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Inquiry into Lindo Creek massacre launches on Wednesday; Jagdeo says probes will distract, polarise Guyana

As government prepared to Wednesday launch a Commission of Inquiry into the massacre of eight men at Lindo Creek in 2008, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said he welcomed the decision to probe extra-judicial killings but was wary that government was about to cover up politically inspired homicides and distract Guyanese from its broken promises.

Victims of the 2008 Lindo Creek massacre (Stabroek News photos)

The swearing in of the Commissioners is scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Ministry of the Presidency.

Owner of the Lindo Creek mining camp, Leonard Arokium on June 21, 2008 discovered burnt skulls and other skeletal remains of several persons there. When results of DNA tests had been returned years later from Jamaica, it confirmed that those killed were Dax Arokium, his brother Cedric and workers- Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres.

Already, Minister of State Joseph Harmon has said the Commission of Inquiry into deaths of more than 1,000 persons between 2002 and 2009 was aimed at gathering facts. “This is about fact-finding. This is about issues of fact and for the Commission to determine what happened, when it happened, who was involved and, therefore, what action needs to be taken,” Harmon has said.

However, Jagdeo during whose tenure as Guyana’s President all of the killings occurred, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that he would only back a bipartisan Commission of Inquiry of credible international jurists who will conduct a probe based on terms of reference that both he and government craft. ” I maintain that once a Commission is credibly constituted it will be supported by the PPP/C. In the meantime, I am of the view that our people must not be distracted by this, more so as the acts of corruption, failures and incompetence under the Coalition Government continue to be exposed by the political Opposition,” said Jagdeo who was President from 1999 to 2011.

Now Guyana’s Opposition Leader, Jadgeo cautioned that the inquiry would polarise Guyana and at the same time distract the nation from failed electoral promises. “I believe that not wanting a comprehensive inquiry is an act of desperation by the Coalition Government to polarize our society.   Having failed to deliver on their promises of ‘clean government’, jobs for young people, etc. the Granger-cabal is returning to ‘old politics’ to polarize our society.  Guyanese society has known and remembers the efforts by the PNC to polarize our people,” he said.

The David Granger-led government has been criticised for increases in ministerial salaries, no large scale job creation for youths, the unilateral appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, the closure of several sugar estates and the sacking of more than 4,000 workers associated with restructuring the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation, and the secret signing of a Production Sharing Agreement with Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited/ ExxonMobil.

Jagdeo also seized the opportunity of blaming the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)- the largest party in the governing coalition- of lending support for the five prisoners, who escaped from the Georgetown Prison in February 2002 and and expanded gang, to use the East Coast Demerara village of Buxton as their base from which they staged murders, kidnaps and robberies.

“If anyone has an apology to make to our Afro-Guyanese community, it is the Granger-cabal that allowed a village, which was known for its progressive attributes, to be captured and held hostage by criminals and allowed the atrocities committed on many of the young men and women of that village,” he said.

Questions, he said, a comprehensive inquiry should seek answers for include the level of moral and material support that certain PNC “political operatives” had allegedly provided, the surfacing of Guyana Defence Force weapons in the hands of criminals years after they had been assigned to the PNC, the roles of current top government officials in allegedly  compromising the ability of our security forces to apprehend politically supported criminals, and political involvement in Buxton when women and children were organised to block members of the security forces from entering Buxton in April 2002.