Seek information from public on death squad allegations
Guyana Chronicle
February 14, 2004

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THE problem that the Guyana Government is facing in the fallout from the George Bacchus allegations of a death squad and the Home Affairs Minister's knowledge of such a squad has precious little to do with what the PNC/R is doing or saying at this time.

In fact, the PNC/R has more than its fair share of skeletons in its own closet to now think it can be as politically effective in making the case against the government for an investigation and for the implicated minister to step down, even if temporarily. Still, as the main opposition, it has to do its job or, at least, appear to be doing its job of opposing government, even if the circumstances are based on an informant's allegations.

Government's problem relates to its inability to see and interpret the dynamics of the message being sent by diplomatic representatives from the West who are seeing the same issue through a different pair of political lenses.

George Bacchus is not a major mover and shaker in Guyana's politics, so that his allegations may be taken with a 'grain of salt,' but when he is that bold enough to go to the U.S. Embassy with detailed information contained in his allegation, there has to be something in what he disclosed that resonated with his listeners that, in turn, would warrant the kind of reactions now being speculated on (visa revocations) by the public as related to the allegations.

Government cannot expect to convince anyone that it suddenly has confidence in the Guyana Police Force as the only constitutional body set up to conduct criminal investigations into Mr. Bacchus' allegations, when the same GPF has been repeatedly accused of extra-judicial killings and also came under question for its (mis) handling of the 2002 criminal blowout.

Indeed, a criminal allegation has been made, requiring a criminal investigation, but because a political appointee has been fingered as being inside the loop on the death squad's operations, there is an element of politics now involved that could allow Parliament, not just the police, to launch its own investigations which could then help the police arrive at a conclusion for legal action or none at all.

In light of this observation, therefore, government should ask the minister to temporarily step down, set up a committee made up of members of Parliament to invite members of the public, including Mr. Bacchus and Mr. Robert Corbin, to come forward with whatever information they have, and based on what is said, the committee will then be tasked with passing on the information to the government and or DPP for action.

An initial time of, say, seven days, should be set for persons to come forward. If within this time frame no one comes forward, or there's nothing substantial received, the committee will be disbanded, and anyone making allegations thereafter will be subjected to libel in a court of law, because due process was granted and nothing earthmoving emerged.

I am more than convinced that the Western diplomats are more concerned about the truth, as much as they are concerned about due process. And this Parliamentary committee will be seen as helping to facilitate due process to help those diplomats, as well as all concerned Guyanese, determine if there is any truth in the criminal allegations. At this point, government has to start seeing the issue through political, not mere criminal, eyes.

Again, the problem is not so much with reacting to the PNC/R, but with satisfying Western diplomats, one of them being a representative of a country that helped restore democracy to Guyana in 1992. Until these diplomats are satisfied, the fallout from the Bacchus allegations will continue to raise questions about government's integrity and do incalculable damage to it international image and reputation as the new champion of democracy in Guyana.

At this point, the image of the government on the international front has to be protected if donors and investors are to feel comfortable doing business with Guyana. And Western diplomats have a major part to play in how donors and investors react to government's invitations.
Emile Mervin,
Brooklyn, New York