PNCR yet to take position on altered inquiry panel
Stabroek News
July 6, 2004

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The PNCR is yet to state its position on the recent changes to the Presidential Commis-sion of Inquiry set up to investigate allegations of Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj's involvement in death squad operations.

The party had strongly rejected the commission when it was first announced by President Bharrat Jagdeo two months ago saying the terms of reference were too limited and the composition of the panel was flawed.

Last Friday, Chairman of the commission, Justice Ian Chang and retired army chief-of-staff, Norman McLean took the oath of office. Jagdeo also announced that former chancellor of the judiciary, Keith Massiah would replace Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Ivan Crandon. Crandon's initial appointment was opposed by the PNCR and others who felt that as he was a former deputy police commissioner there might be a conflict of interest given allegations of police involvement in the death squad.

On Sunday, PNCR General Secretary, Oscar Clarke said the party had not been consulted on the President's move to replace Crandon and swear in the commission. Clarke said executive members of the party were expected to meet late that afternoon at which time a position was to have been taken. However, yesterday Leader Robert Corbin said it was too early for him to make a statement and the party would do so before the end of the week.

The PPP/C said in a press release that it welcomed Jagdeo's initiative, which was a demonstration of the government's flexibility on a fundamental issue of governance and due process.

The party also noted Massiah's credentials which were known to all Guyanese, in particular the legal community.

The party said it had noticed the continuing allegations by the PNCR implicating the PPP in the killing of George Bacchus who was allegedly killed by a handyman, who claimed he was paid by a businesswoman to carry out the killing.

The PPP/C is therefore calling on the PNCR to apologise to the people of Guyana, since the police investigations have proven that they had nothing to do with the murder.

Meanwhile, Convenor of the People's Movement for Justice, Desmond Trotman said last Friday's swearing in had not changed anything with regard to the allegations and the situation in the country.

He told this newspaper that as far as PMJ was concerned no local person should be on the commission. "We still remain uncomfortable with the personnel especially in the light of Jagdeo's declaration of Gajraj's innocence when he first announced the commission. We believe that that statement was intended to influence the commission's work and render the work of the commission irrelevant."

The PMJ wonders why legal-minded persons on the commission would place themselves in the embarrassing position of agreeing to work on a commission whose work is already compromised by the President's declaration.

He contended that the execution of George Bacchus has sent clear signals to persons who have evidence that have a bearing on the investigation to be wary of coming forward.

"It is clear to PMJ that the security of those persons is at risk and in the absence of a witness protection programme that will offer safeguards to potential witnesses it would be impossible for those persons to appear and give evidence before the commission."