WPA slams Gajraj probe procedures
-say they smack of democratic centralism
Stabroek News
July 31, 2004

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The procedures proposed for the death squad commission of inquiry have been flayed by the WPA, which says the protection offered to witnesses is ridiculous.

"This is an extraordinary offence and needs an extraordinary commission," the opposition party said in a statement yesterday.

"Every aspect of the commission, from the terms of reference, to the choice of commissioners, and now to the rules, is an astonishing piece of craftiness or incompetence."

It was argued that the rules outlined by the commission provide ample opportunity for witnesses to be identified. Similar sentiments have been expressed by the PNCR, which has decried the apparent lack of adequate security measures as well as the commission's strict adherence to the terms of reference.

The WPA lamented that this can mean that evidence of the existence of a death squad can be deemed inadmissible as well as references to the East Coast crime spree to show the history of the phenomenon.

The WPA said that justice would not appear to be done with a panel appointed solely by the accused.

"It is a matter of sharp conflict between parties and sections of the people and some appearance of independence will be a blessing. The task needs a team well outside the reach of democratic centralism..." the statement said.

President Bharrat Jagdeo appointed the three-member commission to determine if there is any evidence to support allegations about the Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj's involvement in unlawful killings. The WPA described this as the disadvantage of an executive president who ought to face the logic of his partisanship.

"Under considerations of political morality and even common sense the president should exercise due restraint on himself from appointing a commission of this sort, unilaterally. Justice has a good chance of being undone," the statement noted.

The choice of commissioners was also addressed by the party, which pointed out that a single, independent commissioner can be outvoted by two who are semi-dependent or not fully independent, although it did not make specific references.