Calls grow for death squad investigation
Large crowd at 'wrong man's' funeral
Stabroek News
January 13, 2004

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A number of organisations have now joined the call for the government to launch an investigation into the allegations made by a man who says Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, had links to a death squad responsible for several murders.

The calls came even as Shafeek Bacchus, who was said to have been mistakenly killed by hitmen looking for his brother, was laid to rest yesterday in the Le Repentir Cemetery.

His death has had potentially huge implications given that his brother, George Bacchus, went public with information on the death squad. On Friday, Gajraj dismissed as mere allegations that Bacchus had made him an offer to set up the squad. "There is suspicion and on the basis of suspicion there is speculation. The matter must be investigated," Gajraj said last week.

The Working People's Alliance (WPA) is urging all organisations to confront the situation "in the knowledge that we face the prospects that Guyana will never be the same again should we fail to rally against [these developments]".

The WPA said that even for those who suspected that such groups existed, the alleged involvement of a state official must be cause for "great worry and concern about the future of Guyana".

It said too that questions as to whether other government officials and the ruling party had knowledge of this operation were pertinent and must be answered in a high-powered judiciary or Parliamen-tary enquiry.

"We call on the President and the rest of the Cabinet to distance themselves from their colleagues who may be involved in these dastardly acts by relieving them of their positions and subjecting them to the scrutiny of the law. Failure to urgently do so would lead the WPA to conclude that the President and his Cabinet have been complicit in this scheme," the WPA press release said.

The party says this situation is the greatest test to confront the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force as protector of the people and upholder of the Constitution. "We believe that this situation calls for the strongest possible pressure to be brought to bear on the government by all sections of the society to give an accurate account of what has been taking place. It is the duty of the supporters of the ruling party to lead this charge."

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) in a release says it has since dispatched a letter to the president calling for an "immediate, transparent and thorough investigation.

The release says the letter calls for Gajraj's removal and has notified the president of its intention to mount a vigorous lobby both at home and abroad.

Noting that the allegations have been deemed as mere rumours by officials, the release said: "The GTUC wishes to state that it will associate itself with such public pressure as may become necessary to compel the government to bend to the will of the people."

The Guyana Action Party is also calling for a credible enquiry to get to the bottom of the serious allegations, "then, whatever the outcome, let justice be done".

And the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) in saluting Bacchus for his courage in speaking out calls on others, particularly African Guyanese who were or are connected to the killing group to come forward and make similar revelations to the nation and the international community.

ACDA, in a release joins and supports the calls made by political parties and groups calling for Gajraj's immediate resignation.

The Justice for Jermaine Albouystown Committee is also calling for the allegations to be investigated. The organisation says in its release that this is the time for all Guyanese to take to the streets in an orderly manner for the killings to stop.

Prior to burial Shafeek Bacchus's casket was placed at the exact spot where he was sitting opposite his Princes street home when he was killed by gunmen last Monday. The gunmen were said to have called out "Wrong man!" realising that they had shot Shafeek instead of George. Many said Bacchus was a popular and helpful figure in the Lodge area. The crowds were so large that Princes street was blocked off to traffic and the entire area in front of the Lot 76 home and inside the yard was packed.

Some persons, who were in the PNCR protest calling for Gajraj to resign, were also at the funeral and continued their protest even as the funeral service went on. Members of the Guyana Police Force were also there.