Monday, June 28, 2004

Gya: I was afraid, so I recanted

George Bacchus made two videotapes before he died in which he recanted the allegations he made against Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj, whom he accused of having connections with a death squad which executed wanted criminals.

But the now dead self-confessed informant for the group said the first tape did not meet the expectations of the person who offered to pay him $10M to change his story and he had to make a second.

Bacchus had contacted Stabroek News on June 15, denying claims by PPP Member of Parliament (MP) Shirley Edwards that he had retracted allegations he first made at the start of the year. While he admitted retracting the allegations, he claimed that he was offered an inducement to do so.

But in a statement to the press on June 14, Edwards said Bacchus, who was her neighbour, approached her and indicated his desire to retract the allegations he had made about the minister.

"According to him, he knew that [Minister] Gajraj was neither in nor responsible for any death squads... But he was angry that when he told Minister Gajraj, who were responsible for the killing of his brother, the minister, he claims, did not act promptly," the press statement quoted her as saying.

"Bacchus said he was angry and that's why he made the allegations against the Minister. Bacchus said that he now wanted the public to know that Minister Gajraj was not involved in any death squad," she said in the statement.

Edwards said she believed this to be a good idea and undertook to contact someone to record his disclaimer. But before she could put arrangements in place Bacchus was visited by a BBC crew, talk show host Roger Moore, other media persons and others. Edwards said she nevertheless acted on her earlier conversation and contacted Michael Gordon, a senior communications officer at the Government Information Agency (GINA), who visited and interviewed Bacchus at her home.

"I wish to state that at no time was there any talk of or promise of a bribe to do that or any other interview. Also, I never heard Gordon or anyone else offering Bacchus a bribe. He did the interview of his own free will."

Gordon, who claimed he conducted the interview in his personal capacity, endorsed her version of the events.

But Bacchus denied ever having spoken with Edwards, though he admitted that he did the interview after he was offered $10M and safe passage out of the country.

"If you were in my position what would you do?" asked Bacchus, who explained that he agreed to make the tape because of the danger he faced.

"...I was afraid and believed that I would be killed if I had not cooperated, so I did what I was told to do and the man made a videotape with me saying what they instructed me to say, to the effect that Mr Gajraj knew nothing of the killings," he said in an affidavit he swore to 12 days before he was murdered.

Bacchus was shot as he lay asleep at his Princes Street home during the early hours of Thursday morning. One week before, he had publicly disclosed that he was offered a bribe and safe passage out of the country for his retraction. But he maintained that the original claims were the truth.

"...What was said on the tape is not true but was done because I was afraid," he said in the affidavit.

"...I am still afraid for my life because I know that some of the members of the death squad are still at large and may be willing to kill me with... instructions."

Bacchus' sworn affidavit, drawn up by attorney Basil Williams on his instructions prior to his death, was one of two that have been handed over to the police, now in the midst of the investigation.
This does not look good for the Guyanese government.

I can't help thinking of the Mafia or something like that. You get the guy to recant on tape to clear allegations against someone -- in this case Gajraj; then, when you're satisfied that his recantation is convincing enough, whack him.

In this case, one must ask if Home Affairs Minister Gajraj had anything to do with the hit on George Bacchus. Everything is too pat, too convenient. The whole case reeks to high heavens.

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