Rohee: No credible info on any resurfacing of phantoms
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee says there is no credible information that there has been any re-emerging of the phantom gangs in Guyana.
In a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) yesterday, he criticized a report in Tuesday's edition of Stabroek News which asked whether the 'phantom' death squad had come out of retirement.
Rohee told GINA that the article's intent is "clearly to mislead readers and must be seen as an unfortunate development in the media fraternity since the role of the media is to provide information and not misinformation".
The minister added "If the Stabroek News has information that is indeed so, then they must hand this information to the police to alleviate speculations to a headline story in a newspaper that claims to have credibilityâ€¦ We don't have any information of any credible nature that there is any re-emerging of phantom gangs in Guyana".
The article in question had pointed to the recent killings of Marcyn King, sister of wanted man Rondell Rawlins and George Barton and similarities with killings during the period when the dead squads were thought to be in business.
In a comment, Stabroek News Editor Anand Persaud said the raising of the question of the return of the phantom squad was legitimate considering the manner in which the two killings had occurred. He also noted that they came not long after the Bartica and Lusignan massacres believed to have been executed by a gang from the East Coast. In 2002/3, the death squads surfaced after the murderous violence unleashed by the gang of prison escapees, Persaud said.
Noting that Minister Rohee appeared in the GINA release to have accepted that the phantom squads had operated previously, Persaud said it was time that the PPP/C government lives up to its commitment to conduct a thorough probe of the death squad phenomenon and the East Coast violence of 2002-3 in particular. Persaud said it was unbelievable that in a democracy the death squad scourge has gone uninvestigated by the state. He said it was even more important that it be done considering the allegation that at least one senior government functionary at the time had played a major role in the death squad and that a key witness and self-proclaimed death squad informant was murdered.
Persaud also said that the poor record of the police in solving cases like the King and Barton murders creates fertile conditions for the activities of the death squads and also generates fear in the public. He said the Joint Services have failed to properly investigate dozens of execution-style killings since 2002 and the government has appeared unwilling to take the necessary steps to reverse this.