– Jagdeo says working behind the scenes defeats the purpose
State Minister, Joseph Harmon on Thursday asserted that, despite reports that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Lindo Creek Massacre has been postponed because of lack of willingness on the part of witnesses, “there is no shortage of witnesses.”
Speaking to the media during a Post Cabinet Briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency, the Minister said that the CoI has resumed but all of the sessions thus far have been “in camera”- meaning the media was not invited to cover.
“There’s no shortage of witnesses. I can say to you that they have already started hearings, which are in camera hearings and so there is already a body of evidence there before the commission,” he said.
Further, he posited that last week, during the initial day slated for the CoI’s commencement, “there were some issues with respect to witnesses that are out of town.”
However, he noted that this is soon to be rectified.
“Certainly we would assist those persons with the transportation expenses to get to the commission. That is something that is contemplated. In fact it is part of the law in Guyana where witnesses have to be brought from various parts of the country to appear before a court so we will in fact embrace that practice and ensure that we get the persons to come to give the evidence before the Commission of Inquiry,” Harmon said.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed great “worry” at the “behind the scenes” operation of the CoI.
“They’re working behind the scenes. I thought the whole idea of a CoI was to work in the open. Now I see the government, having failed on a few attempts to get requisite interest, or the necessary interest, the CoI has now reverted to working behind the scenes. Why do you need a CoI if you’re working behind the scenes…” he told media operatives during a press conference of his own earlier today.
“Working behind the scenes with witnesses creates a huge cause for worry because they could really be prepping people to come and lie at the CoI. It’s very, very dangerous,” he explained.
Moreover, Jagdeo maintained that he believes the decision to have a CoI into the Lindo Creek Massacre out of all the others that occurred prior to it, was “ill advised from the very beginning.”
The Lindo Creek CoI is the first of what the coalition Government has said would be a series of inquiries into the hundreds of killings which occurred during a crime wave that began in 2002.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has expressed skepticism about participating in this CoI, highlighting that it was constituted along along partisan lines, with the sole Commissioner being the father of Government Minister and Leader of the AFC, Raphael Trotman.
The PPP/C had even said that the inquiry should have started from the 1998 period.
President David Granger however, rejected suggestions to extend the CoI’s focus to several years before 2008, when other major criminal activities had plagued the country.
Sometime between June 12, 2008 and June 24, 2008, miners Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres were shot and killed, and their bodies burnt at the Upper Berbice River mining camp, which was being operated by Leonard Arokium. (Ramona Luthi)