Bacchus's sister maintains govt linked to death squad
Stabroek News
August 3, 2004

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George Bacchus's family still blames the government for his death, which they think was orchestrated to stop an investigation of his claims of the existence of a death squad formed to kill fugitives.

Now, as an official investigation into alleged links between a government official and a death squad is set to begin, a relative has spoken out about the self-confessed informant, whose death she says was avoidable. Bacchus had credited the death squad with close to 40 murders over the last two years many of them well planned and still unsolved.

He also implicated Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj claiming that the official sanctioned a number of killings carried out by the group. The minister has maintained his innocence and has proceeded on leave to facilitate the investigation by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry.

"Our brother did not pull [the minister's] name out of a hat and decide it was [his] day," says his overseas-based sister Elaine Bacchus-Williams, who believes her brother's story about a group of serving and former policemen who were recruited to carry out the killings. He had claimed that he used his own money to locate criminals who were being hunted by the group.

"My brother had revealed to us that he had very close contact with [the minister]€¦" she says, relating disclosures the now dead man had sworn to in an affidavit that was drawn up a short time before he was shot dead.

Bacchus had grown very afraid that he could have been killed at any moment on any given day.

He had admitted that he agreed to recant the allegations and claimed a substantial amount of money was offered to him, which he felt could help him start a new life.

Shirley Edwards, a PPP central committee member, who lived two houses away from Bacchus said he approached her, expressing interest in clearing the minister's name. She represented herself as a close, long-time friend of the man.

Bacchus would subsequently deny her story or that they were even friends, a position his sister maintained. "She was never a close friend of George..." said the sister.

Police have so far charged three persons with Bacchus' murder but the woman also suspects that a close relative was involved in the murder, giving several reasons for the motive.

But most of all, she decried the authorities' unwillingness to offer him protection, a move that has been defended by government spokesmen who argue that the onus was on him to seek protection.

"The Guyana government knew that [his] life was in serious danger and they neglected to provide him with the necessary protection he deserved and needed," said the woman.

The US Embassy

George Bacchus had gone to the US embassy and spoken with officials, including regional security officers, about the alleged activities of the group.

Bacchus-Williams said the embassy was aware of her brother's situation

His family had hoped to get him out of the country since he had a green card that was valid until April 16, and had contacted various officials at the embassy about this.

The family also contacted the office of US Congressman Richard Neil which redirected her to the embassy representative. "In our estimation this was just an endless, senseless run-around knowing our brother's life was on the line," Bacchus-Williams said. She said evidence of the correspondences would be handed over to the family's attorney.

Her brothers

George Bacchus spoke out about the death squad and its activities after his younger brother was killed on January 5, in a drive-by shooting.

Since he first made the allegation there had been some criticism, questioning his character and credibility, given his past brushes with the law.

He did admit that he was charged on two separate occasions with murder, but was never convicted owing to a lack of evidence.

"Yes, my brother did have some legal issues, years ago. However, they were all thrown out of court as there was no solid evidence," his sister says.

She pointed out however, that if her brother did have a criminal history, he would have never been able to obtain a green card for the United States.

"I had two brothers who were brutally murdered because one of them exposed dangerous killers. Just be glad there was a George Bacchus around to expose these dangerous killers... You people just do not know how these killings have affected our lives and people close to us..."

Other victims

Recently an associate of one of the men purportedly killed by the group spoke with Stabroek News, disclosing that the murdered man had also been an informant.

Patrick Gunraj's associate thought the man was killed because he was no longer useful and might have proven to be a liability.

Bacchus-Williams was heartened that the man came forward and called on others with information to speak out as well. "I certainly want to encourage the people who believed in my brother's story to come forward and let the world know about the senseless murders in Guyana and who was in fact behind them."

The woman noted that her brother had spoken of individuals such as Patrick Gunraj, Mukesh Boodhoo and Hasraf Ally and Imtiaz Ally, who were brutally tortured and then murdered and were found dead in very similar circumstances.

All of the men were named as victims in one of the informant's sworn affidavits.

The woman said too when she visited in March of this year her brother spoke of a chainsaw incident and mentioned the names of the men.

Bacchus had told of instances where victims who were abducted by the group were tortured before they were killed and later dumped.

This concurred with a number of discoveries that were made during the last two years, when the bodies of men who were mysteriously abducted were found at deserted locations.

The commission

The commission of inquiry set up to determine whether there is any credible evidence to support the allegations against the minister has published notices, outlining proposed procedures for the probe.

But these have not found favour with opposition parties that have criticised the lack of protection that might be offered to witnesses.

The commission has indicated that when necessary the police will be asked to provide witness protection.

The issue is also a concern for Bacchus' family who will be monitoring the work of the commission. "I just want the members of this team to be aware that my attorney is going to be viewing this process very carefully for flaws.

"I would like to know what type of protection you will have in place to protect and secure people from being the next victim with information, as I am sure that countless individuals have information... but are concerned about being murdered if they come forward."