PNC pickets Home Affairs Ministry
-- renews call for Minister Gajraj's removal
January 13, 2004
THE People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) yesterday staged a picketing exercise outside the Ministry of Home Affairs, calling for the removal of Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj following media reports quoting the brother of slain Princess Street cattle farmer, Shafeek Bacchus, as alleging that the minister was aware of the existence of a phantom gang.
Yesterday's picketing exercise by about two-dozen PNC supporters was the latest move by the main opposition party to publicize its call for Minister Gajraj's resignation or dismissal since last Thursday's claim by George Bacchus that, as a former phantom squad informant, he was aware that Minister Gajraj was linked to the squad.
Speculation about "official complicity" with a phantom squad had been rife for about a year, after four now-freed persons described then as the Good Hope Four were apprehended in a four-by-four with tracking equipment and weapons some observers said could not have been accumulated by any private force.
As Minister of Home Affairs responsible for national security, Mr. Gajraj had denied knowledge of the existence of a so-called phantom force.
But most Guyanese, shocked out of their wits by the unprecedented upsurge of home invasion and business premise robberies, kidnappings, the murder of civilians and police alike, drive-by executions, rapes, carjackings, the holding up and robbing of minibus passengers, the torching of people and their homes and the arson of business premises and privately owned vehicles, expressed elation at rumors that the phantom squad was responsible for the killing of most of the persons, including four of the five fugitives who escaped from prison on Mash Day 2002, who had committed those crimes.
The PNC, on the other hand, fumed at such rumors, saying it believed the phantom force existed and urging its exposure.
Thursday, when George Bacchus claimed to have been an informant of a "death" squad, which he alleged murdered his brother, Shafeek, he linked the squad to a senior government official, whom he later said was the Home Affairs Minister.
The PNC reacted first by calling for Mr. Gajraj's removal from office and the next day its leader Robert Corbin walked out of the swearing in of the members of the Police Service Commission at the Office of the President.
Yesterday's picketing exercise outside the Home Affairs Ministry included PNC Member of Parliament Volda Lawrence, who told reporters the claim by Bacchus was "nothing new."
Ms. Lawrence said it was wrong for any official to try to usurp the functions of the Commissioner of Police, no matter what the circumstance.
Bacchus was said to be due to meet at Brickdam Police Station yesterday to "confront" the two persons who have been placed in custody.
The men are Mark Thomas and Ashton King of A & D Funeral Home. Bacchus claimed he saw the men in a white car shortly after his brother was gunned down and recognized them.
The "confrontation" was said to take place, but details remained under covers.