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Thursday, March 23, 2006
PPP says tape exposes PNCR's intent to disrupt electoral process
Stabroek News

The People's Progressive Party (PPP) says it is "deeply concerned" over the recent exposure of the alleged conversation between PNCR vice-chairman and member of parliament, Basil Williams and Commissioner of Police Winston Felix saying that if verified the contents of the conversation raise several issues including the security of the state.

The party in a release yesterday also said that the contents of the tape have exposed the PNCR's intention of doing all it can to disrupt the scheduled elections so that it can impose itself on the people of the country, not democratically but by creating a constitutional crisis.

Stabroek News attempted to obtain a comment from the PNCR on the statement by the PPP but these efforts were unsuccessful.

The ruling party further stated that the recording gives the impression that Williams had taken delight at the loss of the weapons from the Guyana Defence Force and conveys his admiration for the terror at Eccles/Agricola on February 26. Williams was asked by Stabroek News to comment on this but he said the PNCR would have to address the matter.

The party noted that phone tapping is not new in the country as only recently former Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj also had his privacy violated and the PNCR did not question the means by which the information was obtained but used it to vilify the minister in the worst possible way. They also used that as a basis for calling for a commission of inquiry into the death squad allegations against him.

"There is no doubt that the conversation raised issues of professionalism that is very necessary in a democratic society. It has also raised serious issues of the security of the state and should certainly be enquired into," the party release said without going into further details.

It said it would be monitoring the situation and intends to engage other stakeholders on the possible ramifications of the development.

Since it surfaced on Monday, the tape recording has generated heated debate over its contents and the security issues that it raised.

Neither Felix nor Williams has acknowledged or denied that they were the speakers during the private conversation. However, they both separately questioned who would have the ability to listen to people's private conversations.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira said, "the Government of Guyana is deeply disturbed about the circulation and broadcast of a recorded conversation between the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Winston Felix and PNCR Member of Parliament, Mr. Basil Williams.

"This development has implications for national security. Further, the Government of Guyana is studying the content of the recording. At a subsequent time, a more detailed statement will be issued on the matter".

The PNCR at a press conference on Tuesday, among other things, said that, "the ill-gotten material is now being released, not for any noble purpose but with the sole aim of destroying the credibility of the commissioner of police. This, it is hoped, will distract the Guyana Police Force from its efforts to dismantle organised crime in our country."

It was a few years ago during the Good Hope arms seizure that the army intercepted sophisticated electronic equipment capable of detecting telephonic conversations.

The use of the equipment remained a mystery but three men were charged in the matter. The case was thrown out at the magistrate's court. It is not clear what became of the equipment but it was to be confiscated by the state.

The conversation between the two persons included a discussion on the Agricola killings and the response time of the police to the crime scene.

It also addressed the private sector's view on the response time and a call from a minister after the shooting had started.

The conversation also mentioned in passing the Ronald Waddell killing, the Shaka Blair shooting in Buxton, the upcoming elections and what would happen if the deadline could not be met, as well as the alleged staged kidnapping of Sean Belfield's daughter.

The conversation opened with a discussion of the settlement of a libel matter and referred to a meeting to be held with someone described as No.1.

Copies of the tape were not only being sent to the media, but the government, several civil society organisations including the Private Sector Commission and members of the diplomatic corps.

The distribution of the tape comes amid a robust police/army operation to recover high-powered weapons stolen from army headquarters. During this exercise several prominent businesses were searched.