Guyana 'hit squad' row offer
Opposition leaders have demanded an inquiry
May 8, 2004
Guyana's interior minister has offered to step down to allow an inquiry into allegations that he ran a death squad.
Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj bowed to opposition demands, agreeing to leave his post temporarily to allow a "clear and impartial" investigation.
He and the government of President Bharrat Jagdeo have denied involvement in the "Phantom Gang" which allegedly killed criminal suspects.
"I wish to be cleared categorically," said Mr Gajraj in a televised speech.
"I've never acted contrary to the laws of Guyana."
He said he was acting "to end this smear campaign against me and to thwart a concerted campaign to bring the entire government into disrepute".
There was no immediate indication as to whether Mr Jagdeo would accept the resignation and open the inquiry.
The impoverished South American country of 770,000 people has been experiencing a severe crime wave.
There were more than 160 killings in 2002, and 210 in 2003, compared to an average previously of about 50 killings a year.
Opposition groups say The Phantom Gang has gunned down several well-known criminals over the last year, at the behest of the government.
The opposition walked out of parliament last month, vowing not to return until an independent investigation was set up.
Opposition parties have written to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asking for assistance in getting an inquiry under way.
The United States and Canada have revoked Mr Gajraj's tourist visa and called for an impartial inquiry.