Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday justified his party’s decision not to participate in the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Lindo Creek massacre, while criticising the manner in which it has been established as partisan.
He accused the government of deliberately starting with an inquiry into the 2008 massacre for political gains and to put the security forces on trial.
Speaking at a press conference at his office, Jagdeo said the PPP wants a holistic CoI and to participate in the crafting of the Terms of Reference to ensure that it is “balanced and objective.”
“The government immediately went ahead. It cherry picked Lindo Creek out of the whole continuum… They handpicked Lindo Creek and the reason for doing so because they had accused… there was a false claim that the security forces killed these people so the first move of this government is to try the security forces of our country who had had over 30 of their members killed,” he said. “The first act of this government is to put the security forces on trial in this Lindo Creek [inquiry] because of that false charge,” he added.
The Commission was established on January 31st to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Horace Drakes, Bonny Harry, Lancelot Lee, Compton Speirs, Nigel Torres and Clifton Wong at Lindo Creek on or about June 21st, 2008 and to report its findings and recommendations to President David Granger.
Burnt human bones and skulls had been discovered on June 21st, 2008 by Leonard Arokium, owner of the Lindo Creek mining camp. DNA tests done in Jamaica several years later confirmed that the remains had belonged the miners, inclusive of Arokium’s son and his brother. The men were mining for diamonds at the location when they met their gruesome deaths. After the miners were slaughtered, their bodies and belongings were burnt. Although a large find had been reported at the camp, there was no trace of any diamonds when the remains were found.
At the time, Jagdeo headed the PPP/C government that was in office.
The CoI is the first of what the APNU+AFC government has said would be a series of inquiries into the hundreds of killings which occurred during a crime wave that began in 2002.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon had explained that it was decided that the Lindo Creek massacre inquiry would be undertaken first because it was the most recent. “You start with one and 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 explained. Two other massacres, at Lusignan and Bartica, had occurred in the same year.
Jagdeo stated that the government proceeded to do its own Terms of Reference and named a single commissioner, 79-year-old retired judge Donald Trotman. “And guess who that commissioner is? The father of Raphael Trotman who is the head of a party in the coalition and a minister of the Cabinet and they expect people to believe that this doesn’t have a political motive and is fair,” he said.
Jagdeo pointed out that the Lusignan and Bartica massacres, which occurred prior to the Lindo Creek killings, were ignored. It has been suggested that all three may be somehow connected.
Accordingly, Jagdeo, said it cannot be expected that the PPP would participate. “No, it is impossible. This is a farce, it is a political charade… I am sure they have already written the outcome already,” he said, before again highlighting his dissatisfaction with the Terms of Reference.
“Clearly this is all contrived… designed like the [Paul] Slowe inquiry with an outcome,” he said.
He expressed belief that it would have made better sense for the inquiry to begin with the circumstances surrounding the escape of five prisoners from Camp Street prison in February 2002 as well as determining who provided the resources and helped them to settle down in an East Coast Demerara village. The prison break had preceded an unprecedented crime wave.
“If we have a real CoI some people who are sitting in the coalition government now will be very, very uncomfortable. Ministers too,” he said.
Jagdeo also expressed concern with the date on the inquiry document, as published in the Official Gazette. “Given under my hand and the Seal of Guyana, the Ministry of the Presidency, Georgetown, Guyana this 14th day of July, Two Thousand and Sixteen in the Forty-seventh year of the Republic,” he quoted it, while noting that he smells mischief afoot.