Saying that the Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was unilaterally established, the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Wednesday warned that such an approach would scare off persons with vital information and could also result in its own non-participation.
“The Party also notes the unilateral establishment of the Commission of Inquiry, like others named under the Granger-led Government, and wishes to underscore the deviation from the former PPP/C Administration’s approach to ensure that such undertakings were done in a bipartisan manner. It appears that this Commission was established with a political objective. Due to the partisan approach in establishing the Commission, which does not inspire trust and confidence, persons with vital information may be reluctant to come forward,” the party said in a statement, hours after retired judge Donald Trotman was sworn in as the sole commissioner.
The PPP/C government had faced similar criticisms over inquiries that were held during its time in government, including the Walter Rodney CoI.
The CoI will inquire into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Dax Arokium, Cedric Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres, whose burnt remains were discovered on June 21st, 2008, at the Lindo Creek mining camp. It is hoped that the hearing will bring out the “truth” and identify those responsible for the killings.
Trotman has since told the media that the first witness will take the stand within two weeks and that he had plans to visit the camp site.
The PPP, while noting Trotman’s appointment, said that the party “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.”
Former president and current opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed his willingness to testify before an inquiry set to investigate the crime wave killings. The crime wave, which began in 2002, occurred while the PPP/C held office.
Government has already said that given the amount of killings which occurred during the period, it would be difficult to hold a single inquiry. As a result, several will have to be held.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon, in justifying the start of the Lindo Creek inquiry, had said that it was “more fresh’ and that because of the unavailable of resources it may be more practical to do one inquiry at a time.
“…Usually what happens is that the last is more fresh in your minds, the information is much more recent even though it has been a long time and there are players who are likely to be giving evidence. Most of those persons are there,” he had said when asked why the Lusignan massacre was not first on the list. The Lusignan massacre was followed by one at Bartica, then at Lindo Creek, within a period of six months.
Observers say that it makes more sense to do them together since they might have been committed by the same set of persons.
The PPP, in its release, also used the opportunity to register its concerns about the “obvious conflict of interest in naming a Commissioner, who is the father of a sitting Cabinet Minister and Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC), one of the partners of the Coalition Government”. Trotman, 79, is the father of Minister of Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.
“This move speaks volumes about the nepotistic tendencies of the current Administration,” the release said, while adding that the party is also concerned that only one Commissioner has been named on such a “sensitive Commission.”
It was noted that the Order signed by President Granger to establish the Com-mission, name its members and define its Terms of Reference remained “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.” When this newspaper checked the online version of the Official Gazette at 4pm yesterday nothing concerning the inquiry had been published.
With regards to comments made by Harmon about the Commission being the authority to determine whether any senior officer should be sent on leave during the period of the inquiry, the PPP said that this concerned it.
The party said that the comments “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. 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 statement stressed that the PPP wishes to make clear that it will “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.”