President Jagdeo knew Gajraj wanted inquiry four weeks ago -government source
By Andrew Richards
May 11, 2004
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo was informed by Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, some four weeks ago of the Minister’s intention to proceed on leave to facilitate an impartial inquiry into allegations that he was linked to death squads.
This was revealed to Kaieteur News, yesterday, by an informed source close to the government when contacted by this newspaper. The source stated that no action was taken by the President on Gajraj’s decision because it came during the height of the street protests organised by the People’s Movement for Justice (PMJ). The PMJ had organised its first ‘Rule of Law’ march on March 20, in collaboration with the opposition parties ROAR, PNCR, Working People’s Alliance (WPA), trade unions and several social organisations. Two more marches were held since. The protesters were mainly calling for an independent inquiry into the allegations of Gajraj’s involvement with death squads. The source told Kaieteur News that government felt at the time that the issue was being heavily politicised, particularly by the main opposition, PNCR. The delay in the announcement was due to the PNCR’s actions over that period, the source said, as the government felt there was a lot of acrimony pervading the landscape due to the campaign being wrought by the PNCR. WPA executive, Desmond Trotman, who is also the chairman of PMJ, said yesterday that despite Gajraj’s announcement earlier this week, the PMJ will go ahead with two marches planned for Thursday and Friday. Trotman said his party remains “extremely cautious” about the course of action the government will take.
“So far, it is only Gajraj who has indicated an approach to be pursued,” he said. “We remain committed to the establishment of an impartial inquiry where the commission is made up of eminent persons. Until that happens, we will continue to believe that this is another ploy by the government to sidetrack from the focus of the restoration of the rule of law in the country.” Both marches this week will start from the Square of the Revolution.The previous marches moved off from Brickdam in front of the Parliament Buildings. The starting time for the march on Thursday is 11:00 hrs. The time for the start of the march on Friday is 15:00 hrs. Police permission has already been granted for both marches. Trotman said Gajraj’s statement is no guarantee that action will be taken by President Jagdeo to convene a commission of inquiry. “We remain apprehensive about the outcome of the issue,” he said. “We hope that the time Gajraj took to indicate his willingness to proceed with the inquiry has nothing to do with important files associated with the case.” Guyana Action Party/WPA Member of Parliament, Sheila Holder, told this newspaper that even though Gajraj has decided to accept the need for an inquiry, he should do the proper thing and recuse himself from office instead of merely proceeding on leave. “In any parliamentary democracy, that is the desired course of action for a Minister under siege, as Gajraj has been,” Holder said. “It seems to be six of one thing and half a dozen of another. It would have been a tremendous good for him to do the proper thing.” She stated that though Gajraj has indicated his willingness to President Jagdeo to proceed on leave, the onus is on the Minister to step aside to facilitate the investigation. “He should always be treated as innocent until proven guilty. But an issue like this does not require another person’s action before the one the allegations being made against steps aside. It is well within Gajraj’s purview to recuse himself after having tried to convince the public of his innocence over several weeks.” Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin has described Gajraj’s announcement as a “masquerade”. Corbin said nothing short of the President removing Gajraj from his post as Minister to facilitate an inquiry would satisfy the PNCR. The Opposition Leader said the PNCR would have no qualms if Gajraj is reinstated to his office if he is exonerated of the allegations. Ever since the murder of Shaffeek Bacchus in January this year, Gajraj has been embroiled in a bitter campaign to oust him from his position as Home Affairs Minister until an inquiry clears him of the allegations.
This followed allegations by Bacchus’ brother, George Bacchus that the Minister was integrally involved in a death squad that was responsible for the death of his brother and the disappearance and murder of countless young men.