PRESS STATEMENT People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, January 15, 2004 As Read outside of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Brickdam, Georgetown
The unfolding revelation of a direct link between a “Death Squad” and a high functionary of the ruling PPP/C administration can come as no surprise to citizens who have paid attention to the public statements of the Peoples National Congress Reform. Over the past several years, our Party has consistently and repeatedly brought to the nation’s attention the activities of ‘death squads’ operating all over Guyana under the umbrella of the PPP/C administration.
PREVIOUS CASES OF STATE-SPONSORED TERRORISM
The nation should be reminded that Gajraj’s actions have disturbing precedents:
• An East Coast resident known as ‘Beast’ was apprehended with a large cache of arms sufficient to arm a small platoon, yet he was never charged. Only after private criminal charges were filed by Eusi Kwayana was the matter given a judicial hearing. To the horror of the nation important documents relating to the case mysteriously disappeared and nothing has came out of this scandalous and dangerous incident. Beast has since left these shores.
• The PPP/C regime has also allowed rogue elements in the Guyana Police Force, to commit the worst possible crimes against innocent citizens, including executions, kidnapping, beatings, extortion, and provided protection for a variety of criminals and drug lords. Despite the confession of an informant under oath during the trial of the now convicted US Diplomat Thomas Carroll, nothing was done by the PPP/C government. Gajraj claimed he had no evidence. The notorious Black Clothes Police continued to savagely beat and execute innocent citizens, including Shaka Blair in front of his small children and spouse. Several communities were terrorised by the actions of this force. Eventually, because of the PNCR exposure, the Black Clothes squad was disbanded but it appears that Gajraj then set up his own.
• Innocent Berbicians were terrorized by the notorious Berbice Anti Smuggling Squad (BASS) led by gangsters called by names such as “Rifle” and “Horse”. This gang was responsible for the killing of Azad Bacchus and others in the Corentyne, again in front of their family.
• A political activist of ROAR was killed in Essequibo, allegedly by known PPP/C activists. An Organizing Secretary of the PPP/C threatened to burn down the house of a citizen who had provided electricity for a ROAR public meeting.
We need to remind those who may conveniently have forgotten that the state sponsored murder is meted out to citizens of all races if they oppose the lawless conduct and corrupt ways of the PPP/C. The Gajraj Affair is therefore nothing new. It is however far more horrific.
THE GAJRAJ AFFAIR
What are the facts? The facts of the current case are straightforward and easy to understand. There has been an extraordinary rate of unusual killings within the last 14-24 months. When asked about these matters, the Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr. Roger Luncheon, stated at a weekly Cabinet Briefing on November 27, 2002 that there was a squad of killers which he dubbed a “Phantom Squad.” In his own words he stated: “There seems to be reasonable plausible evidence which suggests that there is a body out there that has been involved in criminal activities and it is not the escapees…Intelligence agencies are examining the possibility that there is a phantom body involved in a number of killings.” The persons carrying out these executions have been described by numerous witnesses as having “big” guns and wearing police uniforms. It appears that the killers are targeting and executing persons, some of whom were known to have a criminal past but many of the killings had no explanation.
The Police Force has continually denied involvement in these executions. For example, in the August 2003 slaying of Lennox Barker and Ron Barker at Vergenoegen, East Bank Essequibo, the Police Force issued a statement that it was not in anyway involved in the shootings. In an October 26, 2003, interview to the press as reported by the Associated Press (11/03/03), Crime Chief Leon Trim is quoted as saying: “We are not sure exactly what is going on. People are being picked up, bundled into cars and end up dead on the streets.” He went on to say that the force was baffled by the killings.
On Wednesday, December 10, 2003 former police officer Axel Williams was gunned down in Eping Avenue, Bel Air Park, Georgetown. Williams was widely regarded as one of the key operatives within the squad. In the Kaieteur News of Monday, December 15, 2003, a story was carried in which a “prominent and controversial” businessman stated that he was the target of a death squad under the direction of a High Official, that is the Minister of Home Affairs. He further claimed that Axel Williams was the person ordered to execute him by the Minister of Home Affairs and that Williams confessed the plot to him prior to his death.
On Friday, December 19, 2003 the Minister of Home Affairs publicly denied that he had any relationship with Axel Williams or with Sean Hinds, alleged members of the death squad. He claimed to know Williams only through a casual contact when he visited the Ministry in pursuit of a firearm licence.
He was quoted as saying:
“Yes I did know Axel Williams. He had come to see me on more than one occasion at the Ministry of Home Affairs. As a matter of fact, at the time he had had a problem. He used to be a taxi driver and he had made an application for a licensed firearm…his application was processed and approval for a licence was issued to him…I do not have any personal relationship with any of the individuals.”
