Stage set for `death squad’ inquiry
Guyana Chronicle
July 16, 2004

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THE three-man Presidential Commission appointed to investigate allegations that Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj was involved with a `death squad’, has been empanelled and logistics almost completed for the team to begin its work.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, at his weekly post-Cabinet media briefing Wednesday, said there has been progress since the commission was empanelled.

“The Office of the President now expects that the fullest possible support and cooperation be given to the Commission in the discharge of its mandate.

“Importantly, those who have sought to question the President and to agitate on that issue would have been able to re-assess their earlier position in light of this development,” Luncheon said.

Former Chancellor, Chief Justice and Attorney General under the PNC government, Keith Massiah, SC, took the oath of office Monday in the presence of President Bharrat Jagdeo at the Office of the President.

He joined Chairman of the Commission Justice of Appeal, Ian Chang, SC and the other member, former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Major General Norman McLean.

“The necessary logistical preparations have almost all been completed and the Commission would soon publicise the outstanding details,” Luncheon told reporters.

President Jagdeo conferred the Instruments of Commission on two of the three Commissioners on July 2, since Mr. Massiah was out of the country at the time. He returned to Guyana last Thursday.

Massiah replaces retired Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ivan Crandon, current Chairman of the Police Service Commission, who was initially named as the third member of the Commission. He was substituted following concerns raised by some groups.

The appointment of the commission on May 14 last followed Gajraj's public announcement on May 7 that he had requested from President Jagdeo, permission to proceed on leave to allow for an impartial investigation into claims that he knew about the operations of an alleged death squad.

The main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and other groups had demanded Gajraj’s resignations as the allegations swirled.

The `death squad’ or `Phantom Gang’ has been blamed for the deaths of several known and dangerous criminals linked to a crime wave in Georgetown and along the coast between 2002 and 2003.

Self-confessed `death squad’ informant, George Bacchus, 51, was shot dead in his bed in Georgetown late last month and three persons, including the reputed wife of a man charged with murdering his younger brother, have been charged with the killing.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) said the commission, after meeting this week, will decide when it will begin work.

Gajraj proceeded on leave on July 2 to allow for the investigation to be conducted and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Ms. Gail Teixeira will hold the post in his absence.