Govt. wants speedy resolution of ‘death squad’ issue
May 17, 2004
GOVERNMENT says it’s not surprised by the PNCR’s reaction to the establishment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the “death squad” allegations against Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj, but it is still hopeful that the main opposition party will acknowledge the integrity of the three Guyanese appointed to the commission and help bring a speedy resolution of the “death squad” issue.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to Cabinet, Dr. Roger Luncheon, said yesterday Government’s approach to the death squad issue is a civilized response to calls by the opposition and other “discernible Guyanese” for the administration to launch an independent and transparent investigation into allegations that Minister Gajraj has been involved in promoting, directing or otherwise engaging in activities involving extra-judicial killings.
The PNCR had also called for the Minister to step down or step aside to allay apprehensions about the compromising of the investigative process.
Minister Gajraj categorically denied the allegations against him in a statement on May 7 and he has said he was ready to proceed on leave to remove doubts about governmental interference in any investigation into the allegations.
The Commission of Inquiry consists of Justice Ian Chang, the PNCR’s selectee for the chairmanship of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC), former Deputy Police Commissioner and Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Norman Mc Lean, and former Deputy Commissioner of Police Ivan Crandon.
But the PNCR said in a statement Saturday said it was not recognizing the commission, nor would it accept the commission’s findings.
Dr. Luncheon, speaking during an interview with the Government Information Agency yesterday, echoed President Bharrat Jagdeo’s recent pronouncement that it would be presumptuous to consign the work of the Commission of Inquiry before commencement of its duties and condemned what he termed the character assassination of the panelists on the Commission.
Dr. Luncheon said the Commission should be allowed to do its work, which should and would be done under scrutiny. He believed that all who claimed to have evidence relevant to the terms of reference of the Commission should take their evidence to the tribunal.
He said the Government’s gesture ought to have been recognized as a willingness to deal comprehensively and to bring closure to the issue. He reiterated that Government’s positions are neither fixed nor cast in stone.
Reacting to the question on whether the negative reaction by opposition parties to the administration’s efforts came as a surprise, the HPS said, ‘No’. He noted that the recognition must be granted to the statements and the latest of ultimatums being given to the Guyanese public and the administration by the PNCR.
Dr. Luncheon said the resolve of the President is to act notwithstanding the PNCR’s latest position. He reiterated that provision for this approach is enshrined in the Laws of Guyana and that this approach by Government is one that is time honoured.
As it relates to the specificity of the terms of reference, Dr. Luncheon said the Administration has recognized that there had to be some kind of judgment. He said the TOR had to be specific as it relates to the Minister and had to be concentrated on the issue that the Opposition has been focusing on.
He said the decision was made as a priority that the Commission should address the Gajraj issue. He said the President’s clear-cut recognition however, is that there still remains a substantial amount of factors and issues that may very well warrant a deep seated, comprehensive inquiry.
He added there is a false perception that the Administration’s is moving only as a result of external pressures.
He said the Administration has held fast to the position that an inquiry should be conducted by the Police, but the need for a judgment call has resulted in Government’s position of flexibility. He added that the protagonists of the issue should recognise this in the interest of the nation.
The Head of the Presidential Secretariat said the Administration has recognised the condemnation of the Minister in the absence of proof and the resort to all sort of tools and mechanisms to conjure in the public mind that the Minister is guilty as charged.
Dr. Luncheon noted that in the wake of the Bacchus