George Bacchus murder
Death squad issue at new, dangerous level -opposition statement
Stabroek News
June 25, 2004

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The murder of George Bacchus has been described by the three opposition parliamentary parties as taking the death squad issue to a new and dangerous level.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement yesterday, the PNCR said it "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". Bacchus had said that he was an informant for a death squad.

The PNCR contended that the murder was political and confirmed Bacchus' own initial belief that he was the real target of the drive-by shooting that killed his brother at the start of the year.

The statement added that the party's leader Robert Corbin yesterday submitted two affidavits sworn to by Bacchus and a video recording of an interview he did, to the Police Commissioner Winston Felix.

It was noted that while Bacchus has been giving public information about the operations of the death squad, he received several serious threats to his life and the lives of his family.

The party revealed that in the video recording and the affidavit Bacchus said he had been terrorised by agents of the state into making a statement exonerating the minister and that he complied to live a little longer.

Last week Bacchus told Stabroek News he had been paid to recant his allegations in an interview he did with a Government Information Agency officer at the home of a PPP MP.

"Mr. Bacchus' 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 scare away potential witnesses," the PNCR statement said.

The PPP however, while condemning the murder said it was appalled by the main opposition's attempt to link it to his death.

"The PPP is appalled over attempts by the PNCR to link it to the murder of self-confessed informant George Bacchus at his home...", the party said in a press statement. The party called for an immediate investigation into Bacchus' death, saying that it is necessary in order to cut the ground from under opposition elements bent on making political capital out of narrow partisan interests.

It also called on the main opposition party to desist from making wild and unsubstantiated allegations and said such action is another attempt to discredit the government in the local and international communities.

"The PPP therefore calls on the people of Guyana not to allow themselves to be deceived by a group of power hungry elements that is hell bent on sowing seeds of destruction and conflict..."

Meanwhile, the ROAR Guyana Movement also condemned the murder, adding that in the context of the proposed commission of inquiry it demonstrates that there should have been provisions for a witness protection programme. The party also reaffirmed its position that the terms of reference and scope of the proposed panel is flawed.

"Against the background of allegations of a volatile mixture of politics, drugs and corruption, the murder of Bacchus should remind us that we are not playing tiddlywinks," ROAR noted.

"We await the PPP government's response to this latest outrage and hope that even at this late hour it will be willing to arrive at a just framework for addressing the issue of death squads and the violence on the East Coast," it added.

Later, the parliamentary opposition parties: the PNCR, GAP/WPA and ROAR issued a joint statement after meeting to discuss the circumstances surrounding Bacchus' death.

The parties agreed that the ruthless murder of the ex-informant has moved the death squad issue to a new and dangerous level and it reinforced their view that a commission of inquiry that did not as a minimum ensure the safety of witnesses would be little more than a farce.

"It must be said that under 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 representatives at the meeting also held the view that had the government moved expeditiously to establish a credible commission that conformed to international standards, the murder might have been prevented.

They also called on the people of the country and international community to take note of the rapid degeneration as the country slides further into chaos and state failure.