(AP) — Top Guyanese government official Nigel Dharamlall, who was arrested last month on accusations of raping an Indigenous teenager, resigned just hours after authorities said they would drop the case against him.
Dharamlall, a senior minister of regional development since mid-2020, said late Tuesday that he was stepping down to avoid bringing disrepute to the ruling People’s Progressive Party. President Irfaan Ali accepted the resignation.
Earlier Tuesday, authorities said they were dropping the case because the 16-year-old girl from the remote western Essequibo region withdrew the accusation. She had accused him of grooming her and then raping and sodomising her at his private home in the capital, Georgetown.
Dharamlall, who is in his 50s, had interacted frequently with Indigenous communities through his job, denied the accusations. Shalimar Ali-Hack, Guyana’s director of public prosecutions, said she had no legal basis to proceed with the case given that the accusation against Dharamlall was withdrawn.
Two non-government organisations, the Red Thread women’s group and the Amerindian Peoples Association, alleged in a statement Wednesday that the girl’s family had accepted payment in return for settling the matter and that the girl was seeking emancipation from her parents.
“We are fearful that these allegations will not be fully investigated,” the Amerindian Peoples Association said. “Like many Indigenous women, girls and boys within Guyana, her body was and is vulnerable to racial abuse and sexualising.”
The main opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity, said Guyanese people were morally outraged over the case and said that the government’s criminal justice and child protection systems failed.
Indigenous people, who make up around 10 per cent of Guyana’s nearly 800,000 inhabitants, have long been marginalised.