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Overseas connections emerge in Health Ministry firebombing
-- President slams diversion campaign
‘Those who started the fire have confessed…we know who made the devices; we know when they went to the building (the Health Ministry); two of them are claiming they were lookouts, but they went into the building, went through the door, started the fire in the building; we know about the people who recruited these others, how the recruitment took place…” – President Jagdeo

  The assassin magistrate    Arson-suspected

OVERSEAS connections have emerged in the widening probe into the firebombing of the Health Ministry’s base in Georgetown and investigators are following leads to people connected to a house in the city, President Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday.

‘SLAMMING DIVERSION CAMPAIGN’: His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo during yesterday’s news conference.
He also came out strongly against what he said was a “very clever” and studied strategy supported by some sections of the media to divert attention away from the arson probe.

At a press conference in the Office of the President complex in Georgetown, Mr. Jagdeo said some of those charged in the case have identified a house in Meadowbrook, Georgetown that was the base for the July 17 pre-dawn firebomb attack on the Health Ministry headquarters on Brickdam.

He provided some details on the plot uncovered so far but declined to give names from a list of suspects he had at the briefing, saying, “…that’s not the end of it, because it goes up and it goes overseas – the connections; they are going to emerge as the investigations continue.”

He said some of those being investigated may be in the formal political system and others “may be associated with politics.”

The President said those who started the fire have confessed and through caution statements have painted the picture of the plot leading investigators to the persons who sold them gasoline, bottles and other material for the Molotov cocktails (channa bombs) used in the attack.

Investigators have also found the house in Meadowbrook where the bombs were made the night before the arson, he reported.

“We know who made the devices; we know when they went to the building (the Health Ministry); two of them are claiming they were lookouts, but they went into the building, went through the door, started the fire in the building; we know about the people who recruited these others, how the recruitment took place…”

Mr. Jagdeo said catching those responsible for the fire and condemning the arson as a reprehensible act have been shifted into the background and there’s a new, clever campaign emerging that is supported by some members of the media.

This, he charged, is designed to focus attention away from “this reprehensible act” and the loss it represents for the country to “so-called human rights issues”.

Ace of Spades bounty - Iraq

He referred to the editorial in yesterday’s Kaieteur News which he said found everything wrong about the $25M reward offered for information that could help the investigation, the operations of the security forces “but nothing about the people who committed this dastardly act.”

“This is disgusting but a very clever strategy”, he declared, adding that the aim is to blow up other issues to such an extent that the act and the people behind it are masked.

The President said a suspect in the case has been linked to a former Chief Magistrate who claims she is being discriminated against.

“But I see that as a preemptive strike because one of the so-called recruiters claims he’s her friend; she’s saying he’s family; he drove the vehicle to the Meadowbrook area where they were making the bombs that night”, he said.

Mr. Jagdeo added that the former Chief Magistrate was among others present when three men were arrested for protesting outside Police headquarters not long before the fire.

“...when you consider that… the former Chief Magistrate was one of those who was there also, then a picture of what took place starts emerging; but some sections of the media are not interested in that”, he said.

He charged that those behind the diversion campaign are trying to “make it look like the whole government is beating people on the streets and violating their human rights and all of that stuff” while ignoring the good part of the investigation.

“This is the kind of warped logic that we have in this country and it’s all a smokescreen painted deliberately so that people don’t see the real issue and the perpetrators and what’s happening”, he argued.

“It’s a campaign”, he stressed.

The President said he was also secure that the government’s record on governance and human rights is good compared to that of most countries in the world, maintaining that there is no official state policy to torture people.

He defended the offer of a $25M reward for information saying, “I thought it was so important for our country to find out who will commit this sort of act to offer such a reward”.

He noted that in countries that have crime stoppers programmes, people get money for information.

“I thought it was a serious act and I thought we needed to stop it because if they had not caught these people, from all that we are finding out, this wouldn’t have been the end to it”.

“So it was important for us and we offered a reward and if the reward helps fine, but they (the police) did good investigative work”, the President said.

Asked about the chances of further targeting of government buildings and facilities, he said he could not guarantee anything, noting that two of the men held in the probe disappeared from police lockups.

“Could they go back to doing something similar? I don’t know. The answer could very well be yes. Could another group, just to cast doubt that these are the real guys…do something else as a smokescreen and then say, `Oh look it’s happening again although you have these guys in custody’. Could that happen? The answer is yes. But we are getting to the top of this.”

Mr. Jagdeo said security forces have assured that they have stepped up security at government buildings and other places since the firebombing of the ministry.

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee and Police Commissioner Henry Greene earlier this week said police have uncovered a network behind the firebombing.

They said there were “intellectual authors” behind the arson plot and investigators were looking for some key players.

Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, at a press conference after the fire, said the blaze started on the upper floor of the main building in the complex.

The complex that was gutted by the blaze that started around 3am, housed the offices of Ramsammy and senior ministry officers and four other annexes.

Three other buildings in the compound were slightly damaged, including one in the southeastern corner of the compound in which an incendiary device was placed.

Greene said security guards on duty at the Health Ministry appeared to have been sleeping when the fire began.

Thursday, July 30, 2009