President Jagdeo's position on this national scandal is unacceptable
January 30, 2004
Stabroek News in its Monday, January 26, 2004 edition, reported on President Bharrat Jagdeo's speech to residents of Annandale on the East Coast Demerara and his remarks in relation to the allegations by Mr George Bacchus against Home Affairs Minister, Mr Ronald Gajraj, Mr Jagdeo is quoted as saying, "Many of them are calling for Gajraj's head before you even have a semblance of any credible statement‚€¦I'm not going to lynch any of my ministers‚€¦because a lot of people are calling for lynching of a minister without a shred of credible evidence." At the time President Jagdeo was addressing a public meeting organized by the Women's Progressive Organization (WPO), the women's arm of the ruling PPP/C.
Mr Jagdeo's choice of occasion and venue to break his silence on the Gajraj affair, is not at all surprising. It is in keeping with the traditional behaviour of the PPP/C whenever that party finds itself in a difficult political situation. The president and his party are exploiting an important section of their support base, the Indian Guyanese women. He is also playing the race card. This is the PPP/C's first reflex and probably its only known response, to play on the ethnic insecurity of its supporters. The young president who is not so young now is steeped in the "old politics." He brings to this national crisis no enlightenment, his position on the Gajraj affair, and on the accusations of state sponsored killings, in terms of modern governance, is backward and retrogressive to say the least. His insistence that he will not move against Minister Gajraj without credible evidence in this case is unhelpful and provocative.
Given the nature of this matter in which it was known long before Mr Bacchus' confession that officers of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and other state security agencies were, and are part of the phantom outfit - the position that Mr Jagdeo has assumed is nothing but a "big joke." On every occasion that a serious accusation has been made against a minister of the government, President Jagdeo, who wants to be seen as the president all of the people of Guyana, has adopted the same partisan position. Guyanese must now begin to wonder at the extent of Mr Jagdeo's complicity in these matters.
To call on Mr Bacchus to give the police all the evidence he has on those persons who attempted to execute him, and instead murdered his brother is all well and good. However, it is quite another matter to demand that his revelations against Mr Gajraj should be made to the police at a time when it is alleged that high officials of the GPF were involved with the killing squad. It is expecting too much of Mr Bacchus to do more than he has already done in relation to Mr Gajraj's involvement with the death squad.
If the president had intended for the nation and the international community to take him seriously, he would have instead ordered an independent commission of inquiry to look into the allegations while simultaneously announcing that amnesty would be given to all persons, including Mr Bacchus, who came forward to provide evidence or who wanted to make confessions about their involvement in the affair. Instead, he chose to engage in politicking and deception.
On the question of credible evidence, and the need for an independent inquiry, Mr Eusi Kwayana in his letter in SN on January 17, 2004 published under the caption "Andrew Douglas has also raised some questions" reminded the nation that "in a Presidential press conference H. E President Jagdeo, personally, not through Dr Luncheon, told reporters "that he had asked Home Affairs Minister Mr Ronald Gajraj, and Commis-sioner Laurie Lewis, to launch an investigation to determine whether there is any truth in the allegations made by robbery accused Andrew Douglas."
Kwayana then went on to ask "When and how did that investigation take place?" In order to expose the duplicitous nature of the PPP/C, Eusi Kwayana further pointed out in his letter that the "Government of Guyana" (through the Ministry of Information) had already on March 21 reached a final judgement on the whole affair.
It had issued the following statement, "the government of Guyana unequivocally rejects as baseless anti-government propaganda" linking them to "blatant lies by the opposition People's National Congress." The familiarity of these words in the two instances is not accidental.
Despite all that happened since the above press conference and the well known declaration by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, of the existence of some phantom force, it is clear that the Minister of Home Affairs knew of the phantom killers. One can only conclude that no investigation was ever ordered by the President on the Phantom Force in spite of Dr Luncheon's public admission of the existence of such a force, since both the minister and the police force knew who the phantom killers were.
The president in his address to his constituents at Annandale was attempting to fool the nation into believing that the rulers were ignorant of the development of the phantom force.
Mr Gajraj attempts to deny that he was in frequent contact with Phantom killer Mr Williams, was blown away by the Kaieteur News article that listed both the Minister and the late Williams' phone records. This fact alone is more than enough for any innocent and decent regime to order an independent commission of inquiry. The reason for the president and his ruling party's refusal to do so has more to do with their collective sense of guilt and their survival instincts, rather than their sense of collective responsibility for the minister's behaviour.
Mr Jagdeo's position on this national scandal is unacceptable, and runs contrary to the norms of civilized governance. Whether the president likes it or not, nothing short of an independent inquiry can get the Minister, the government and ruling party out of this crisis with the legitimacy to rule. Mr Jagdeo instead of attempting to exploit the insecurity of the Indian Guyanese community should put the interest of that community and the nation above partisan recklessness.