Corbin tried thrice to raise death squad issue with President -Trotman
April 9, 2004
PNCR Leader Robert Corbin made three attempts to raise the death squad issue with President Bharrat Jagdeo, party MP Raphael Trotman said yesterday.
Speaking at the party's press conference, Trotman said this made the president's statement that Corbin failed to raise the issue with him "amazing". Jagdeo said at a press briefing last week Friday that Corbin failed to raise the issue with him save for a chance encounter and had he had an opportunity to meet Corbin on the issue, a possible solution could have been worked out.
However, Trotman said Corbin made three attempts to engage the government on the issue, as early as the first week of January 2004. He said at that time the PNCR spoke of the necessity for an impartial investigation into the allegations that Home Minister Ronald Gajraj was linked to a death squad. "On two of those three occasions, Mr Corbin spoke directly with President Jagdeo," Trotman said yesterday.
He said the matter was first formally raised with the government on Friday January 9, 2004, just prior to the swearing in of the Police Service Commission. Corbin spoke to Prime Minister Sam Hinds, who was performing the duties of President in Jagdeo's absence and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon.
"Both men pleaded that only President Jagdeo could deal with the matter and that the issue would have to await his return. On the said day Mr Corbin refused to remain for the swearing-in ceremony of the Police Service Commission because of the presence of Gajraj and the PNCR's position was made public," Trotman said.
According to the party, Corbin and the President met at a ceremony held on a visiting US Coast Guard vessel Gentian and had a 45-minute conversation. "Whether or not this meeting was a chance encounter is most irrelevant. The fact is that [Jagdeo] had ample opportunity to indicate his intention to seek some resolution on the matter", Trotman said.
He said on January 15, Corbin wrote to the President calling for an independent and impartial inquiry into several matters, including the allegations of a state-sponsored death squad or squads and Gajraj's alleged involvement in directing its operations. "Jagdeo's reply on January 20, 2004 was dismissive when he asked Mr Corbin to send any information to the Commissioner of Police (ag)," Trotman told reporters.
In a Government Information Agency (GINA) release yesterday, Information Liaison to the President Robert Persaud said the President is maintaining that Corbin never made use of the opportunities that the constructive engagement presented to discuss the allegations of "self-confessed informant" against the Minister of Home Affairs.
"The only time the President and Mr Corbin spoke on the issue was on the [Gentian]. [Corbin] could not term that brief and informal chat an opportunity to seriously discuss his party's concerns," Persaud said. He added that the matter was too serious an issue to be dealt with in such an off-hand manner.
Persaud said there was no indication or request in Corbin's letter for an audience with the President to discuss the matter. "Clearly [Corbin] had made up his mind and taken a position, hence his lack of interest in any discussion or discourse on the subject," Persaud said.
Persaud said since the January 15 letter, Corbin has refused to attend consultations that the President called on several national issues, including appointments in the Guyana Police Force.
"If [Corbin] was ever interested in engaging the Head of State on this issue he would have attended the consultations and used the opportunity to have his concerns addressed in a very serious and deliberate way.
The issue is now the ruse for the suspension of an integral element of the constructive engagement process - direct meetings between the President and the Leader of the Opposition," Persaud said.
Persaud said the President stands by his assertions made at the press conference on April 2.
"If we had those discussions, we might have been able to sort out some procedure that would treat all the people who were accused fairly, that they do not have a trial by the media and the public, and at the same time assure the public that the government has nothing to hide and that we are fully transparent on the matter. But there still has not been an opportunity to talk on this issue..." GINA quoted the President as saying.