The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) on Wednesday asserted their belief that the Commission of Inquiry (COI) established to investigate the June 2008 Lindo Creek Massacre of eight miners, was created to fulfill a political objective.
This comes on the heels of the swearing-in today of the sole Commissioner of the COI, retired Magistrate and Judge, Justice Donald Trotman.
The political Opposition posited that the appointment of Trotman, who happens to be the father of Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, is a “obvious” conflict of interest.
According to the PPP/C the fact that Trotman is the father of a sitting Cabinet Minister and Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), one of the partners of the Coalition Government and was appointed Commissioner of the COI “speaks volumes about the nepotistic tendencies of the current Administration.”
Additionally, the Party said they are also concerned that only one Commissioner has been named on such a sensitive COI.
The Party also noted the unilateral establishment of the COI which it said is a deviation from the former PPP/C Administration’s approach to ensure that such undertakings were done in a bipartisan manner.
As such, the party said that it would find it difficult to participate given the nature of the Commission’s establishment, including the decision to start an inquiry with the incidents at Lindo Creek, as opposed to a more comprehensive review of the crime wave.
When asked, at the swearing-in ceremony today, why the Government has only moved to start with the Lindo Creek massacre but not those that took place in Lusignan and Bartica which had a much wider impact, State Minister Joseph Harmon tried to downplay the issue.
To defend the Government’s position, Harmon said that massacre is still fresh in people’s minds.
“The information is much more recent, even though it’s been a long time, and the players who are likely to give evidence most of those persons are here. In fact only recently I saw a letter from the mother of one of the persons who were killed in that time asking for something to be done,” he recalled.
The PPP/C in a released statement today also raised concerns over the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the COI which the Party said is non existent.
“The Order signed by President Granger, which establishes the Commission, names its members and defines its Terms of Reference, remain a mystery, since it has not been published, as required by law, in the Official Gazette up to the time of Mr. Trotman’s swearing in” said the PPP/C.
There are also concerns about Harmon’s comment that the Commission would have to determine whether any senior officer should be sent on leave during the period of the inquiry.
The PPP asserted that this statement seems to indicate clearly that the APNU+AFC Coalition Government is “hell-bent on going after the joint-services and leaders that do not seem to ‘fall in line’ with the agenda of this authoritarian government.”
According to the PPP/C “Minister Harmon’s statement seems to preempt the actions of the Commission, even before it commences its work. We have seen similar witch-hunting of top officials of our security forces, following the establishment of the Paul Slowe Commission of Inquiry and the government’s interference in the Police Service Commission’s promotion of senior police officers.”
The Opposition made it clear that they intend to vehemently reject any attempts to erode the level of professionalism of Guyana’s security forces and the undermining of the functions of the civilian law enforcement authorities of Guyana.
Sometime between June 12 to 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 at the time by Leonard Arokium.