Reeaz Khan, Bhena Lall to submit statements - no union officials present

By Kester Morris
Stabroek News
July 15, 1999

The Commission of Enquiry into disturbances during the recent public service strike will hopefully begin its first day of work today after Justice Carl Singh elicited a promise from Director of Public Prosecutions, Denis Hanomansingh, to prepare evidence for submission relating to the alleged grenade attack outside the Ministry of Finance on June 10.

Hanomansingh, who is representing the police in the enquiry, promised to have police knowledgeable about the incident identified and present today and also to submit a statement by 2000 hrs yesterday to commission Secretary Joy Persaud. The commission was signed into existence by President Janet Jagan on Monday.

Yesterday's abbreviated session also saw Singh receive commitments from Reeaz Khan, managing director of Reeaz Trading Enterprises and Bhena Lall of Bhena's Footwear Store to submit statements pertaining to the separate attacks on their businesses during the 55-day public service strike.

The two promised that that information should be ready within three days and also indicated that they will be represented by counsel when they make their submissions.

With the exception of the police, Khan and Lall were the only interested parties represented in court yesterday, prompting Singh to announce that he would be sending notices of the proceedings directly to such parties.

Among those who will receive notices are union heads, officials of the Customs and Excise Department and Georgetown Hospital administration, the Private Sector Commission, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

These notices will be in addition to notices that the commission has already had printed in the daily newspapers. Justice Singh, appointed to conduct the enquiry, noted that given the scope of the strike he had expected a large amount of persons to be present and that the only apparent interest being shown was by the police.

He warned that he was prepared to deal with the interested parties and submit a report. He also announced the appointment of attorney-at-law Mortimer Cumberbatch as counsel to the commission in keeping with what Hanomansingh had earlier said was the "non-adversarial" nature of the enquiry.

In an invited comment, Justice Singh admitted to reporters that he was surprised at the absence of many who had clamoured for the setting up of the Commission of Enquiry. He noted that, in relation to the shooting incident outside the John Fernandes Wharf on May 18, he had expected the union heads to be present. This incident, in which a number of striking workers were injured by the police, was the driving force behind the establishment of the commission.

However, Singh acknowledged that there had been little time between the signing of the instrument by President Jagan installing the commission and the first day of sitting and expressed the belief that participation would be picking up soon as people became serious.

The one-man commission of enquiry was one of the prerequisites contained in the resumption of work agreement signed by government and public service unions on June 23.

Under the terms of reference, the commission is mandated to investigate protest activities which resulted in breaches of the law outside various ministries as well as various incidents of violence that occurred during the 55 days of the strike.

The commission is expected to finish its work on or before July 30, a deadline that Singh indicated can still be met despite the delay in the start of proceedings.

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