Death squad inquiry non-negotiable
-says Corbin about resuming engagement
Stabroek News
April 25, 2004

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The issue of state-sponsored terrorism must be totally exposed and the mounting of an inquiry into the allegations about the involvement of Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj in the activities of a death squad is non-negotiable.

PNCR leader Robert Corbin says the resumption of the engagement with Presi-dent Bharrat Jagdeo would have to be about the composition of the inquiry and its terms of reference and governance, since the Gajraj affair is but one manifestation that the present system of governance is inadequate to the needs of the society.

Corbin, who announced his party's disengagement from the talks with Jagdeo last month, yesterday refuted Jagdeo's assertion at a press conference on April 2 at the Office of the President that they had not had an opportunity to discuss the issue.

Corbin reportedly told his party's general council that he and Jagdeo had spent 40 minutes discussing the issue during which he had suggested to him how he could have dealt with it.

Corbin also denied that it was he who broke off the talks when he announced his party's disengagement from the process in his broadcast to the nation on March 24. His announcement, he said, merely recognised the reality that Jagdeo and Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon, by their pronouncements and sloth over implementing decisions had constructively disengaged him from the process.

In his broadcast too Corbin had indicated that future engagements with Jagdeo about matters of critical importance to the nation would have to include the other parliamentary parties. Since then the PNCR has been meeting several of these organisations to explain its proposal and its views on shared governance.

While a number of the leading civil society organisations have welcomed the proposal there has been no move yet by any of them to play the lead role in the initiative. Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Dr Peter deGroot told Stabroek News his organisation could not take the lead role it did in the 2002 Social Partners Initiative since the government no longer engaged his organisation in discussions about the private sector. The government has snubbed the group by leaving it out of the discussions about a business forum to be held here.

The Bar Association, another of the organisations involved in the Social Partners Initiative, is perceived by the government to be pro-PNCR and it is now headed by Khemraj Ramjattan, who the PPP expelled earlier this year. Stabroek News understands though that there is yet no consensus position among the association's executive about the role it should play.

There is some speculation that the stakeholder grouping, to which Jagdeo and Corbin through their representatives reported on the progress of the process, could be used to initiate the wider consultations. This group includes the international donor community whom observers say may not want to be seen as too overtly interfering in the country's domestic affairs.

Another issue is the number of civil society organisations in the stakeholder grouping which they believe may be too unwieldy for the purpose of the consultations, though some feel that it is a good starting point.

The government is yet to respond to Corbin's proposal and government sources have continued to indicate that Jagdeo would be making a statement shortly.