– in Kaieteur National Park
A fact-finding mission into the Joint Services Operation in the Kaieteur National Park (KNP) took a drastic turn when a cameraman from Capitol News and a Chenapau resident were arrested on Sunday.
Rudy Morris and Anthony Melville were both taken into custody at the Muri Muri Landing in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), and were expected to be brought to Georgetown later today. According to ranks at the location, the men “will be prosecuted”.
Amerindian Peoples Affairs (APA) Executive Michael Mc Garrell travelled to the Potaro-Siparuni region to investigate the claim of illegal mining in the Kaieteur National Park. He took along some members of the media, including Morris.
A few weeks ago, some 21 residents of Chenapau Village, Region Eight, were arrested for allegedly mining in the KNP. They were brought to Georgetown and charged, but in an “act of goodwill” the charges were later dropped. However, the persons arrested vehemently denied mining in the KNP and provided documentation to show they were operating on legal mining claims. Some also said they were hunting and fishing when soldiers rounded them up. The arrest and charging of the residents caused an uproar in the Amerindian village as residents protested within the village and at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Since the arrests of the residents, the military presence in the KNP has been amped up; hence, the APA decided to undertake a fact-finding mission.
Upon arriving at the KNP Arrival Centre, it was discovered that it has been converted into a base camp for the Joint Services operation. Mc Garrell said that this concretised the allegation of the KNP becoming a militarised zone.
The officer in command also told Mc Garrell that no one would be allowed to traverse the trail traditionally used by the Chenapau villagers to hunt, fish, and access farms and mining claims.
However, Morris and Melville used a boat to go investigate the boundaries of the KNP and as they were returning, the men were arrested and told they would be charged. The two men were still detained at the Muri Muri Landing up to press time.
Mc Garrell said that he was concerned about the arrest of a member of the press corps for just executing one of his functions as a member of the fourth estate. He posited that the officers, upon verifying Morris’ identity, should have just asked the men to leave the area.
“All we have to do now is to wait until they bring out these two men and see what they will do. I have no idea what they will charge them with, but I was informed by the Officer in Charge that they will be charged,” Mc Garrell related.
The arrest of the duo was criticised by members of the community and they are calling on the authorities to explain the arrests.