Evasion and denials are not viable options in dealing with this issue
Stabroek News
March 2, 2004

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Dear Editor,

The Prime Minister was the guest of Mr Christopher Ram on the television programme entitled 'Plain Talk', which was aired on the evening of Sunday, February 15, 2004.

The Prime Minister's remarks on most of the topics which Mr Ram touched upon with him were evasive. But, when it come to his comments on the question of the allegations which had been made against Mr Gajraj, his ministerial colleague, and the possibility of the government mandating an inquiry thereinto, his attempts at being obscurantist failed to conceal the fact that the government did have a view on the question and that their fundamental problem seems to be the methodology which they should employ to bring the matter to the fore while at the same time avoiding the possibility of public condemnation and the exacting of retributory sanctions upon those who are positively fingered.

What emerged from the P.M.'s offerings were the following salient points:

1. That due to the state of crime and criminal activity which was existing in the country, he was not prepared to condemn the operation of the death squads, whether by a minister or anyone else.

2. that due to the fact everyone who is anyone seemed to be having field days mounting and operating death squads, there really was no great compulsion for the government to enquire into the existence of a reality with which all are familiar. His thrust seemed to be that the operation of death squads was an equal opportunity enterprise and there was no need for governmental intervention at the level of the state because no wrong was being done.

3. That if it were felt by the government that inquiry be made, then such inquisition should encompass all alleged death squads supposedly operated by all elements within the society.

4. that the proceedings of such inquiry should be purely for the purpose of seeking and obtaining information about what really happened. And that, in an effort to facilitate such an exercise a blanket amnesty should be offered to all who were allegedly involved in such activities. This would no doubt also encompass the expressly malfeasant and unconstitutional activities in which the Minister of Home Affairs is alleged to have been a participant.

5. That the proceedings of such an enquiry should be a cathartic, and exculpatory, and should not be accusatory or adversarial in the least.

6. that in any event he, (the P.M.) did not foresee any probable informant being foolhardy enough to offer information against the accused minister for the purpose of initiating a criminal investigation. Thus, he could not envisage the possibility of there arising any need for him to decide whether or not he wanted to remain involved in the continuing enterprise which the government is.

There we had it, from the mouth of one of the regime's grandest charge horses. There will be no resignation- of any member of the board of Guyana Incorporated. There will be no investigation of a criminal or apparently of any other nature into the allegations which have been leveled against a member of that team, regardless of who says what. That if the minister did do what it is being alleged that he has done, then he was fully justified by the circumstances - a case of necessity or exigency driven ethics and elastic legality.

In fact, the P.M. implied that everyone was running death squads, so why is the minister being singled out for attack on that point?

There can be no doubt that the Prime Minister has actually succeeded in casting light upon a matter of public importance, the underpinnings of the government's approach to the Gajraj affair. It is impossible to now say that we do not understand what the government is doing, or failing to do, with regard to this issue.

Perhaps he would be gracious enough to continue to indulge our curiosity, by attempting to enlighten us with regard to the following, unaddressed aspect of this matter.

1. Where in the world does there exist a supposedly civilized society, based upon the tenets and traditions of democracy and the rule of law, in which the operation of death squads is approved and sanctioned because of the operation of other death squads by lawless elements within the society?

2. If, as the Prime Minister seemed to imply, the alleged action of the minister was justified by the existence of circumstances which were extra legal, and therefore ought not to be subjected to analysis on the basis of the common law and universally accepted morality, then would this not amount to an admission that the government was derelict of its duty to suppress unlawful groups and activities?

3. If the government did have in its possession information concerning the operation of death squads by unauthorized, private individuals, cabals or cartels, would it not have been bound by law to use the appropriate laws and the state's law enforcement apparatus to dismantle and suppress such entities?

4. Accepting the P.M.'s inference, that there might well have been an extra judicial response by the government or some of its agents, to the unlawful activities of non-state operatives, how will it be possible for the state and this nation to learn which gang was responsible for the death of whom and why? How will it be determined whether or not the focused attack upon policemen was a politically orchestrated exercise with anything but criminal objectives?

5. The Prime Minister suggested the mobilisation of a Truth Commission for the purpose of finding out who did what in terms of the operation of the machinery of extra judicial eliminations. But, such a process would be meaningless in terms of either verifiable discovery, retribution or reparation to those whose loved ones were lost in that imbroglio. What would then be the purpose of such a charade?

It is more than likely that by now both the P.M. and the minister ought to have come to the conclusion that extra judicial responses invoke all the uncertainties of unaccountability, instability and international unacceptability.

But, will the P.M. and his colleagues be insightful enough to admit that neither the government nor the nation will pass from beneath this shadow, unless we face it and address its consequences.

Evasion, prevarication, dissembling and denial are not viable options in dealing with this serious abuse of rights and particularly, the right to life.

Yours faithfully,

CRB Edwards