After murder - comes a long-awaited `statement’
Troubling questions for urgent answers
By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
June 27, 2004

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IT MAY be a spectacular coincidence, but in a country where conspiracy theories abound, the challenge belongs to the People's National Congress Reform to explain why it was only possible to hand over to the police within nine hours AFTER the murder of George Bacchus a sworn affidavit the slain death squad informant is said to have made, as well as a taped statement by him.

Why the long, long wait to give to the police such information, and only after the death of the man whose claims had fuelled so much controversies and tension?

Both the Bharrat Jagdeo administration and Robert Corbin's PNCR have much at stake in the outcome of a thorough police probe into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Bacchus - the key figure in allegations of a killing spree by a phantom death squad, and his contradictory claims about the involvement of Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj.

For more than four months the PNCR has been making politics with Bacchus' allegations of death squad killings and claimed involvement of Minister Gajraj.

For all the media coverage provided, some with sensational claims, neither Bacchus nor the PNCR thought it appropriate to make available to the police EVIDENCE they claimed to possess in support of the allegations that have so tarnished Guyana's image.

Instead, the 51-year-old Bacchus chose to go into hiding with his claim that he was fearful for his life. The police kept appealing to him to turn up with his lawyer(s) if necessary to make a statement in support of his death squad allegations and assured him of protection. But he refused to cooperate.

The PNCR, on the other hand, seized the opportunity of the death squad controversy to mount anti-government protests, demanded the resignation of Minister Gajraj and wrote to diplomatic missions, CARICOM and the United Nations.

But it also refused to share with the Police Commissioner or the Director of Public Prosecutions ANY evidence for justice to take its course.

For its part, the government, after pussy-footing for too long, finally announced last month the establishment of a three-member Presidential Commission to probe the death squad allegations and claimed involvement of Home Affairs Minister Gajraj.

Questions quickly arose about possible conflict of interest involving one of the named commissioners and that was to cause a further delay in the probe by the Presidential Commission.

Showtime on TV
Later, within the past two weeks, PPP/C parliamentarian, Shirley Edwards, went public with a statement disclosing that George Bacchus, her neighbour of long standing, had made a statement confessing to some false accusations against Minister Gajraj.

She subsequently said she would make available that information to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. But she was also quickly faced with hostility from PNCR activists, as reported.

For the PNCR, in contrast, it was showtime on the party-linked Channel 9 television with Mr. Corbin interviewing Bacchus, a man wanted by the police for crimes committed, and also needed to provide a statement to the police about his sensational claims of death squad killings and a ministerial connection. It was not a live interview.

Writing in this column on May 23, under the title `Bluffing politics in death squad probe’, following the announcement of the Presidential Commission, I stated:

"Let none be so politically obtuse - whatever his or her ethnicity or political affiliation - that if it is really in possession of incriminating evidence, the PNCR would want to miss a good opportunity to expose Minister Gajraj and, by extension, create serious problems for the government.”

"If therefore", I added, "it is not bluffing, the PNCR must deliver on its allegations instead of rushing off letters to the United Nations and refusing to cooperate with the police investigations...."

Well, the PNCR was still in the mood of non-cooperation with the police in the case involving George Bacchus and his death squad allegations, plus "information" that the party also claimed to have otherwise obtained.

The PNCR and sections of the local media apparently knew more about the whereabouts of George Bacchus than the police.

Commissioner Felix
Indeed, if we are to be guided by Police Commissioner Winston Felix's comments to the local media last Thursday, following the murder of the self-confessed death squad informant, they could not have afforded him any protection since he did not wish to be in contact with them.

If, as Bacchus and the PNCR have more than suggested, rogue cops were involved in death squad killings, as well as some "business" people, this cannot be a valid excuse for failing to provide any police officer of their choice with whatever evidence they claimed to possess in order to help the course of justice.

This was not done - until hours after Bacchus was killed.

Are we to believe that the Guyana Police Force, which had been so cooperative with the PNC during its 24 years in power, has become so corrupt that it cannot be trusted with a written statement from an individual like George Bacchus, or by the PNC itself? This is too bizarre to believe.

Strangely, however, after making politics with this national issue for some FOUR MONTHS, without going to the police with any information, the PNCR found feet and hands - within nine hours of the murder of Bacchus - to travel and deliver to Police Commissioner Felix what it said was a sworn Affidavit by Bacchus and also a taped statement by the deceased.

It may be a coincidence also that on Thursday to Friday, the current Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, was on official business in Guyana that included meetings with President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Corbin, whose party had earlier called on the Community to deal with the death squad controversy. CARICOM, of course, could not act in the absence of credible evidence.

Perhaps Corbin or the Community Secretariat should be able to tell the Guyanese and wider Caribbean public if any evidence in support of the allegations of ministerial involvement in death squad killings of criminals was ever made available to CARICOM, or any of its Heads of Government, and if so, when?

For now, the police must be left to thoroughly investigate the murder of Bacchus and carefully consider and act, as necessary, on the Affidavit and taped statement the PNCR submitted to Commissioner Felix - only AFTER the shooting death of the controversial death squad informant.

The big question remains: who killed George Bacchus?

The number and composition of those already questioned and/or arrested, among them cops and relatives, have certainly heightened interest in the current police probe.