11 officials failed to act on Lindo Creek killings – COI Report

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Eleven public officials have been flagged for failing to properly execute their duties “before and after” the killing of eight miners at Lindo Creek in 2008, according to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry (COI).

Then President and current Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, along with former Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, are among the identified officials who the COI found “failed and/or neglected to perform their duties in all material respects”.

The other individuals are the Director of Public Prosecutions, then Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Commissioner of Police, the Crime Chief, Deputy Crime Chief, Head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, Head of Police Major Crimes Unit, Police Commander ‘E’ and ‘F’ Divisions, and Divisional Detective Inspector of ‘E’ and ‘F’ Division.

News Room understands that among the recommendations included in the COI Report is for these officials to be censured in some way.

Following the gruesome death of the eight miners, some investigations were carried out but the COI concluded that those probes were unprofessional and inadequate.

This conclusion was drawn from the testimonies by several officers of the Joint Services and family members of the deceased during public hearings.

The Guyana Police Force had found a gang led by Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins culpable of the murders but the investigation carried out by the COI team cleared the notorious group of the crime.

Justice Donald Trotman – who chaired the COI – recommended that the criminal investigation into the massacre be reopened to determine who are really responsible for the murders based on the findings in the Report.

In an interview with News Room on Thursday, he expressed hope that those who refused to participate in the COI may feel more inclined to cooperate with criminal investigators.

“There are persons who have not given evidence to the commission who may come forward in a criminal investigation where they may feel more protected,” he stated.

Justice Trotman is also hopeful for some level of confession. “Maybe after hearing what the Commission’s findings are, maybe [they are] now willing to come forward or even to confess…Those who did the actual killing, some of them may want to confess,” he said.

Jagdeo and Rohee were among several past government officials who were invited to be interviewed by the Commission but they had refused to participate, contending that the investigation is politically motivated.

During the public hearings, there were several gaps in the testimonies of police officers and those who were tasked with investigating the murders, as well as, the allegations of the involvement of the Joint Services.

Justice Trotman said the investigative teams were all negligent in carrying out their duties.

“There was some investigation but that investigation in the estimation of the Commission was not adequate, was not competent and could not have brought about accurate results,” he explained.

For instance, he referred to the testimony of Government Pathologist, Dr. Nehaul Singh who disclosed that he had recommended the hiring of a Forensic Anthropologist to examine the charred remains of the miners –a method which would have been more effective than pathology. Dr. Singh testified that he had even identified a Specialist but his offer was never approved by those in authority.

Further, interviews that were conducted with witnesses in 2008, following the discovery of the remains, were not recorded or documented in any way.

“That was one of the most important omissions in the investigation by the authorities in that matter,” Justice Trotman noted.

When asked what will make an investigation at this stage any different than it was ten years ago, the retired judge said the information contained in the COI Report could persuade authorities to be more thorough and diligent this time around.

“Persons could be more directly identified, who were responsible for the actual killings and burnings,” he said, adding “It is more likely that they would do a more proficient job seeing the Commission has identified sources and the Commission has made recommendations for that investigation to be continued.”

Having already ruled out the ‘Fineman’ gang as well as other civilians, the COI Report has identified ranks of the Joint Services as the most likely individuals to have committed the crime.

Justice Trotman believes a criminal investigation at this juncture could identify which of the ranks who were in the area at the estimated time of death (June 7 – 21, 2008) are guilty.

The Lindo Creek COI set out in February 2018 to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of eight miners; Dax Arokium, Cecil Arokium,  Nigel Torres, Lancelot Lee, Horace Drakes, Bonny Harry,  Compton Speirs and Clifton Berry Wong, whose remains were discovered at Lindo Creek in the Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice Region in June 2008.

The report was completed and handed over to the President in August.

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