Pressure group calls for death squad inquiry

Stabroek News
March 1, 2004

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A group of organisations and citizens has urged the President to consider the creation of an independent inquiry into the death squad allegations. The People's Movement for Justice (PMJ), convened by Desmond Trotman, is also seeking an investigation into the procedures relating to the granting of firearm licences and the credentials of people who have been sworn in as supernumerary policemen within the last three years.

"If the integrity of your government is to be salvaged, the time to act is now," the PMJ says in a letter to President Bharrat Jagdeo, dated February 18. The PMJ describes itself as a broad-based coalition, encompassing a wide range of concerned organisations and individuals which are concerned about the disintegration of the rule of law [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in Guyana. There have been growing calls for an independent investigation into the activities of an alleged death squad, based on allegations made by self-confessed ex-informant to the group George Bacchus.

Bacchus [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in statements to the US Embassy and the local media implicated several prominent businessmen and members of the police force for their part in the group's activities. He has also said the Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj was aware of the group's activities. Garaj [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] has dismissed the allegations. In the PMJ's letter to the President, it is noted that even if Bacchus' allegations are taken at their lowest credibility, they do raise serious concerns when juxtaposed with other circumstances. This would include the relationship between Gajraj and suspected gang member Axel Williams [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] ; the death of Shafeek Bacchus; the suspicions about the death of Mark Thomas [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] ; and the bizarre circumstances surrounding the course of action that was adopted subsequent to the shooting of Rodwell Ogle by Axel Williams, the letter states. "[They] all cry out for investigation and explanation [and] these in our considered opinion can only be provided through or by means of an independent inquiry."

"We trust... that you would accede to the people's wishes for an independent inquiry outside of the jurisdiction and control of the Guyana Police Force," they asked Jagdeo. "We also consider it imperative that the minister be made to resign to facilitate the holding of such an inquiry."