Last Updated on Friday, 18 August 2023, 23:04 by Denis Chabrol
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday night hailed the significant contribution of late high-level government and party loyalist, Dr Roger Luncheon, to the security stability of Guyana at a time when the government could not have relied on the leadership of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
Addressing a ‘Night of Reflections’ on the life and work of Dr Luncheon, the former Guyanese leader stopped short of referring specifically to the six-year long violent crime spree that had started in February 2002 with the escape of five inmates from the Georgetown Prison.
In giving a preview of his address at next week’s funeral, Mr Jagdeo credited Dr Luncheon with playing a key role at that time when the leadership of the Guyana Defence Force had been disloyal to the government of the day but indicated that such actions would remain a secret. “I will want to explore how in that difficult period when the leadership of the army did not support the fight against the criminals who were massacring people, how we had to navigate that difficult period and Roger Luncheon was at the centre of it to keep the people of this country safe when the people who were vested by our Constitution and laws to protect them did not do their job,” he said. He said many of those persons were today in the public domain saying a lot, but he said they have a “very sordid history of neglect of responsibility.”
Dr Luncheon served as Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Cabinet Secretary and Secretary to the Defence Board.
The PPP General Secretary, who is now serving as Guyana’s Vice President, said there were a number of “uncomfortable truths” that might be explored. He later said there were certain things that would remain absolutely confidential. “There are some things that would go to the grave with us. Luncheon took them to the grave. There are lots of things in the history of this country and how we navigated through very contentious periods that we’ll all have to take to the grave, but Roger Luncheon has been central to everything that has happened thus far under almost all PPP governments, and he has been a very important person for the party,” said Mr Jagdeo who served as President from 1999 to 2011.
PPP Central Executive Member, Gail Teixeira, in her reflections, indicated that Dr Luncheon was there throughout the period from 1992 when none of the ministers had had any public service experience as well as post elections unrest in 1997 and 2001 “and the role that Roger played to help to return country to some semblance of normalcy to our country with the other political leaders.” She also referred to the 2002-2008 crime spree in which he played an important role. “There is no phase in the history of contemporary Guyana which Roger wasn’t a part of,” she said.
A commission of inquiry had cleared then Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj of being involved in state-sponsored death squads, but allegations had still persisted. Among those had been alleged government authorisation of the purchase of sophisticated telecommunication and geo-location equipment that had been found in the possession of now convicted drug lord, Roger Khan. The PPP administration had repeatedly denied any links to the underworld in the fight against violent gangs.
Those gangs had been responsible for the massacres in Lusignan and Bartica, killing of policemen and the murders and kidnap of Guyanese and foreigners including Trinidadian water utility workers at Annandale, East Coast Demerara and an American Embassy Regional Security Officer, Steven Lesniak, from the Lusignan golf course.
Until today, the People’s National Congress Reform continues to accuse the PPP of being responsible for the killing of many Afro-Guyanese.