Police eject Commissioner Benn forcibly from Conference Centre
…dragged on ground, manhandled, and injured
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Robeson Benn had to be taken to the hospital on Monday evening after he was forced to the ground and dragged by members of the Guyana Police Force.
The riot squad was summoned to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) after members of the various political parties assembled and were subsequently blocked from entering the facility where the national recount was supposed to take place.
Commissioner Benn explained that it is mandatory for one agent from each group to be present at all times near the ballots so as to protect its integrity. This was agreed upon at the level of the Guyana Elections Commission on Sunday night. However, the ranks still demanded that everyone remove from the location and exit the compound.
“They apparently came and wanted everyone to leave the compound. I told the police that there was an agreement at the level of the Guyana Elections Commission, affirmed last night at the stakeholder meeting, that a representative from each stakeholder group had to be present with the containers 24/7. The police came and said they wanted me to leave the area of the container,” he explained.
After disagreeing to leave the boxes unguarded, the situation escalated when he was manhandled for failing to comply with these instructions.
“After 15 minutes of cajoling me to leave, two ranks proceeded to brace me out of the position. I was on the ramp at the back of the Convention Centre. I refused to leave and they laid hands on me and tried to physically remove me from the position.”
As he struggled to hold on to the rails, the Commissioner was forced to the ground and dragged some distance. The matter reached a point where the riot squad were contemplating the use of a shield to forcibly remove him.
“I held on to the rails and they dragged me along the ground to a point where I was lying on the ground. They said they were going to get a shield to put me on it and remove me. I kept refusing all the time,” he said.
Throughout the ordeal, he would have tried to contact Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh of GECOM to provide some clarity on his presence. While this failed, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo confirmed that indeed, persons were to remain with the containers at all times. Shortly after, former Members of Parliament Dr Frank Anthony and Priya Manickchand arrived.
However, as a result, Benn sustained serious injuries to his upper body.
“After our discussion and my lying on the ground, eventually I got Dr Frank Anthony and Ms Manickchand. My problem is that I have a problem in my shoulder now, from the elbow going up and some muscular or tendon problem as a result of the issues with the police…I can’t move or lift this arm without pain,” he expressed.
The Commissioner articulated his dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Guyana Police Force.
“They ought to be simply aware of the position of a statutory Commissioner of an independent agency. And that by no possibility, could they be attempting to physically remove me from the position I was in,” he said, and was immediately taken to seek medical attention.
Benn has signalled intentions of seeing advice from Attorney Anil Nandlall on the steps further, as well as to voice his dissatisfaction with the Commissioner of Police, Leslie James.