In-camera hearings being held for Lindo massacre inquiry

- Harmon

Though it was announced last week that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Lindo Creek massacre had been suspended until further notice, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said yesterday that in-camera hearings are being conducted.

“There is no shortage of witnesses. I can say to you that they have already started…in-camera hearings. So, there is already a body of evidence there before the commission,” he said during a post-Cabinet press briefing.

It is unclear how many persons have testified thus far.

Harmon at the time was responding to a question about government possibly paying witnesses to appear before commission.

He reminded that last week there was an issue with respect to out of town witnesses being unable to appear. “Certainly, we will assist those persons with their 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 this practice and I am sure that we will get the persons to come to give the evidence,” he stressed.

Last week Thursday was set for the start of public hearings. However, about one hour after the planned 9 o’ clock start time, Commissioner Justice (Rtd) Donald Trotman informed the media and others gathered at the Department of the Public Service that there would be no hearings until further notice as “certain prerequisite arrangements” had not been put in place.

While he explained that those “prerequisites” were mostly internal and that he wished not to announce them at that stage, he stated that one of the factors included witness appearances and he related that some of the witnesses were unable to attend, while others may have arrived late.

Justice Trotman, who is the sole commissioner, noted that that day’s hearing was meant to facilitate testimonies from the relatives of those who died in the massacre.

Critics of this inquiry have said that there are few material witnesses and it is being held out of sequence.

The CoI is to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the killings of Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Horace Drakes, Bonny Harry, Lancelot Lee, Compton Speirs, Nigel Torres and Clifton Berry Wong on or about 21st day of June, 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 to 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.

The Lindo Creek 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.