Friday, July 4, 2008

Still more questions than answers on Lindo Creek killings

Still more questions than answers on Lindo Creek killings
– Rohee urges end to speculation
Stabroek News news article. Wednesday 2 July 2008

`The Ministry of Home Affairs is further concerned about another area of speculation that has recently opened up in the media. This has to do with the availability of a forensic pathology team from the United States of America and why are they not here in Guyana as yet. Here is a good example of the media intruding in a highly sensitive matter and seeking to drive the process by speculative means’
Clement Rohee
Clement Rohee
Though he called for an end to speculative media reports on the Lindo Creek killings, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee left many questions unanswered yesterday at a press conference, which dealt mostly with the incident that has spurred enormous interest here and abroad.

Instead the minister launched a verbal attack on the Stabroek News over three successive editorials in the past week and its ‘What the people say’ feature, published on Monday last. They all dealt with the Lindo Creek incident.

Reading from a prepared statement, Rohee said, “In an effort to appear balanced, the Stabroek News continues to (conjure) up much speculation pitching the Joint Services against public opinion and vice versa over the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the eight miners at Lindo Creek.” He said that in three recent editorials “it [Stabroek News] has kept up this highly speculative humdrum”.

The minister added that the newspaper continues to cast uncalled for aspersions at the Joint Services and pointed out that the newspaper went further with its weekly feature published on Monday. “In this regard, Stabroek News posed a most dangerous and reckless question for persons to answer, resulting in the passing of judgement on the Joint Services and deeming them guilty of an act for which there is not a single shred of evidence… An act which falls squarely within the purview of the scientific community and evidence based on credible and thorough criminal investigation.”

According to him, a question that may be asked is, “What if another newspaper was to carry out a survey by asking readers what they think about the publisher of one of Guyana’s dailies being a drug lord?” and questioned if this was the extent to which one would want to stretch such “contrived surveys”.

In a comment Stabroek News Editor Anand Persaud said that Rohee’s criticism of the `What the people say feature’ was unjustified. Persaud noted that the 10 persons interviewed had been simply asked for their views on the Lindo Creek murders and that question could in no way be construed as a “dangerous and reckless” as asserted by Rohee. Persaud said that similar questions had been asked about the earlier massacres and Guyanese should certainly be able to air their views on these matters. As to the three consecutive editorials, Persaud said the Lindo Creek killings warranted the fullest possible scrutiny. Persaud said the heightened interest has been spurred by the disjointed and unconvincing answers that have so far been provided on the massacre.

Rohee said another area of concern was speculation by the media on the availability of a US forensic pathology team. “The Ministry of Home Affairs is further concerned about another area of speculation that has recently opened up in the media. This has to do with the availability of a forensic pathology team from the United States of America and why are they not here in Guyana as yet. Here is a good example of the media intruding in a highly sensitive matter and seeking to drive the process by speculative means,” he said.

According to Rohee, the administration is keeping its options open and if the US team is unable to come then there are other options to choose from in the Caribbean.

After reading the entire statement, which addressed several other issues, the minister told reporters that questions could be asked. Rohee responded to some of the questions but when pressed for answers on the more critical issues, including the possible whereabouts of wanted man Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins, most of the minister’s answers were that he could not disclose any information.

The limited information resulted in frustration for reporters and things escalated when President of the Guyana Press Association, Denis Chabrol asked the minister what was the reason for calling the press conference if questions were being asked and not answered.

Evidently incensed, Rohee responded that Chabrol should be a bit more respectful adding that while Chabrol can speculate so can he. He later said he did not work with any media house and did not answer to the people but rather the government.

The questions on the Lindo Creek operation/investigation were met with hostility by the minister who bluntly refused to bring the media up to date on the hunt for `Fineman’.

Instead, he accused the media of being very speculative on the entire issue saying that the Joint Services should be allowed to investigate the matter before any conclusions were drawn.

The press conference ended about half an hour later with a battle between the minister and the media as the general consensus was that Rohee left room for speculation when he opted not to answer the questions fully.

Difficult terrain
Asked about the capture of Rawlins, who has been accused of carrying out the Lindo Creek attack, Rohee responded that people did not understand that the terrain he was in was not the Rupununi Savannahs or like Georgetown.

‘It is rigid and difficult terrain… City folks have a difficulty understanding that difficulty,” he said adding that it was a very complex situation that the Joint Services was dealing with. “Let us [the media] tread carefully on this matter. This cannot be a media driven event… Give them time to do their job so there wouldn’t be any speculation in the future.”

Asked if Joint Services ranks were being questioned, Rohee responded that it first had to be established that they were involved.

“The trail is probably a little cold. I can’t answer [whether] any area is on high alert,” he later said.
According to the minister, efforts were being made by the security forces to find the two guards who were at the UNAMCO checkpoint. How-ever, he would not disclose if they had already being found and questioned.

Prepared to wait
According to the minister, he does not know when the US team will arrive but is prepared to wait. “I can’t put a time frame on this. The main thing is to investigate this thing,” he said, adding that if he gives up the wait, there will be speculation.

Asked to give a timeframe, he responded, “I can only wait as long as I have to wait… When I have exhausted all of my patience.”

The minister said the family members of those presumed dead had gone to him during one of his public days and requested the remains. He said they were told that was not possible, as one could not determine which skull or bone belonged to whom and he did not want a situation where a family had the wrong set of remains.

He said he impressed upon the relatives to be patient and allow the pathologists to do their investigations. Rohee said they were also told that nothing could be handed over until the pathology investigation was completed and he advised the relatives to hold memorial services in the meantime.

Senior joint services officials have admitted that there was a number of outstanding questions to be answered. Stabroek News had been told that lawmen who visited the Lindo Creek campsite found evidence of some of the miners being tortured. This newspaper has been informed that one of the skulls found at the location had an impression suggesting that the person was beaten in the head. According to information reaching Stabroek News, on arrival at the camp all the lawmen found were burnt bones. The campsite has been sealed off to facilitate the work of the US forensic expert.

The eight men who were murdered were Nigel Torres, Bonny Harry, Cecil Arokium, Lancelot Lee, Horace Drakes, Dax Arokium, Clifton Wong and Compton Speirs.

Meanwhile, responding to questions on Magistrate Gordon Gilhuys’ refusal to hand over his weapon on the night of the shooting in which a policemen was injured, Rohee said there were many cases like this but eventually the person recognized the wisdom to lodge the weapon and would do so.

“Many people have disobeyed an order to report to the station or to give statements… That is not an offence,” he said.

He added that the matter was now in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Magistrate Gilhuys shot and seriously injured Police Corporal Mark George on Woolford Avenue last Thursday night. Police have since said that the magistrate’s vehicle was parked and the police had pulled up to do a routine checks when Gilhuys shot at them injuring George. The magistrate however denied this saying that it was the police who first fired, causing him to return fire, since he believed his life was at stake.

He handed over his gun to the police on Friday morning when he turned up to the station in the company of his lawyer Nigel Hughes. He was later released on station bail.

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