Crucial evidence still missing Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 25, 2004

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WITHOUT prejudice to those facing murder charges in connection with the death of Shafeek Bacchus, the exchange of correspondence between Opposition Leader Robert Corbin and President Bharrat Jagdeo should be viewed as a mature approach, though reflecting contrasting positions.

Disagreements are very much a feature of party politics but certainly to be preferred to extra-parliamentary tactics and strategies that encourage lawlessness and threaten stability with ensuing social and economic dislocations.

The PNC/R's leader has chosen to write President Jagdeo on the ongoing controversy relating to allegations by George Bacchus, brother of the slain Shafeek Bacchus, about the existence of a death squad and that Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, has knowledge of such a gang of killers.

But, significantly, neither Corbin, as Opposition Leader, nor any of the spokepersons of the PNC/R, has so far issued any call for George Bacchus to do what seems most appropriate: that is, to provide the police with a signed statement about the serious allegations made and reported in the media.

Nor has it escaped attention that the Stabroek News itself reported last week that it had failed in attempts to make contact with Bacchus, the self-confessed informant to the alleged death squad, to confirm whether he would be prepared to make a formal statement.

Last Tuesday came the clear position of the government, as articulated by Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, on the implications of Bacchus's death squad allegations and reference to the Minister of Home Affairs.

Luncheon stressed that it was imperative that he who made such allegations should go to the police and provide them with a statement. "Our sentiment is", said Luncheon, "that the allegations are quite serious, but let's move them beyond allegations..."

Police want statement
The police themselves have been saying very much the same, with head of the Criminal Investigation Department, Mr. Leon Trim, informing the media that they were seeking Bacchus to get his cooperation with their investigations into his allegations.

Then came the response from President Jagdeo himself in a letter to Mr. Corbin urging him to get those making allegations about a death squad and seeking to involve the Minister of Home Affairs to provide a formal, presumably signed, report on the matter.

It is relevant for all concerned to appreciate, whatever the divergent views, that proper and decisive investigations must, of necessity, be based on statements to the police and not mere allegations, whatever the motivations.

The parliamentary opposition parties and civil society organisations should show their own responsibility in this matter by urging not only George Bacchus, but others who think they have information pertaining to the allegations, to make them available in the appropriate manner to the police.

The police will then have to act, as quickly as possible, to take all relevant actions for justice to take its course. It may be easy to hurl allegations against the Home Affairs Minister, or any other cabinet minister.

But allegations are no substitute for facts, for evidence that could lead to the resignation of a cabinet minister. Given his own experience, Mr. Corbin himself can hardly be unaware of this fundamental difference.

Therefore, let there be less emotionalism and more pragmatism in this whole affair. In the absence of a formal report by he who made the allegations in the first place, crucial evidence remains missing for appropriate actions.