After having pledged for several years while in opposition and in government to investigate the deaths in the crime spree period from 2002, President Granger has finally acted. Unfortunately, his decision is deeply flawed and the embarkation on a probe of the Lindo Creek massacre could end up being a monumental waste of time. One wonders how much serious discussion goes on at Cabinet level about these very important decisions.
There are a number of periods in Guyana’s recent history where crime has overrun law and order and incisive and fully-resourced investigations are required to provide answers to the public on what transpired and why law enforcement failed. The period beginning 2002 and onwards is one of these focused on by President Granger in what he has described as ‘The Troubles’.
Given the thus far unproductive experience the country has had with the numerous commissions of inquiry under the Granger administration, one would have thought that the government would have been more rigorous about the structuring and sequencing of the examination of this period. It is understandable that it may have been difficult logistically to convene a single inquiry over the entire period and this is why Minister of State Harmon later clarified that a series of inquiries would be held.
In selecting Lindo Creek as the starting point of this odyssey there are three major defects. Since the Lindo Creek massacre in June 2008 is only one in a continuum of murderous and diabolical events dating back to 2002, the year of the infamous jail break, it defies belief that the government would be oblivious to the importance of sequential gathering of facts and information. There is no doubt that the mayhem of 2008 had its genesis in 2002 when the five prison escapees launched their barbaric attacks and, with other desperadoes, occupied several parts of the East Coast backlands from which terror attacks were launched. Peopled as it is with many security officials who should understand the nature of such criminal movements and their progression it defies comprehension that the government would pinpoint Lindo Creek as starting point. Even if for argument sake the government wanted to focus on 2008, why would it not start with the Lusignan massacre of January 26? Certainly there would have been common factors and impetuses among the three massacres that year. Even better, homing in on the 2002 prison escapees and their depredations would have set the stage for a more lucid examination of what developed in 2008.
Second, of all the major abominable acts of that period, Lindo Creek is the one with the lowest chance of elucidation. All of the men who were at that camp in June of 2008 were murdered. The former Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum is also on record as stating that all of the believed perpetrators of the killings are dead. The only remaining figure said to be of any significance is a reputed witness, who was a juvenile at the time, who had an apparently mind-boggling story to tell. The jury is still out on this supposed witness who has been kept in some type of protective custody.
On the other hand, both the Lusignan and Bartica massacres can present any number of witnesses who can recount in detail the spine-tingling attacks, descriptions, sounds, attire and other details that would enable a clear picture to emerge of who carried out those attacks and what their motivations might have been. These witnesses at Lusignan and Bartica have been waiting 10 years to be taken seriously and to be able to tell their stories to some credible inquiry. Yet the government has opted to launch an inquiry into eight murders with only one dubious witness in play. Is this how the government marshals its ideas?
Third, the optics of the Lindo decision are appalling. In the more than 30 months that it has been in office, the Granger administration has engaged in many acts that have deepened ethnic and political fissures. The unilateral selection of the Chairman of GECOM is a prime example but eclipsed many times over by the callous severing of over 4,000 sugar workers last December without adequate arrangements in place to pay then severance or to offer them some means of a new livelihood. The selection of the Lindo inquiry will raise in the minds of East Coast communities the question of why the government is not inclined to begin where the mayhem started – in 2002 at the Camp Street jail – or in 2008, one terrible night in Lusignan. These communities are likely to feel that the government is neglecting their concerns because they are seen to be part of the opposition constituency. This may not be what the government intended but it is the public perception that counts and which will heavily shade the Lindo Creek decision. Is this government so incapable of rational reasoning or are its actions deliberate and intended to send signals to both its constituency and that of the opposition?
Answers are desperately needed across the board on what transpired from 2002 onwards. The government has however once again managed to botch an important undertaking.