Death squad claims
Jagdeo tells Corbin to encourage formal reports to police
Stabroek News
January 22, 2004

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President Bharrat Jagdeo has written PNCR Leader Robert Corbin urging him to encourage persons with information on an alleged death squad to make formal reports to the police for the claims to be investigated.

The letter yesterday from the President in response to one from Corbin dated January 15, was his first known response on bombshell allegations which have been swirling around Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj and the claimed existence of a death squad.

Corbin in his letter to Jagdeo again demanded that government acts decisively to investigate the recent allegations linking Gajraj to a killing squad.

In the letter to President Jagdeo, the opposition leader requested him to ensure as a prerequisite to the probe that Gajraj vacates office, by whatever means.

This according to Corbin would ensure that the political head of the agency under investigation does not intrude in the process.

President Jagdeo in his response to Corbin's letter, according to sources, urged the opposition leader to encourage any person or persons in receipt of information which could lend credence to the allegations to present it to the Guyana Police Force.

The head of state in his reply further informed Corbin that the utterances were merely allegations being transmitted via the media and posited that there seems to be an ongoing trial by the media.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon at his post-cabinet press briefing on Tuesday had acknowledged the Office of the President's receipt of Corbin's letter. He had further said that the president was preparing a response to it which Congress Place acknowledged receiving yesterday.

Corbin in his letter of January 15 alluded to the serious nature of the allegations, which he said had resulted in national outrage and public statements from several organisations calling for an independent probe.

The opposition leader also highlighted concerns about the extraordinary rate of unusual killings occurring particularly over the last year, noting that the Police Force in public statements has repeatedly dissociated itself from any involvement in the incidents.

Alleged irregularities in the issuance of firearm licences by the Home Affairs Minister, the formation of several questionable groups under the guise of community policing groups, and the existence of death squads under the control of a senior government functionary were some of the issues outlined by the opposition leader in his three-page letter to the president.

Corbin further alluded to responses to the media by Minister Gajraj in claiming only casual acquaintance with suspected death squad gunman Axel Williams, when evidence as revealed via telephone records indicated otherwise.

According to Corbin, Gajraj's subsequent utterances when confronted with the records sought to cast a national security screen over the telephone conversations.

The opposition leader also said that intelligence reports obtained by his party suggested that the allegations made up to now are only the tip of the iceberg but further information is suggesting the existence of several other death squads.

According to Corbin, the information alleges that a senior police functionary has been assisting in "handling" these squads.

Corbin said that given the manner of the deaths of Williams and Shafeek Bacchus persons would be afraid to come forward unless there is confidence in an inquiry process.

Bacchus' murder triggered the death squad controversy after his brother George came forward and said he was the intended target of the killers. George Bacchus has not yet made a formal report to the police on his death squad allegations.

According to Corbin, "the shocking and frightening developments are harmful to the image of our country, inimical to the attraction of investment and damaging to the general development of the society."

He added, "I wish, therefore, to encourage you to act with decisiveness to establish a truly independent inquiry, which will have the confidence of all stake-holders in Guyana, to investigate the matters...Naturally, I also believe that as a prerequisite, you will ensure that the incumbent Minister of Home Affairs, by whatever means, vacates office".

However, the president in his reply told Corbin that his assertions seem to be an attempt to cast judgment on utterances which are merely allegations, while appearing to be collaborating in what seemingly is a trial by media.

The president further told the opposition leader that he expected him to ensure that the matter is handled via recourse to the established law enforcement agencies.