George Bacchus killing
Major parties level accusations at each other
June 25, 2004
THE main opposition PNCR is holding the government responsible for the execution of self-confessed death squad informant, George Bacchus. This charge was dismissed as “wild and unsubstantiated” by the PPP.
Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon described the attack by the PNCR on the administration as “inveterate” and “provocative”. He accused the party of being bent on starting another round of unfounded allegations against the government.
Dr Luncheon called on the PNCR to provide whatever evidence it has to the police and the public instead of casting aspersions. But the PNCR said that it has submitted to the police two affidavits said to have been sworn to by the dead man along with a video-tape of an interview which the party contends that Bacchus gave.
“We urge all informed parties in possession of information [related to the Bacchus issue] to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities,” Dr Luncheon said. “I repeat the call to ignore wild speculation and irresponsible utterances of the opposition.”
He stated that the administration is resolved to conduct the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the allegations of Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj’s links to death squads despite Bacchus’s death.
PNCR leader, Robert Corbin also called on Police Commissioner Winston Felix to immediately launch an investigation into the murder and conspiracy to murder, following Bacchus’s execution-style killing early yesterday morning while he was still asleep in bed.
And the ruling PPP in a statement issued yesterday, said that it is appalled over the attempts by the PNCR to link it to Bacchus’s murder. The PPP condemned Bacchus’s killing and also called for an investigation into the death. The party said this is all the more necessary in order to cut the ground from under opposition elements bent on making political capital out of narrow partisan interests.
The PPP stated categorically that at no time was it involved in any attempt to tamper with the investigative processes set up by President Jagdeo.
The party said: “The PPP has found it more than passing strange that the PNC waited until the death of Mr. Bacchus to bring to the public domain, information allegedly made with respect to sworn affidavits allegedly made by Mr. Bacchus. One is left to wonder whether the PNC is taking advantage of the dead in its nefarious attempt to indict the PPP administration in phantom charges over which there is no credible evidence”.
The PPP said it is confident that such attempts by the PNCR would be seen as yet another ploy to discredit the ruling party in the eyes of the local and international community. “The PPP therefore calls on the people of Guyana not to allow themselves to be deceived by a group of power-hungry elements hell-bent on sowing the seeds of destruction and conflict in its desire to bring the government on its knees.”
The Parliamentary opposition parties met yesterday to discuss the recent development in the death squad issue.
Bacchus was the first to come forward with the allegations in January this year after his brother was executed outside his Princes Street home. The PNCR noted, in a statement yesterday, that Bacchus was one of the key witnesses to the operations of alleged ‘state-sponsored’ death squads.
The party said that Bacchus has provided the public with information over the past months implicating several high-level Government officials in the operations of alleged death squads.
It recalled that during that time, Bacchus had received serious threats to his life and the lives of his family. It said that he had publicly stated that he had become a target by agents of the State.
The PNCR also recalled that two weeks ago, Bacchus revealed in a video recording and in sworn affidavits that he was terrorised by agents of the State and Minister Gajraj into making a statement exonerating the Minister and that he had complied in order “to live a little longer.”
“The People’s National Congress Reform therefore has no doubt that the execution of Bacchus was a deliberate attempt to silence him and to protect those who have been implicated in the death squad operations,” the party said. In its previous press statement, the PNCR had made public its concerns over attempts by the state to tamper with witnesses since the announcement of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry.
“Mr. Bacchus’s execution clearly demonstrates the extent to which those implicated are willing to go to protect themselves. This latest political killing is clearly an attempt by the PPP/C Government to cover its tracks and to scare away other potential witnesses.”
However, Dr Luncheon told reporters yesterday that apart from extreme actions by the PNCR and some of its ‘acolytes’, there has been some acceptance of the Commission of Inquiry but for the debate over the Terms of Reference and the eligibility of one of its members.
He said that these matters have taken some time to resolve pending the outcome of legal advice on the issues.
“The untimely death of Mr. Bacchus could not have any impact on the Commission of Inquiry. The administration has taken a public posture about its commitment to the inquiry,” he said.
He declared that there was still information out there as claimed by persons, particularly by the PNCR, which he said has sparked a commitment “to get to the bottom of the issue.”
He stated that there are reasonable people who would understand that the issues, which arose after President Bharrat Jadgeo’s announcement of the Commission on May 14, have to be addressed.
When asked why the State did not offer protection to Bacchus, given that he was an important witness in the Commission of Inquiry, Dr Luncheon said that arrangement would have had to be worked out between the self-confessed informant and law enforcement.
He said that it was up to law enforcement or the potential witness to recognise the need for protection and either side could have proposed the arrangement. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary opposition parties agreed that the ruthless silencing of Bacchus has moved the death squad issue to a new and dangerous level and reinforced their view that a Commission of Inquiry that did not, as a minimum, ensure the safety of witnesses, would be little or more than a farce.
“It must be said that under all the existing circumstances and particularly following the statements of Bacchus aired on television, the failure of the police authorities to provide protection to this key witness is remarkable and cries out for explanation,” the parties GAP/WPA, PNCR and ROAR said in a joint statement, yesterday.
Representatives at the meeting were also of the view that had the government moved expeditiously to establish a credible commission that conformed to international standards, Bacchus’s murder might have been prevented.
The parties called on the people of Guyana and the international community to take note of the rapid degeneration as the country slides further into chaos and State failure.