The Inquiry should cover the period 1973-2001

Dear Editor,

The General Secretary of the PPP/C and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has publicly stated that neither he nor his party has any objection to any enquiry or investigation that seeks to elicit the facts in respect of criminal activities, including those that were politically motivated and encouraged and which gave rise to political unrest and abuses, and to violations of human rights with resultant loss of property and lives. Furthermore, the Opposition Leader has overtly pledged his support for the work of the Commission while simultaneously expressing his expectation that the Commission has “clearly defined terms of reference and credible Commissioners.” The proposed period which the Inquiry is tasked with covering is 2002 to 2009.

Albeit, contrary to the expectations of the Guyanese people, the Terms of Reference of the proposed Commission of Inquiry into the crime wave era alarmingly excludes from its consideration some of the most troubling and frightening periods of mayhem and violent actions in this country including 1973 to 2001 which can best be described as one of racially charged criminal activities which often resulted in loss of property, lives and both. Serious crimes in Guyana were being committed before 2002.

It could only be described as a crude attempt to exclude a very important period in Guyana’s history. It’s as if the hurt, the losses, the pain arising out of the political unrest and the accompanying criminal activities of the period 1973 to 2001 can be eradicated from the minds of our people and from the history books of this country by a deliberate decision to exclude that period from the proposed enquiry.

The period 1973 to 2001 was a period of serious physical abuses and violation of human rights; a period of political-turmoil fuelled by electoral fraud; a period of increased criminal activities emanating out of the political unrest and a period when racial unrest reared its ugly head supported by many including some who would now wish to exclude this all important period of Guyana’s history from the enquiry and who would wish to shelter behind the very Commission of Inquiry which the government proposes to set up shortly.

The government has an obligation to the Guyanese people, and more specifically, those who would have suffered physically, mentally, materially and who are alive and still bear the scars, to the surviving relations of those who would have gone to the great beyond, to elicit the truth.

We cannot have double standards. If we are seeking the truth, we cannot bury the atrocities and the angst and the sufferings. We cannot hide this dark period of our country’s history. Neither must we conceal the perpetrators and the participants; the ringleaders behind the sinister sinful activities of that period.

I challenge the government and, by extension, the Commission of Inquiry to get to the proximate cause of the political, racial and accompanying criminal activities of the 1970s to 2010 with a view to uprooting and treating its innate causes.

In this regard, we must enquire into and speak honestly about the role of the PNC, GDF and GPF in the violent activities of the period including the weapons which the GDF loaned to the PNC which are yet to be accounted for; the murder of then Minister of Education Vincent Teekah, the 1973 Ballot Box Martyrs, the murder of Father Darke, the miscreant behaviour of members of the House of Israel, the inconclusive Inquiry into the assassination of Walter  Rodney. The defining, accepting and holding out of criminals such as Andrew Douglas as Freedom Fighters. The notorious ‘Blackie’ and the Guyana Flag and the criminal activities in Agricola, Buxton, Lindo Creek, Bartica, Lusignan, attacking the PPP Congress on the Corentyne. We must not confuse criminality with patriotism. Indeed, many Guyanese viewed the upsurge of criminal activities, moreso in the post 1997 general elections period as a clumsy and criminal attempt to overthrow the democratically elected PPP/C government.

While I wish to join with the many Guyanese who welcome the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and the commencement of its work, I implore that this body be not merely a charade or distraction purposed at diverting public attention from the important and critical issues impeding development in our country.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Whittaker

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