Former political prisoner, Mark Benschop on Friday said he would be taking steps to ask the Lindo Commission of Inquiry to summon a number of former government officials and a treason co-accused to testify.
Benschop and then politician, Philip Bynoe were subsequently charged with treason, but Bynoe was never caught and arraigned. After a trial ended in a hung jury because one juror had found him guilty in August 2004, Benschop was pardoned in August 2007 by Jagdeo who had remarked that “he had learnt his lesson”.
Benschop said he would be submitting a memorandum to the Lindo Creek massacre Commission of Inquiry that he hopes would lead to former President Bharrat Jagdeo, former Head of the Presidential Secretariat Roger Luncheon and Bynoe testifying about what they might know about the death of the eight miners in June 2008.
“Jagdeo needs to tell the nation who gave him that information, whether it was Phillip Bynoe who at the time was supposedly wanted but was (allegedly) in touch with officials at Freedom House (PPP headquarters)….I want Jagdeo to be brought before the Commission of Inquiry to talk about what he knew before the Joint Services moved into the Lindo Creek area and subsequent to their visit, the miners were slaughtered,” he said. Benschop suggested that Jagdeo’s real motive was not to pardon him but to ultimately free Bynoe.
Bynoe was pardoned on December 1, 2008 and by October, 2011 he had engaged in election campaigning for the then governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
The Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry has wrapped up its public hearings, but would continue internal work towards the completion of its report for submission to President David Granger.
When contacted on Thursday, Bynoe denied providing any information about the Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins gang to PPP operatives in exchange for his freedom. “There isn’t a shred of evidence for anybody to say first of all that I was in contact with Jagdeo…Nobody can prove that because it is not true,” he said.
Bynoe said the Guyana government never granted him any forestry concession, but a company for which he had subsequently become a shareholder in 2012 or 2013 had been granted a concession in the Christmas Falls area.
Bynoe said he had written then President Jagdeo several times requesting a pardon, but had only received mere acknowledgements. “There is evidence that I was writing the President several letters, asking for a pardon, perhaps 18 months, perhaps two years I was writing the President asking for a pardon,” Bynoe told Demerara Waves Online News. Bynoe said his sister and senior government officers had also appealed to then administration for him to be pardoned.
Jagdeo on Wednesday said Benschop should be praying for the PPP because he had been pardoned, a remark that drew a stinging reaction from the former political activist. “Jagdeo has to be thankful and pray that he is still walking the streets. If I had my way, Jagdeo would be behind bars, answerable for all the crimes committed under his presidency,” he said.
He accused Jagdeo of driving fear in the prosecution and judiciary, all with the aim of his destroying him and his family- including two young children, one of whom died in a fire in New York.
He also called for a Commission of Inquiry into the shooting death of two persons in the Office of the President compound when he and others had led a march there on July 3, 2002. Two persons had been shot dead and several others injured by presidential guards when they pushed the gate and entered the compound.
Benschop, who had been charged under the PPP-led administration for sedition, reiterated his objection to provisions for that offence in Online publications or social media posts in the Cyber Crime Bill as is being proposed by the David Granger-led administration.
Government has said that in the wake of public outcry the Bill would be taken back to Cabinet.