Guyana asks US for help in miners’ murder probe

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, June 27, 2008 – As speculation runs rife in Guyana over who was responsible for the murders of eight miners last Saturday, the government has turned to the United States for forensic assistance in their investigations.

President Bharrat Jagdeo said his administration intends to probe the matter fully to get all the available information and bring the perpetrators to justice.

He said the request for forensic pathology assistance has already been made and is being processed at the US Embassy in the capital, Georgetown.

The burnt bodies of the men were found in their mining camp in the Berbice River, near the area where members of the Joint Forces have been searching for the country’s most wanted man, Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and his gang, believed to be responsible for two massacres in Bartica and Lusignan earlier this year that left 23 dead.

The Guyana Police Force said ballistics tests done on spent shells found at the scene of the crime matched those found at a number of other incidents, including the Bartica and Lusignan attacks.
A local pathologist who carried out tests on some of the skulls found at the site also concluded that the miners were beaten in their heads with hammers.  

There have been allegations that the security forces were the ones who killed the miners, but President Jagdeo has urged Guyanese not to get carried away with speculation.

“These people were brutally murdered and I hope that the country will at this point in time express our outrage at what happened and also be fully supportive of these families…I plan to investigate this matter fully and transparently,” he said.

“I would urge people not to speculate and to allow an independent investigation to take place and all of the findings will be released in the public,” President Jagdeo added. 

One of the country’s opposition political parties, Alliance for Change (AFC), has already requested that an independent Commission of Inquiry be established to probe the matter.

Mr Jagdeo said he had spoken briefly to AFC leader, Raphael Trotman on the issue.

“I don’t want to convey the impression that I will do this (commission) only for the killings in the mining camp. If we are to go this route, then we will look at all killings that took place, the circumstances that led to these killings, who may be involved and whether there are ties in the political circles of the country,” he said.

However, the President said he had not yet decided whether a Commission of Inquiry was the best route to go.