Killing squad allegations
Enough evidence to justify probe -Corbin says in response to Jagdeo letter
January 23, 2004
PNCR leader Robert Corbin says there is sufficient evidence to warrant an immediate investigation into allegations linking Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, with an alleged killing squad.
Corbin said yesterday that President Bharrat Jagdeo's request for formal reports to be given to the police to facilitate an investigation suggests that the government has something to hide.
"Instead of dealing with the matter decisively he first claimed that there was insufficient information [but] three men have been charged with murder on the basis of the same allegations," the Opposition Leader said.
President Jagdeo's request was in response to a letter written by Corbin, who has demanded decisive action by the government on the recent explosive disclosures about the existence of a death squad and its alleged ties to Gajraj. He has also led calls for a public enquiry into the allegations.
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 which Corbin says, in his letter to the president, necessitate an enquiry.
At the PNCR's weekly press briefing yesterday, Corbin told reporters that the President's response is irresponsible and an attempt to intimidate would-be informants by the suggestion that further reports should be made to the police.
"Naturally, many persons who have information would, given the manner of deaths of Axel Williams and Shafeek Bacchus, be afraid to come forward," he said in his letter.
"Unless," he added, "there is confidence in any inquiry to be established."
Corbin also said that the PNCR supports the call for amnesty from prosecution to persons who want to come forward with useful evidence.
PNCR Member of Parliament Raphael Trotman pointed out that formal statements are not necessary for a public enquiry.
But he said if an investigation is announced, witnesses will come forward. However, Trotman said, the PNCR does not envisage an investigation that is conducted by the police, since allegations have also been made about complicity between members of the force and the killing squad. He said it is telling that George Bacchus approached the American Embassy rather than the local law enforcement authorities.
Corbin said it is also inconceivable that such an investigation can be conducted while the minister, who is one of the subjects of the investigation, remains the political head of the investigating agency.
He has led a call for the minister to resign to facilitate an investigation. Similar calls have been made by other political parties, including the WPA, ROAR and members of the trades union fraternity like the TUC and the GPSU.
Caribbean journalist Ricky Singh, has also said that Gajraj "should seriously consider offering his resignation... while all relevant investigations are being thoroughly pursued." He said this was required given the very serious allegations and their implications for the rule of law.
The head of state in his reply to Corbin had said that the disclosures were merely allegations being transmitted via the media. But Corbin yesterday noted that there are still several unsolved murders and he suggested that the police should, if they are indeed investigating, be concerned about the statements in the media.
In shocking disclosures two weeks ago, George Bacchus confessed that he was once an informant for a killing squad that was responsible for the murders of several wanted men and suspected criminals over the last 18 months.
He also said that Minister Gajraj was aware of the activities of the group's members, who he implicated in the drive-by shooting that resulted in his brother, Shafeek Bacchus' death.
George Bacchus did give a formal statement about the murder to the police, who were directed to institute charges against three men who voluntarily turned themselves over to the authorities after they were identified.