PRESS STATEMENT BY THE PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION PARTIES ON THE HOLDING OF AN INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO DEATH SQUADS ALLEGATIONS 15th May, 2004



The Parliamentary Opposition Parties totally reject the proposed Commission of Inquiry which has been established by President Jagdeo. The Opposition Parties at their meeting on Saturday 15th of May discussed the President’s announcement and unanimously agreed that the Commission of Inquiry does not meet the minimum standards which they have outlined and made clear to the government, to the citizens of Guyana and the international community.

Citizens are well aware of the long festering concern expressed by all sections of society about the allegations of the existence of death squads and the involvement of the Minister of Home Affairs and other government functionaries in the operation of these squads.

The existence of such squads represents a profound violation of and attack on the rule of law and the constitutional rights of citizens and poses a clear and present danger to the stability and existence of the State.

We have for several months been demanding that Mr. Ronald Gajraj, the Minister of Home Affairs, should be removed from executive authority to avoid interference and facilitate the establishment of an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry into these allegations so that the facts of the matter can be made known and the culpability of those responsible for these terrible events and their related consequences could be determined.

We have individually and together stated repeatedly that we will not accept any PR driven unilaterally imposed Inquiry and which does not satisfy our necessary minimum conditions for independence and for meeting internationally accepted standards and norms.

We have proposed that, at a minimum, such an Inquiry must:

1. be conducted by highly-regarded and respected persons of unblemished integrity and acceptable to major stakeholders in Guyana;
2. be accompanied by a credible and secure witness protection program;
3. allow a role for Caricom and other international organizations;
4. have the power to take evidence in camera as well as in public;
5. have the authority and resources to take evidence both inside and outside of Guyana.

This was conveyed in our individual Statements to the Media and clearly spelt out in our letter of May 6, 2004 to the UN Secretary General, as well as repeated in our two meetings (on April 29 and May11, 2004) with the international Community here in Guyana.

In the circumstances, President Jagdeo’ Statement last evening in which he announced the unilateral establishment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry is a travesty.
• The Terms of Reference are derisory, totally unacceptable and provocative. They are woefully inadequate, narrow and not intended to ensure that the truth will be unearthed and the guilty bought to justice.
• The Terms or Reference is restricted to the culpability of the Minister and does not include the issues which contributed to the violence which engulfed the society, since 2002, including violent crime and manifestations of insecurity and communal violence in communities such as Buxton, Annandale, Enterprise and others.
• The President has not consulted the Parliamentary Opposition Parties or any of the Social Partners on the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Inquiry or its composition.
• The President has pronounced on the innocence of Minister Gajraj thereby exercising undue influence over his appointees.
• The President’s statement does not make clear what is the situation of Mr. Gajraj and the nature of his relationship to his Ministry and to Parliament.

The Opposition Parties are disappointed that the three gentlemen named have compromised their reputations and integrity by allowing themselves to be sullied by association with this farce. We call upon the persons named to the Jagdeo Commission to do the right thing and recuse themselves. In these matters, the very appearance of impartiality is crucial. An independent and impartial Commission cannot contain:

• Any person or persons who have worked closely with the very police hierarchy whose actions will come up for review;
• Any person or persons who serve on bodies responsible for the employment of members of the Police Force;
• Any person or persons who have volunteered to be in an advisory security group to aid the President during the period under review;
• Any person of persons who have advised or have been counsel for persons against whom allegations have been made in connection with death squads;
• Any person or persons who have business interests or association with business interests which are dependant up the discretionary authority of the State;
• Any person or persons who may be called upon to sit in judgment on matters as a consequence of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry; and,
• Any person who has unresolved outstanding issues which depend upon the Government for resolution.

We, the Parliamentary Opposition Parties, do not accept the Presidential Commission of Inquiry which has been announced, we do not accept its Terms of Reference, we will not cooperate with its functioning and we will not accept its findings and / or recommendations. We will only accept a Commission which meets the minimum internationally accepted standards for an Independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry and which is appointed on the basis of proper consultation with the Opposition political parties and other stakeholders.

We urge President Jagdeo to reconsider this most dangerous and provocative course of action which he has taken particularly in the context of the very volatile situation in Guyana. The vast majority of the people of Guyana are looking to the President to do the right thing in the national interest. At a time when the international community is taking initiatives to help, it is worrying that Mr. Jagdeo is flying in the face of local and international expectations.


PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM (PNCR)
WORKING PEOPLES ALLIANCE (WPA)
RISE ORGANISE AND REBUILD (ROAR)

Georgetown, Guyana
Saturday, May 15, 2004