Escapees probe report handed in By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
June 4, 2002

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`...we are very much cognisant of the situation and we are doing what is necessary to contain the situation...' - Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj

REPORT IN: Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, right, receives the 30-page report from Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the February 23 jailbreak, Mr. Cecil Kennard.
THE Commission of Inquiry appointed to look into the daring Mash Day jailbreak yesterday presented its report to Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, who said he will now have to look at the team's recommendations to determine the feasibility, applicability and possible execution of the proposals.

Gajraj received the some 30-page report in his Georgetown office from Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry, former Chancellor of the Judiciary and now Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Mr. Cecil Kennard

All the members of the commission, including a representative each from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, a security consultant and a retired senior Prison Officer, have signed the document, titled `Report of Board of Inquiry into escape of five prisoners from Georgetown Prison on February 23, 2002'.

In brief comments to the media after receiving the report, the contents of which he said he had no idea of, Gajraj said "it is a relatively thin report, just over 30 pages, but I understand that the number of statements that have been taken have been voluminous and that is what has taken up a lot of time."

"I have not seen any of the statements; (and) I have not gone beyond receiving the report this afternoon. I am hoping that very shortly I will be able to study the report and decide where we go from there," he said.

Commenting on the report submitted by the Commission of Inquiry into a previous jailbreak, in August 1999, and where a number of recommendations were made and changes called for, Gajraj said "a number of recommendations were made by the board of inquiry - the operative word being recommendations - because some people seem to think that because they might have sat on a board of inquiry and they might have come up with certain positions that it is gospel and must be adhered to by the administration."

"I think it ought to be appreciated that the Board (Commission) of Inquiry will examine the circumstances, arrive at certain conclusions and probably draw certain inferences on which the recommendations would be based; I would have to look at those recommendations and determine the feasibility of those recommendations, the applicability of those recommendations and the possible execution of those recommendations."

"Having regards to the ignorance of the content of the report and the recommendations which have been made, I will not be in a position to say if any or all of them will be acted upon as is or with any modifications that might be necessary," he added.

Kennard said the transcripts of the evidence of the 27 witnesses involved will soon be handed over to the minister. He noted, too, that the recommendations in the report are based on the evidence the commission heard in the inquiry.

The commission was tasked with investigating the circumstances that led to the daring daylight escape from the Georgetown Prison on February 23 by the five very dangerous criminals - Dale Moore, Andrew Peter Douglas, Troy Anthony Dick, Shawn Brown and Mark Fraser.

The five shot their way out of the jail leaving one Prison Officer dead and critically wounding another. They have since been on the run, despite an intense manhunt spearheaded by the Police and the Army, and have been linked to a series of high-profile robberies, murders, car-hijackings, kidnapping and internal terrorism.

Commenting briefly on the escalation of high-profile crimes, murders and criminal activities in the country, and the fear among many Guyanese, Gajraj said: "Of course we appreciate the fear and the anxiety that permeates the society out there and the security forces are doing what best they can in the circumstances to deal with the situation...having regards at all times to the principles of minimum force."

"We have had experience already when a certain course of action might have been pursued (and) the criticisms that have been levelled, not only at the security agencies but the administration as a whole," he said.

He added: "This is not for a moment to suggest that the administration sits complacently on its laurels while people are being killed out there; we are very much cognisant of the situation and we are doing what is necessary to contain the situation and reduce the crime (and) eventually to deal with the criminal situation in a comprehensive manner."

Regarding suspects, the Home Affairs Minister said, "at the moment, suffice it to say, we have suspects and we have more than one suspect. I can tell you that much and we are looking at picking them up."

Gajraj also slammed the sensationalism and what he called "erroneous and totally wrong statements and reports" that are being published in the local media.

He said the Kaieteur News newspaper has been guilty of this and highlighted a recent erroneous report.

He noted that it was easy for rumours and allegations to be spread and said, "they capitalise on it and I keep talking about the sensationalism of the press."

"Only recently I had cause to comment on the position of the Stabroek News...where they said the Police shot London (Linden `Blackie' London) when he came out of the Toucan Suite building."

According to Gajraj, that inquiry is ongoing and there is not one bit of evidence to support that position "but they (Stabroek News) have given it as a fact and as a conclusion".

He also dubbed the `Viewpoint' in the Sunday Chronicle by Barbadian-based Guyanese journalist and Chronicle correspondent, Mr. Ricky Singh as "totally erroneous" and said it lacked facts.

"The other thing is that the Chronicle in their editorial sought to compare Guyana with Jamaica and Trinidad. They are entirely different situations altogether. Jamaica, for instance has a Minister of National Security that has the army and the police under its purview; Trinidad likewise has a Minister of National Security.

"Here in Guyana the Police are under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Army (Guyana Defence Force) is under the purview of the Office of the President and more specifically the President; and there is a Defence Board that meets and determines issues of and in relation to matters military and personnel military."

He added: "So it's an entirely different situation and what is of concern is when the local press will take these things, particularly something written by somebody who is not in the country and who doesn't seem to have a feel for what is going on in the country, and publish it hook, line and sinker."