MOVING FORWARD WITH THE INQUIRY
By Robert Persaud
July 11, 2004
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The Guyana Human Rights Association after the May 14, 2004 Commission of
Inquiry announcement of the President of Guyana said that the earlier and total rejection by the main opposition of the Inquiry was “premature.” However, the group raised concerns about the inclusion of the current Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mr. Ivan Crandon. This concern was echoed by others who wanted to make a constructive in put to resolve the situation, which the opposition has manipulated from a law and order one to naked political agitation.
President Jagdeo was not dismissive of the constructive comments about the Commission after his May 14 statement. While the main opposition party and its leader attacked the members of the Commission and questioned their loyalty to the country, the administration was seeking ways of addressing the issues raised by those with constructive contribution. The President carefully weighed the situation and took a position consistent with the spirit of compromise and flexibility as demonstrated by his July 2 follow up statement and action – finalising the Commission of Inquiry.
The individuals who have been identified for the Commission are Guyanese who have served in various levels of the legal and security sectors. They worked either for or under the PNC regime. The new member, Mr. Keith Massiah, other than being a former Chancellor of the Judiciary was the PNC’s last Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs. Various public statements have elaborated on the relevant experience of the Chairman Justice Ian Chang and Major General (r’td) Norman MacLean.
Faced with public and international acceptance of the Commissioners, those who have rejected these citizens have had to change course. As mentioned before, the members of the Commission are all capable of defending their background and commitment to serve on a body intended to address an issue of national importance.
There was a refocusing of the argument from the competence, loyalty and dedication of the members to the scope of the Commission. Certainly, these individuals would not agree to a mission, which they are uncomfortable with or incapable of serving to the best of their competence. They would not support any farcical exercise.
Failed in convincing anyone that the Commission should not proceed because of its composition, the next claim was that the terms of reference were too narrow.
The opposition view was that the inquiry should not focus on the allegations against the Minister of Home Affairs. Hello there!!! This ridiculous position was as funny as it was revealing of the fervent desire to frustrate the Commission from getting off the ground. The entire country recalls that the opposition campaign was based on the allegations against the government minister. Everyone remembers the call of the opposition PNCR for the resignation/removal of the Minister of Home Affairs and the vulgar protests outside his office and private residence. It is the allegations against the
Minister of Home Affairs, which was the main reason for the agitation. It was the Minister who offered to go on leave to allow for the President to set up mechanisms to investigate the allegations against him.
The President, in anticipation of this strange line, asserted in his May 14 announcement: “…an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the February 23, 2002 jail-break, the plight of victims of the criminal violence and political linkages to the 2002/2003 crime wave will be seriously considered.”
There is much obvious merit with a focused terms of reference: “Whether and to what extent there is evidence of a credible nature to support the allegations that the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, has been involved in promoting, directing or otherwise engaging in activities which have involved the extra-judicial killing of person.”
Let’s not to obfuscate the original issue as we try to a hasty retreat after boxing oneself in the corner.
The Chairman and the Commission will determine its own procedures. The President has assured that there will be no interference, but full cooperation. The Minister of Home Affairs has proceeded on special leave. The work of the Commission should commence once the third member Mr. Massiah is sworn in. The Commission must be allowed to do its work.
The time for vulgar and uncalled for political agitation is over. According to the laws of Guyana, the President is not obligated to consult in setting up the Commission. He did listen to other views and concerns and acted accordingly. The decision of the PNCR to return to Parliament to pursue its issues rather than on the streets is welcomed. The disrespect for Parliament by running in and out of it for political convenience must cease if one is truly interested in the promotion of a law based society.
The Government has shown its desire to move forward by fulfilling its commitment to the political opposition and more importantly, all the people of Guyana. The tabling and Parliamentary review of the report of the Disciplined Forces Commission report, which was chaired by Justice Chang, is another example of forward movement.
There is little gain from political posturing and more to achieve from mature and genuine political cooperation.