The Minister of Home Affairs in a Stabroek News Current Affairs supplement of December, 2003 stated that there was no such thing as a death squad but that the upsurge of executions was the result of persons killing each other for revenge. On Saturday, January 3, 2004, the Kaieteur News carried a story giving details of substantial telephone contact between Minister Gajraj and Axel Williams.
On Monday January 5, 2004, Mr. Shafeek Bacchus was shot by a person or persons in a white vehicle whilst at his home in Princess Street, Lodge, Georgetown. On Tuesday January 6, 2004, the brother of Shafeek Bacchus, Mr George Bacchus, went to the US Embassy accompanied by an Attorney-at-Law and made serious allegations and statements about the existence, structure and operations of a “death squad” which, in his words, has been responsible for the deaths of over 40 persons including that of his brother Shafeek Bacchus. An official complaint was also made to the Guyana Police Force and to Amnesty International on Tuesday January 6, 2004.The US Embassy subsequently released a statement that its officers met with and took statements from
Mr. George Bacchus and that these were being explored. On January 7, 2004, the Kaieteur News published the text of a statement given by Mr. Bacchus to the media which repeated the claim that a senior official (Minister of Home Affairs) has knowledge of the death squad. Minister Gajraj on Friday January 9, 2004 in an ad hoc interview at the Office of the President publicly admited to telephone contact with Axel Williams.
On Friday January 9th, 2004, Ashton King, proprietor of A & D Funeral Home and Mark Thomas aka Kazorski (a former member of the Black Clothes Squad) were arrested in connection with the Bacchus murder. On Wednesday, January 13, 2004, a third member of the death squad Sean Hinds was arrested by the police. To the best of our knowledge, Mr Ronald Gajraj has not been asked to provide a statement nor has he been charged with committing any offence.
It is now very clear that the PPP/C is deeply involved in a criminal enterprise of murder incorporated operating out of the Ministry of Home Affairs. No serious citizen will believe the foolish propaganda now emanating from Freedom House aimed at invoking racial fears and insecurities to disguise these criminal and lawless operations.
THE PNCR’S POSITION
Given that the Guyana Police Force has acted on George Bacchus’ allegations and arrested several men, the legal situation facing them is that they could be charged with the offence of murder of Shafeek Bacchus and any other person named by George Bacchus under section 100 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:01. The fact that the Police Force has chosen to act on the statement means that they cannot decide to act on some of what was said and not on the rest. Minister Gajraj has been named in the statement upon which the police is basing its investigations of the other men detained. Ronald Gajraj remains in office during the conduct of a police investigation in which he could legally be considered a principal or accessory to murder depending on the available evidence. Of great significance as well is the fact that Ronald Gajraj is Minister of Home Affairs making him the government official with overall responsibility for the Police Force.
The appearance of impropriety is great even if not actually established, given the known relationship between the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police Force. The PNCR is very comfortable and insistent in its call for the resignation of the Minister pending a criminal investigation. It is the only morally and legally correct thing to do in the circumstances.
There can be no justification for the systematic murder of citizens by the state. The PNCR joins all decent Guyanese citizens and organisations in demanding:
the immediate resignation of Mr. Gajraj;
a full and impartial investigation in this sordid affair; and
Government’s absolute respect for the rule of law and for the other principles of good governance.
WHAT THE PNCR HAS DONE SO FAR
The PNCR considers this a very serious matter. We know that the Guyanese people are looking to us for guidance and leadership at this moment of national peril. We have taken the following actions thus far:
• The PNCR Leader brought this matter to the attention of Government, i.e Sam Hinds who claimed he had to await return of Jagdeo.
• We have sensitised the International Community and Guyanese Organisations overseas.
• We have written the Foreign Embassies in Georgetown to bring these matters to the attention of their Governments,
• We have dispatched letters to Caricom Leaders on this situation.
• We will be following up these matters with Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations.
• We have discussed this issue with several local organisations and expect that decency and patriotism will compel them to take a stand on this matter.
• We will be launching a National Signature campaign calling for Gajraj's resignation. That signature campaign will be formally launched immediately after the Press Statement is read at Ministry of Home Affairs this morning.
• The PNCR will continue the campaign against State sponsored murder and to call for an independent investigation into this issue.
• Our policy of non–recognition of the Minister of Home Affairs is already in effect. Our Members of Parliament refused yesterday to participate in the proceedings of a Parliamentary Committee at which Gajraj was present. Last week, the PNCR Leader left the swearing in ceremony of the Police Service Commission in protest of Gajraj’s presence at the proceedings.
Unless the President and the rest of the Cabinet act decently and with decisiveness, the blood, which now drips from the hands of Gajraj, will besmirch them all. We call on those members of the government, with any shred of decency left, to speak out on this issue before it is too late. This may be their last chance to salvage their reputations and some remnant of decency and self-respect.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, January 15, 2004
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