Killing squad probe
DFC, parliament not appropriate for a -PNCR
Stabroek News
January 30, 2004

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The PNCR says it will never call for the unfair prosecution of any public official but it has rejected the notion that either the Disciplined Forces Commission or a Parliamen-tary Sector Committee is competent to inquire into the allegations linking Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj with a killing squad.

The PNCR insists that only a broad-based impartial commission of inquiry can conduct such an investigation and before this happens Gajraj must resign and potential witnesses guaranteed some sort of amnesty and protection.

The party's calls came in the face of suggestions that a Parliamentary Sector Com-mittee or the Disciplined Forces Commission should be tasked with the responsibility of investigating the matter. Yesterday's Stabroek News quoted President of the Guyana Bar Association, Khemraj Ramjattan, as saying that the structures for an independent probe of the death squad allegations were already in place. "We just have to utilise the institutions that we already have in place... we should not create institutions and bypass them."

Ramjattan suggested that the Social Services Com-mitee should meet immediately and summon the minister to answer questions about the allegations.

But speaking at his party's weekly press conference yesterday, PNCR leader Robert Corbin said neither of the two suggestions would work.

He said the sector committees are dominated by the ruling PPP/C Members of Parliament, while the government has already indicated that it would not be bound by the DFC report if Harold Lutchman continues to sit on the commission as a replacement for Irish-born Human Rights activist Maggie Beirne who resigned last year.

"The reliance on the parliamentary sector committees will therefore be playing into the hands of the PPPC or in colloquial terms, 'trying the devil's case in hell.'"

Corbin said his party would like to see an investigating body set up, which was approved by all Guyanese, comprising people who have no connection with the government or Police Force. According to him, the body should not be restricted to Guyanese and suggested that international organisations, if possible, be included.

"What we don't want is a body hand-picked by the President or the PPP.

We need people who are respected by all and who could be trusted..." to do a thorough job, Corbin said.

Additionally, he said, investigations should not only be limited to George Bacchus' allegations made against Gajraj, adding that his party has information about other death squads and has persons who are willing to testify but who are afraid of reprisals.

Bacchus went public with the allegations a few days after his brother Shafeek Bacchus was executed in front of his Princes street, Lodge home. George Bacchus told the media he had spent his own money to provide information for the death squad. He said he was the intended target on the night of his brother's demise.

Corbin said the persons his party knew, who had information about the death squads and other allegations, would only speak out if there was some sort of amnesty for them.

He said too that a witness protection system should also be employed.

With regard to other allegations, Corbin told the media his party has information on irregularities in the issuance of firearms and the granting of firearm licences, the formation of several questionable groups under guise of community policing and the existence of death squads alleged to be under the control of senior government functionaries among other issues.

Corbin said if the government was serious about investigating the matter it would move swiftly, "stand down" Gajraj and proceed with the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Chief Whip, Lance Carberry said that the PNCR thus far has been carefully and diligently modulated to give the government every opportunity to do the right thing. But based on the recent responses of the government it will have to intensify its actions.

Carberry noted that the party has since launched a series of public meetings which will conclude tomorrow evening at the Well Site on Mandela Avenue.

He said the party's General Council meeting tomorrow will review the current situation in the country and, in particular, decide on its future relations with the government at all levels.