The George Bacchus killing Editorial
Stabroek News
June 27, 2004

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The question to which every rational person wants an answer at this point in time, is who killed George Bacchus? A lot of people have already come to a conclusion before the various possibilities have even been properly explored. However, in these uncertain times when emotion runs high, and reason is at a low ebb, one hopes that those who lead at whatever level in this land, will speak in measured cadences and not high-decibel rhetoric when they address this question.

Of all the possibilities for the perpetrators of the killing, maybe the least likely is the one that it was committed for personal reaons by someone who is unconnected to any of the players in the larger death squad drama. Having said that, however, in the domain of human affairs and in the absence of hard evidence ad interim, an open mind should always be kept that the outside chance is, bizarrely, the right one.

Prima facie, however, the fact that Mr Bacchus expressed fear of being killed, and then was killed, would lend support to the supposition that at least some critical portions of his story had credence, and someone or people affected by his statements wanted him silenced. In a politically charged atmosphere, allegations have already been made against the Government - unfairly so, since it is almost impossible to conceive of the Cabinet, for example, sitting down to its Tuesday meeting calmly discussing a hit on Mr Bacchus.

Similarly, it is unlikely that the governing party, qua party, would have sat around the table at Freedom House plotting an assassination attempt. In addition to other obvious reasons, there is a sufficient number of experienced politicians in Freedom House, who would have instantly recognized that the worst thing for the PPP at this time, would have been the murder of Mr Bacchus. All of this is not to rule out, of course, that some renegade element in the administrative echelons of this country is not compromised where this matter is concerned at some level. But as with the other hypotheses, we would have to await the publication of the evidence before we could entertain any conclusions one way or another on that score.

One believable thesis is that it was those connected with the death squad who arranged the killing. Unlike the politicians, they do not concern themselves with political consequences, neither are they inhibited by ethical considerations. However, here again, the fact that they are obvious suspects, does not mean that in actuality they were the perpetrators.

In short, while there are pointers to the directions in which we could start looking, no one at this stage knows the truth. It is irresponsible, therefore, to behave as if the facts were incontrovertible. The only incontrovertible fact at this point is that Mr Bacchus is dead. Since we have a new Commissioner of Police, who has assured the public that he will follow the evidence wherever it leads, let us give the police space to do their job, and let us not preempt their conclusions. Perhaps they will find something, and perhaps they won't, but do not let us operate as if public speculation were an acceptable substitute for a thorough police investigation.

Which brings us to the politicians. Dr Luncheon, for one, does not appear to have recognized that the little world of Guyana has suddenly and dramatically changed. The killing of Mr Bacchus has reinforced the way in which the man in the street perceives the events which preceded it; he has connected up the dots of the raw data in the story, and has made up his mind 'whodunnit.' This is not in any way to suggest that this 'joining the dots' has elicited the truth about the murder itself - as stated above, we do not know what that is as yet - it is merely to observe that the entire sequence of events creates an unfortunate appearance for the ruling party/Government, which is damaging to its reputation.

Dr Luncheon's belief, therefore, that we can still press ahead with a Commission of Inquiry as announced by the President, after the chief witness has been assassinated is at the very least, totally unrealistic. Mr Bacchus was the main source of the allegations against the minister, and given the fact too that any other potential witnesses will now be dissuaded from coming forward since there are no arrangements in place to protect them, the whole exercise will be nothing short of a farce. Surely it does not need to be spelt out to the administration the folly of holding an inquiry which lacks credibility.

The Government needs to move quickly to approach the parliamentary opposition - through an intermediary if necessary - for an agreement on a commission with a more comprehensive mandate, etc, not just to calm the situation, but also in its own interest to do something to counter the unfavourable impression which the events between January and June culminating in Mr Bacchus's killing, have created in the public mind.

And then there is the PNCR, which needs urgently to try and stop its angry supporters from going out onto the streets disrupting commerce as they did on Friday. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The party's leadership has to fan out to explain to its constituency that it must work under the umbrella of the People's Movement for Justice; there has to be a common front on this issue, and violence is not an option. Apart from anything else, this time the leadership will probably not be able to control the situation if instability develops.

Both the major parties must recognize that this situation has the potential to move us into dangerous terrain. There are still elements out there on the fringes of the political firmament which may well be waiting for their opportunity, and both the PPP/C and the PNCR will lose if an arena is created which leaves room for them to operate. Is it really too much to ask of the political leaders on both sides to allow rationality to prevail for once?