the law.
“The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has taken note of the serious allegations made against a Minister by a 16-year-old girl. Our women and girls must be safe, and no one is above the law,” she said.
Kaieteur News reported that in a letter to President Ali, the teen girl shared gruesome details about how the minister allegedly groomed and later raped her. In her letter, she pleaded with President Ali, Minister Manickchand, and relevant authorities to look into the matter.
According to the letter seen by Kaieteur News, the girl first met the minister at an event last year when she was 15 years old. She said she was raped three months after meeting the minister, and she was 16 years old at that time. The teen said this is when the minister raped her and sodomized her before handing her a sum of money.