Four men attack, beat C.N. Sharma by Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
January 22, 2002

Four men attacked and beat leader of the Justice for All Party, C.N. Sharma, on Sunday during a visit to West Coast Demerara, leaving him with a damaged eye, swollen face and bruises about the body.

Sharma has been hospitalised and is undergoing treatment at the Davis Memorial Hospital.

The Leonora police arrested two men in connection with the incident but they were released later on Sunday. The third man escaped a police roadblock while a fourth got away into Meten-Meer-Zorg, the village where the beating took place.

According to Sharma, a West Coast Demerara businessman on whose premises he was at the time intervened and practically saved his life.

The Guyana Action Party-Working People's Alliance (GAP-WPA) yesterday denounced the attack on Sharma noting that civilians were involved and that "the political climate appears to allow for enforcers...the sooner the state makes its position clear the better for Guyana."

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) also came out in condemnation of the attack and called for action by the Commissioner of Police on the threat to the freedom of the press and the denial of civil liberties of a fellow media worker.

The injured owner of CNS Channel 12, C.N.Sharma, as he looked yesterday before he was hospitalised following an attack on West Coast Demerara on Sunday.

Sharma, who is also host of television programme Voice of the People, recalled that he had gone to Meten-Meer-Zorg to meet rice farmers who were facing problems with their crop.

Afterwards, Sharma and his production crew checked in with the businessman, Bhajoonauth called 'Prekay' and were sitting in a benab (thatched shed of Amerindian origin) at the back of Bhajoonauth's yard when a group of men entered.

One of the men approached Sharma who said he asked Bhajoonauth the reason for their presence and was told they were uninvited.

Sharma said he then preceded to his vehicle parked outside and one of the men followed and made as if to shake his hand.

Instead, the man began to punch him about the head and stomach.

Sharma said another kicked him in the groin and beat him about his body. It was then Sharma said he heard one of the men say "finish he off and done".

According to Sharma, he saw two of the men with knives in their possession and one had a gun but was not involved in the attack.

A young man who was nearby picked up a bottle and lashed Bhajoonauth with it on his head, Sharma stated.

The businessman withdrew his licenced firearm when it was apparent that the situation was getting out of hand and this caused the men to back off.

But this was not before the man who initiated the assault grabbed the $500,000 video camera, destroyed the video cassette inside, and made off with the equipment belonging to CNS Channel 12.

Bhajoonauth then telephoned the police at the Leonora Station and roadblocks were set up.

Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, at his CNS Channel 6 television studios, Sharma said he was on a follow-up visit to the West Coast Demerara area, where his party had a seat on the Regional Democratic Council, to hear some of the concerns of the people.

He said he knew one of the men involved in the attack, as he was in a similar incident with the man's brother late last year.

He said he visited his family doctor, Dr Balwant Singh, at about 2000 hrs on Sunday.

He was found to be suffering from an eye injury, and his head is swollen. Sharma left for the hospital yesterday afternoon to do some follow-up medical tests. He said he would also be going to visit an eye specialist and neurologist for examinations.

Sharma said he was asked by the Leonora police to visit the station yesterday to give a statement on the incident but pointed out he was in no condition to do so. He asserted that he had no problem with giving a statement and would do so immediately if the police visited him. He is likely to be hospitalised for a few days.

The recent attack was one of several on Sharma in recent years and the party leader is considering hiring security personnel to look after his safety.

Of the most prominent was in 1999 when Mata Persaud of West Demerara assaulted him and was found guilty by the court.

Last year, a man entered the CNS studios and assaulted the Voice of the People host.

"I feel because I'm reaching out to the people, some people disagree and want to get rid of me. I'm not a criminal so why would they want to do this to me?" he queried. "If this is the type of politics in this country what message are they sending to the young people? Is it that you have to get beaten up before you achieve something in politics? This was a politically motivated attack. They were out to kill me!"

GAP-WPA charged that the attack on Sharma was "not the act of persons opposed to the government."

The party said: "It is bad enough when the state engages in repression, but when ordinary civilians engage in repression, moreover armed repression, it is bad news for the society, for freedom and freedom of expression..."

The GPA noted that from time to time, Sharma, as a producer of a media programme, and his cameraman, have done exactly what reporters did to earn their livelihood.

"To assault them in the execution of their duty is to send a signal to any reporter that they too can be assaulted by people who do not like their reporting," the GPA stated.

The association pointed out that the ruling party and civil society have been strident in their criticism when people employed in the state media reported that they suffered such attacks.

The GPA said that the police seemed to be less enthusiastic about visiting Sharma's attackers with the full force of the law. It said to contend that police action was stalled until Sharma gave a statement "is nothing short of exhibiting a disregard for the intelligence of the wider society."

Noting that it was not the first time Sharma was attacked, GPA recalled the television host was forced to take private action in the past because the police declined to charge the assailant. "The evidence seems to suggest that Mr Sharma is being discriminated against. The association is not prepared to suggest a reason at this time," the GPA stated.