April 1, 2004
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In Guyana today, the word 'Axelgate' can be coined to mean the whole series of acts and allegations surrounding the activities and affiliations of the deceased Axel Williams at the centre of which is the Minister of Home Affairs Mr Ronald Gajraj.
'Axelgate' is about conspiracy, death squads, firearms licences, kidnapping, multiple murders, narcotics, private mobile telephone conversations, and torture. It is also about abuse of office, obstruction of justice, sequestering of witnesses and compromising the Criminal Investigation Department. 'Axelgate' is about lying and an abuse of the public trust.
Citizens are very concerned about the alleged crimes, the attempted cover-up and the apparent abuse of trust which altogether constitute the single most serious ministerial scandal in the history of this country. Many questions still remain unanswered about the wave of criminal violence which swept some parts of the coast for more than a year and a half. Like a jigsaw puzzle, however, as each new piece falls into place, the picture becomes clearer.
One key event was the kidnapping of a well-known businessman; his being held in a safe house 50 metres away from the private residence of the Minister of Home Affairs; his amazing escape; and the deaths of seven persons within as many hours after that escape on 'Bloody Monday.' One week later in the 'Diwali Massacre', five more persons were executed in cold blood on a city street. Axel Williams, a 36-year-old former member of the Guyana Police Force, was said to be involved in the 'Diwali Massacre' and many more murders.
After he was killed in December last year, one daily newspaper suggested that Axel Williams had been instructed by a certain official to kill the businessman who had been held in a house near to the Minister's residence and had admitted as much to the businessman. There was little use for such a tender-hearted and talkative hit-man and Williams was soon killed by a yet unknown assailant.
But Williams was not acting on his own. Over a twelve-day period late last year, he made at least 118 calls to a mobile telephone that was used to call a certain official of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The ministry official also made several calls to Williams's mobile telephone. At the height of those telephone calls between late November and early December, six unexplained murders, one abduction, the discovery of a weapons cache and the unearthing of the skeletal remains of a missing man all occurred. Axelgate, the web of denial, deception and dishonesty, started.
As the media probed, the connection between the Minister and the murderer became clearer. In August 2002 Williams had shot dead a food vendor in broad daylight and in the full view of witnesses. Next, the recommendation of a senior lawyer in the Director of Public Prosecutions Chambers that Williams be charged with murder was amended to a recommendation that an inquest be held. Then, Acting Commissioner of Police Floyd Mc Donald authorised the upgrading of the calibre of Williams's firearm licence to allow him to replace his .32 pistol with a 9mm weapon. Asked whether he had instructed Mc Donald to give written authorisation for the upgrading of Williams's firearm licence, Gajraj responded "I don't recall doing so." This paper, however, revealed that it had acquired a copy of a letter written by Williams to McDonald in May 2003 requesting the upgrade of his firearm licence. The letter bore Gajraj's signature approving the request.
From all that the public knows, it appears that Mr Gajraj was in regular communication with Mr Williams who was a member of a 'death squad.'