Will Ravi Dev recuse himself again?
July 4, 2004
Just over three years ago, and long before the February 23, 2002 jailbreak, the Guyana Police Force issued a statement that pointed to a clear plot to use criminal activity as a political weapon. The Guyana Police Force on June 29, 2001 issued a statement in which it said that its intelligence sources had revealed “a clear pattern of criminal activities designed to create a climate of instability in the country".
The police went on to point out that "questionable characters had been recruited to carry out criminal activities during the course of the protest demonstrations, utilising the enabling environment, which was being created".
It further suggested that the targets of these attacks were selective and gave examples of incidents involving victims, most of whom were East Indians.
The rest is now history. We all know what happened from 2001 to 2004. But a more detailed study of this period needs to be undertaken if we are going to get to the root of the violence that plagued this country and which have left us worse off. The best way to address this bleak period in our country’s history would have been a full-fledged commission of inquiry.
President Bharrat Jagdeo last Friday swore in two members of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the allegations over his Minister of Home Affairs. And while the terms of reference fall far short of what Ravi Dev had demanded, he himself should recognise the link between the death squad and the criminal-political violence beginning just after the 2001 elections.
Dev should therefore testify about this link and thus force the commission to deal with the overall scheme of violence in the country following the 2001 elections.
Too much politics is being played over this issue. The PPP has evidence that a leader of the PNCR told his supporters in Buxton to “keep it up until the government falls”. The PPP knows that the criminals holed up in Buxton, and who had kidnapped a United States diplomat, could not have enjoyed protective custody within that community without some sort of political support.
The PPP knows that so long as the PNCR had insisted to the Buxtonians not to harbour criminals, the criminals would have been forced to leave and would have been captured long before they caused so much damage, destruction and loss of life. The PPP knows all of these things.
George Bacchus also knew about the opposition’s involvement in Buxton and he told Uncle Freddie about it, as Uncle Freddie wrote last week. But more of that in the bestseller that is soon to come out!
The PPP and the police had to know that there was a phantom force going after these hardened criminals and sending them to their maker. The PNCR never created a great fuss when the hardened criminals such as Inspector Gadget were killed by phantoms. How many of us can claim that when the hardened criminals such as Inspector Gadget were being killed, we felt really angry about their deaths?
There was a time in this country when people were afraid to go on the streets in the evenings. There was a time when citizens bolted their doors early in the afternoons and wondered whether they would live to see the next day. There was a time when almost on a daily basis the criminals struck. There was a time when outsiders dared not venture into Buxton. There was time when wives of police officers were being made widows at an unprecedented rate in this country.
The problem was solved, albeit in an unlawful way by the phantom or phantom groups. But who complained that the phantoms were killing criminals? It was only when George Bacchus made his allegation that the Minister of Home Affairs was linked to the phantom that people began to make a fuss.
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry that will soon get going will settle once and for all whether the Minister had knowledge or was involved in extra judicial killings. But as I hinted, the present commission should be lured into a wider inquiry even within its limited terms of reference.
It is possible that a link can be established between the rise of phantoms and the Buxton violence. Most people accept that one is a response to the other and therefore if we are inquiring into symptoms, we should be able to deal with the root ailment.
I urge Dev to get off his laurels and move the present Commission of Inquiry into the direction he wants it to go. Dev is capable of establishing the link and prodding the commission to consider the wider picture because as far as the PPP is concerned, the evidence it has is for use as a political weapon to expose the PNCR in the next election campaign.
The president said that he has evidence about what a PNCR leader said in Buxton. He must now be forced to bring it out and not simply use it for political purposes in the next election. The PNCR also said it had evidence about the existence of death squads and it will have to produce these or face the political fallout from not doing so.
As I have mentioned before, the PNCR’s leader will have to step aside if he cannot come up with the evidence he claims his party has.
Dev therefore is the one who has to prod the inquiry along to examine the violence in the country since March 2001. He now has to prove himself a leader. He had recused himself from giving evidence against Dr. Kean Gibson’s book because he claimed he was not clear on the mandate of the Ethnic Relations Commission, the very Commission formed under a constitution, which he helped to design.
Dev may very well feel that the limited terms of reference of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the death squad allegations would preclude a wider consideration of violence in Guyana. But he can never truly know unless he tests the commission on this point. And so long as he can establish a link between the phantom squads and the violence emanating from Buxton, the commission will be forced to deal not only with the reaction to Buxton, but also with the cause of the violence.
Even if Dev does not succeed in having this done, it is difficult to comprehend how the commission can fail to make reference to violence on the East Coast and in as much as this reference is made, Dev has his cue to force another inquiry into those dreadful events.