The timing of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the crime spree is only to score political points at the upcoming Local Government Elections and 2020 General Elections, former Attorney General and People’s Progressive Party/Civic parliamentarian Anil Nandall says.
“I surmise that this is being done to accumulate political ammunition for the local government elections later this year and the 2020 general elections,” Nandall told Stabroek News yesterday.
“Based on the outpourings of their propagandists, the main objective is a political one: to implicate the PPP Government in criminality during this period,” he added.
He questioned what he believes was the “rushing” to get the CoI started saying that he believes that in order for accuracy and for it to be effective and to appear transparent time was needed for processes to be enacted.
“The suddenness with which this one has emerged and the alacrity with which it was established have baffled many. I recall the newspapers of January 27, 2018 bearing the headlines that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon “hinted at the possibility” of the establishment of a CoI into the killings which took place between 2002&2009,” Nandlall asserted.
“The average Guyanese, I am sure, expected a little more information about this impending CoI. Having regard to the volume of work which ought to have been anticipated and the political sensitivities surrounding this matter, one would have expected a responsible and serious Government to engage in some modicum of consultation, if not with civil society, at least with the political Opposition. Such an approach would have silenced critics such as myself,” he reasoned.
Adverting to two CoIs under the PPP/C- the CoI into the shootings at Linden, 2012, and the Walter Rodney CoI in 2015- Nandlall said they should be used as models since the totality of planning and execution of both reflect sound processes.
“In both, the Terms of Reference (ToRs) as well as the Commissioners who sat on those inquiries received the consultative input of the then Opposition. In relation to the Linden CoI, there were five Commissioners, two from Guyana, two from Jamaica and one from Trinidad. In fact, Commissioner Dana Seetahal from Trinidad was nominated by the Opposition. All three Commissioners on the Walter Rodney CoI were from the Caribbean. These Commissions took months to be established with their ToRs published long before their establishment. Compare the above with what is happening now. Within a mere few days after Minister Harmon’s disclosure, the nation was confronted with a swearing-in of former Justice Donald Trotman to head a one-man CoI, only into the Lindo Creek killings,” he stressed.
Nandlall said that he was not disputing Trotman’s credibility or competence but a one-man commission is not acceptable.
“His son is the Leader of the second largest Party in the Government, (and this) compounds the problem. However, most fundamentally, the nation was told of a singular inquiry into killings, which occurred between 2002-2009. How this massive proposed undertaking was miniaturized to a one-man inquiry into a singular incident, which occurred in 2008, virtually at the end of the proposed timeframe, remains most mindboggling. The President’s explanation that the inquiry into Lindo Creek deaths would, “lead to the unraveling of the criminal network is equally bewildering,” Nandlall contended.
“The nation is still at a loss as to whether the killings which took place between the period 2002-2009, will still take place. If so, how will it manifest itself: an inquiry into one incident at a time? Or Lindo Creek was plucked out for special treatment? If so, why? Does the President have some peculiar knowledge of the Lindo Creek incident which has caused him to catapult its inquiry at the commencement? Why not start from the beginning, 1997, or even with the jailbreak of 2002? Is Mr. Justice Trotman going to be the singular Commissioner into all the various inquiries? Or will there, at some point in time, be a broad-based Commission staffed with international jurists?” he also questioned.
He said that he is also troubled by persons in government saying that the killings occurred “during the Jagdeo era” as he denied that the PPP had any involvement in the crimes which occurred during the six-year time frame.
“Quickly a nexus was established between the PPP Administration and what were described as `killing gangs’ or `phantom squads’ of that era…These prejudicial outpourings were condemned by the Leader of the Opposition (Bharrat Jagdeo) who welcomed such an inquiry but demanded that it be carried out by international jurists.
“Speaking for myself, initially, I found it difficult to rationalize a reason for a CoI in the first place. The material facts of what transpired during this period are known to most Guyanese. In any event, this saga of violence did not originate from the jailbreak of 2002. I agree with former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who puts the beginning of this violent spree immediately (after) the 1997 elections. I will readily concede that the jailbreak of 2002, gave it a great impetus. Almost every one of the massacres which occurred during this period, including Lusignan, Bartica and even Minister Sash Sawh’s murder, were investigated and criminal charges instituted. Some of these cases are still pending in the legal system. Of course, I am unable to pronounce on the quality of the investigations conducted. I hope someone is considering the impact, if any, that any proposed CoI would have on the criminal charges pending in our legal system….I questioned why confine any such inquiry to 2002-2009,” he added.
Nandall is also calling on the David Granger-led APNU+AFC government to include in its list of CoIs the death of activist Courtney Crum-Ewing.
“I requested that it be extended to include the death of Courtney Crum-Ewing. His killing was shrouded in controversy equal to any,” he said.
Crum-Ewing was killed in 2015, shortly before the Regional and General elections as he walked the streets of Diamond Housing Scheme, East Bank of Demerara, urging residents to go out and vote.
Nandall had come under strong criticism, with some persons even alleging that he was in some way involved. This is because Crum-Ewing had consistently protested for his removal from office, sometimes standing all day in front of the Attorney General’s Chambers with a placard.
He has maintained that he had nothing to do with the murder and that he saw the claims as being politically motivated.