Last Updated on Thursday, 1 February 2018, 15:34 by Denis Chabrol
Former President, Samuel Hinds on Thursday said a “counter-force” emerged after Guyana’s security forces failed to nab politically-motivated criminals who had been bent on destabilising the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.
Hinds, also Guyana’s longest serving Prime Minister, reasoned that the underground killing wave dates back to 1997 when the People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) electoral victory was rejected by “an opposing and extreme criminal fringe with ethno-political pretensions and links”. He reasoned that after the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force failed to apprehend them, “a similar irregular counter-force” surfaced.
Hinds’ assessment came one day after Retired Justice Donald Trotman was appointed as a one-man Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killing of eight miners at Lindo Creek, Upper Berbice River 10 years ago.
He indicated that the situation worsened following the escape of five prisoners from the Georgetown Prison on February 23, 2002 and, again, after the security forces again recorded little success in catching them, another group of armed persons took on the task.
“Following the 2001 jailbreak and their projection by key political factions as ‘Freedom Fighters’, the attacks on assumed supporters of the PPP/C were taken to a higher level. When the national security forces showed remarkable inability to apprehend them it was inevitable that a similar irregular counter-force emerged,” said Hinds who served as Prime Minister from 1992 to 2015.
Hinds did not elaborate on the counter-force, but said his party should be praised for the way it had handled the crime wave without seeing Guyana plunging into racial factionalism. “Rather than make it appear that Jagdeo and/or the PPP/C was the cause of those troubles, I submit, that it should be recognized that our (PPP/C) handling of that period, though criticized from many directions, saw our nation through as a whole avoiding the intensified polarization, which was intended by the opposing and extreme criminal fringe with ethno-political pretensions and links,” he said
While Guyanese drug kingpin, Shaheed “Roger” Khan was on the run, a number of statements, attributed to him, had appeared in the privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper, claiming responsibility for preventing the Bharrat Jagdeo administration from being toppled. Khan, who had been named in a United States (US) narcotics report, was subsequently caught in neighbouring Suriname and flown from Trinidad to New York where he was convicted and jailed for cocaine trafficking.
Before he had fled to Suriname, Khan and two other men, including ex-policeman Sean Benfield, has been arrested on December 3,2002 with high-powered weapons and sophisticated phone call interception and geo-location equipment that is only purchased with government authorization.
In his letter to the media, the former Prime Minister referred to President David Granger’s view that a former PPPC government minister had played a role in acquiring the telephone interception and geo-location equipment. “We have been reminded by our President about the seeming compelling evidence about one of my colleagues, sitting with me at Cabinet, obtaining and providing high-tech equipment to the phantom force,” Hinds said, without denying that that was so. Then Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has already denied playing any role in acquiring the spy equipment from the United Kingdom-headquartered company, Smyth-Myers, although evidence tendered a New York court names him in the process.
In the same way that President Granger has reminded Guyanese about the alleged involvement of a government minister in acquiring the wiretap and location equipment, Hinds said the nation could have been reminded about an illegally taped conversation between then Police Commissioner, Winston Felix and then Vice-Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform, Basil Williams about killings at Agricola, East Bank Demerara.
When that tape surfaced Hinds said his my colleague,then Minister of Home Affairs, Gail Teixeira, was assailed by our Cabinet enquiring what the then Commission of Police was saying about that conversation. She reported that he did not refute that the voice was his but that he was playing along the Vice Chairman to learn what the People’s National Congress Reform had known and had been thinking. “And today that former Commissioner of Police and that former PNCR Vice Chairman are in President Granger’s cabinet as Minister of Citizenship and Attorney- General, respectively.”
A Commission of Inquiry has also cleared then Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj of being involved in an alleged state-sponsored “phantom” death squad. Phone records had shown that Gajraj had been in frequent contact with Axel Williams who had been issued a firearm licence with his consent. Williams was subsequently shot and killed.
Former Prime Minister Hinds questioned the motive behind President Granger ordering a Commission of Inquiry into the killing and burning of eight miners at Lindo Creek, Upper Berbice River in June 2008- the last of the three massacres that year. “Starting at the end indicates an attempt to negate and escape the logical deductions, which would be inherent in a chronological review of events over that period. The period from 1998 to 2008 was one of great testing of our peoples and our country,” he said.
President Granger’s styling of the murders, kidnaps and robberies during that period as the Jagedo era killings also did not find favour with Hinds who labeled that characterization as “misleading” “There is a lot in a name and we need to get names right. Assuming that our President HE. Mr. David Granger and the majority of us Guyanese would welcome one (or more) Commission of Inquiry (COI), which would provide our nation an understanding, as true as can be, and would take us along a path of revelation, redemption, resolution and reconciliation, then the names we start with and the terms of reference are important.”
Hinds called for an inquiry into the 1998-2008 period as a whole in chronological sequence because the APNU+AFC coalition’s approach to hold selective inquiries raises suspicions. “Starting at the end indicates an attempt to negate and escape the logical deductions, which would be inherent in a chronological review of events over that period. The period from 1998 to 2008 was one of great testing of our peoples and our country,” he said.
The former Prime Minister said the then PPPC-led administration stayed away from holding a Commission of Inquiry, waiting on a time when it could have been healing. He said the holding of such a probe would have been in consultation with the opposition.