No Gajraj resignation, no statement -Corbin stresses
Says PNCR will step-up protest
January 28, 2004
Different tactics: Led by PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin, protesters took their demonstration in front of the Office of President yesterday as they continued to demand that Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj resign. (Jules Gibson photo)
Unless Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj resigns to allow an independent commission to investigate allegations made against him, PNCR supporters will not be inclined to give any evidence.
Leader of the PNCR and of the Opposition, Robert Cor-bin, made this statement yesterday while on a picket line in front of the Office of the President, as his party continues to demand Gajraj's resignation and an inquiry into the operations of the so-called killing squad.
The allegations of the existence of such a squad surfaced after the drive-by shooting death of Shafeek Bacchus on January 5. Bacchus's brother George Bacchus later said he knew who the killers were and went on to say that Gajraj knew about the squad. He also gave statements to US regional law enforcement officials and the media on the squad's activities.
Since then the PNCR and other groups have been calling on the government to investigate the matter. But on Sunday, at a village meeting in Annandale, President Bharrat Jagdeo declared that he would not be forced into "lynching" his minister without any credible evidence. The head of state noted that Corbin had written to him indicating that he had evidence to support the existence of other squads, but had not provided the evidence. Jagdeo said since Corbin has not done so, he was either lying or withholding information and he should not be doing either as the opposition leader.
Asked to comment on the President's comments, Corbin said yesterday that Jagdeo's statement was one of the methods the government was using to try and trivialise the matter. According to Corbin, his party has already given the government enough time to act but because of its response so far, a stepped-up approach would be taken. He said the government has been daring the PNCR to mobilise its full strength, something which his party does not want to do because of its new strategy in dealing with certain matters. However, he warned that because of the government's casual approach, the PNCR would take its protest to a new level. He said yesterday that picketing in front of OP was only one of the many things which would be done if Gajraj continues to hold public office. The party has already organised a series of public meetings in Agricola, Albouystown, Kitty, Tucville, Robb and Bourda streets and at the Well Site, Mandela Avenue. These meetings would be run off between today and Saturday and according to a PNCR member, will discuss the party's approach to the "Gajraj affair".
Corbin told reporters yesterday that when the PNCR launched its protest, it was hoping that good sense would prevail. He said Jagdeo's response as a President was lame and an insult to the people he represented. According to the PNCR leader, when he wrote to the President he had outlined eight issues which are good enough to demand an investigation. He said the acting Commissioner of Police's recent call for him to provide evidence was a waste of time.
Corbin charged that ever since Bacchus made the allegations, he had been in touch with the police who had ample time to gather the evidence from him. Instead, they waited until the man disappeared and are now calling for him to come forward.
"It's time Guyanese stand up for what is right. We will take the lead but other decent-minded citizens have to come on board," Corbin said.
The PNCR leader noted too that even if people were willing to come forward and provide information their security would be at risk. He said because policemen were reportedly involved in the squad and Gajraj is known for interfering with the Police Force it would be counter-productive to have the same institution conduct the inquiry. Jagdeo had insisted on Sunday that any investigation into a death squad had to be carried out by the Police Force, which is the lawful agency.
Corbin said his party has written to countries that have ties with Guyana and has also sent copies of its statements to all of the local embassies and Caricom.
Meanwhile, the protesters, who were mainly women, converged in front of OP unknown to the police who came several minutes after. They marched, waved placards, chanted and sang songs as they kept up a lively two-hour picket. Their move in front of OP yesterday was a tactic which they had not employed since they began marching. However, once word of the protest spread, policemen arrived in droves. Barricades were thrown up on Vlissengen road, New Garden Street and South road. Three police officers manned each barricade and senior ranks supervised. Extra care was taken in the OP compound. Presidential Guards stood in front of the gate with their guns at the ready. The protest, which was led by Corbin, was orderly unlike the notorious one on July 3, 2002 when a band of unruly persons stormed the OP gate. Two persons were killed as chaos erupted inside and outside the compound.