ANSWERS, NOT BALM - Kaieteur News Editorial. Friday 27 June 2008
A straightforward question demands a straightforward answer. Is there going to be an inquiry into the deaths of the eight miners whose charred remains were found this past week?
Indications are that the government is going to sand dance around this issue as it has done on so many other requests for commissions of inquiry.
Pressed about the establishment of an inquiry at his recent press conference, the President of Guyana was non-committal. He would only say that if there was an inquiry it would involve other killings as well.
This answer sounds like a rejection, an unfortunate one at that, of the call by the Leader of the Opposition for an independent investigation and later, the call by the Alliance for Change for a commission of inquiry.
This is unfortunate since never before in these parts have there been three mass murder massacres in the short space of six months.
Surely, it is inexcusable that each of these developments has failed so far to elicit the establishment of public inquiries.
There is a growing perception within our society that the PPP is averse to public inquiries. Successive PPP administrations have however held inquiries.
Under President Cheddi Jagan there was an inquiry into the disturbances of 1992.
There was also another inquiry into a Sea Defence contract. There was also a commission set up to advise on the University of Guyana.
Under President Jagdeo, there has been a commission of inquiry into the breach of the conservancy at Cane Grove a few years ago.
There was also a commission of inquiry into death squad allegations but this came only after relentless international and local pressure.
What is evident is that the present leadership of the government is reluctant to undertake these public inquiries.
There is a belief that rather than viewing the establishment of these inquiries as a sign of good governance, the government is afraid that the findings of these inquiries would retract on its record.
If this is indeed the case, then this is highly unfortunate because apart from their forensic value in answering critical questions, public inquiries also boost public confidence in the work of the political administration, while entrenching accountability.
After the Lusignan and Bartica massacres there were calls for a commission of inquiry to investigate these incidents which seemed related.
In any other part of the world such an inquiry would have been automatic, yet here in Guyana we had the two worst ever human atrocities (excluding Jonestown) since independence and for some inexplicable reason the government has failed to carry out a commission of inquiry into these gruesome events.
This, we believe, is totally unacceptable and regrettable, constituting a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the government.
Yet again, a massacre has taken place and instead of being decisive and establishing the appropriate commission of inquiry, the government is being ambivalent.
If the reluctance to move forward to do what is expected in the circumstances has to do with the fact that the calls for an inquiry emanated from the opposition, then this smacks of shallow pride and deep insecurity within the government.
We trust that there will be a change of attitude and that the government will move with dispatch to announce a commission of inquiry to probe into the deaths of these eight miners.
The public needs answers, not balm.