Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Chairman, retired Justice Donald Trotman on Monday said that the Commission was forced to come to the conclusion that transcripts from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) investigation were being deliberately withheld.
The CoI is tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of miners Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres who were shot dead and their bodies burnt at the Upper Berbice River mining camp between June 12 and 24, 2008.
Justice Trotman’s statement came after GDF Major Andy Pompey last week testified that he headed an inquiry team to investigate the foundation of the allegations against the Joint Services ranks in relation to the Lindo Creek killings.
He told the Commission that he interviewed a number of GDF ranks who were part of the Joint Services team charged with recapturing notorious criminal Rondell “Fine Man” Rawlins and his gang. The transcripts from those interviews were subsequently handed over to the Guyana Police Force (GPF) since they were conducting a criminal investigation at that time.
The Commission has requested those transcripts, according to Chairman Trotman, and to date, the GPF and the GDF through its counsels have not brought them forward. Trotman said he was now forced to arrive at the conclusion that the statements were being deliberately withheld.
“At this time, the feeling [is] that they are being deliberately concealed, but I would hope that that feeling be dispelled by honouring the requests by both agencies (GPF and GDF),” Trotman noted.
When former GDF Chief-of-Staff, Rear Admiral Gary Best took the stand Monday morning, Justice Trotman renewed his plea to have the transcripts handed over. However, Best testified that the statements were handed over to the Police Force immediately after the final report of the investigation was handed over to him. He added that they have not retained any copies, nor would he have seen the statements.
Meanwhile, GDF Counsel Roysdale Forde said they would have written to Crime Chief Paul Williams since last week, requesting the statements but have not received a response to date. Forde suggested that the Commission call someone from the GPF to answer the question about the location of the transcripts.
Additionally, while on the stand on Monday, Best read from a prepared statement where he detailed his role during the “Operation Restore Order”. He said that as Chief-of-Staff, he was appointed to head the Joint Services Coordinating Council and after news of the killings surfaced he would have seen reports of persons accusing the ranks of committing the crime; hence, the reason he ordered an investigation.
Best explained that because of jurisdiction issues, both the Police Force and Army had internal investigations that cleared their ranks of any wrongdoings. The investigation was supported by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Special Operations Team, which was in Guyana between July 8 and July 10, 2008.
He also told the Commission that he never spoke to gang member Dwane Williams nor saw the statement he gave to the Police, while stating that he also never had any interaction with the Arokium family.