Leonard George Arokium , the owner of the mining camp in which eight men were brutally murdered at Lindo Creek sometime in June 2008, appears to be convinced that the Rondell ‘Fine man,’ Rawlins’ gang was not responsible for the killings.
Arokium was among the final witnesses called to the stand to testify in the public hearings of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the death of gold miners Dax Arokium, Cedric Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres.
In his testimony before the Commission, Arokium recalled that he was informed of the incident via a telephone call from Yonette Torres, a relative of Nigel Torres, and a male who remains anonymous.
According to Arokium, the information was that “the soldiers shoot dem boys by mistake and when they realize they burnt them.”
The witness recalled that he had inquired from the police whether there had been any reports of the occurrence.
“I called Corporal Cooper to check on the information but (the officer) did not receive any such reports.”
Since the police could not verify whether the information was accurate, Arokium, 65 years old at the time, ventured into the UNAMCO trail along the Upper Berbice River and headed for Lindo Creek, to the area where the men were involved in diamond and gold mining.
Struggling to compose himself, the witness told the Commission that upon arrival at Lindo Creek, he found the camp in a state of disarray.
He said that the camp appeared empty, adding that further checks revealed the burnt remains of the miners.
According to the witness, only the skulls of the men were retrievable. He noted that his brother and son were among the charred remains.
The businessman said that soon after that he spoke to a number of persons including members of the media about the incident.
“I can remember that I met with Freddie Kissoon,” the witness said, adding that, it was on the very day he returned to the city from Lindo Creek.
Before he could have arrived at his home in Meter- Meer- Zorg, West Coast Demerara, Arokium recalled that he received a telephone call from the then Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds.
Hinds was among a delegation of State officials that visited Arokium’s home later that evening.
The witness told the commission that in addition to Hinds, Former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee and then Commissioner of Police Henry Greene also went to his residence.
During the visit, Arokium said that the officials, particularly the Commissioner of Police, tried to convince him that the ‘Fine Man’ gang was responsible for the murder of the miners at his camp in Lindo Creek.
However, Arokium held that as a surveyor and as someone who is familiar with the topography of the terrain, it was not logistically possible for the ‘Fine Man’ gang to penetrate the security detail to get into the area.
According to Arokium, the security along the UNAMCO trail was very tight, “tighter than security at the Office of the President”,
He said no ordinary person could have ventured further than the checkpoint without good reason. Arokium maintained that it would have been difficult for a criminal gang to get in and out of the area without being noticed.
He pointed out that when the incident occurred, there were three sets of people in the area, the ‘Fine Man’ gang, the miners and law enforcement ranks.
The miner noted therefore that it was one of the three groups who would have been responsible for the killings. “These men were burnt …but my question is who decided to get rid of evidence and for what reason?”
But GDF lawyer Leslie Sobers tested the credibility of Arokium’s testimony, claiming everything the man told the commission was simply hearsay. The lawyer pointed Arokium to the last line of his statement given to the police on June 22, 2008.
In that line, he claimed that he couldn’t say if anything was stolen from the miners or who committed the act. On his way to the camp, Arokium said he spoke with a man named Anthony Heber, who claimed that the miners often had interactions with members of the Joint Services.
Sobers confronted Mr. Arokium with a statement from Heber, in which he denied telling him anything about the Joint Services operations in the area.
The Commission also took the evidence of Police Detective, Deputy Superintendent Gary McAllister.
In 2008, Mc Allister recalled that he was tasked with making checks at Police stations in the Division for information relative to the Lindo Creek incident.
Retired GDF Colonel, Fitzroy Warde had previously testified that the statement of an eyewitness, Dwayne Williams was given at the Ituni Police Station.
However, Detective McAllister told the commission that no record was found there or at the Wisroc, Mackenzie and Wismar Police Stations to substantiate that statement.
He said that two entries were made in a crime book at the Kwakwani Police Station.
There was no mention of the caution statement by Dwayne Williams, only that he was arrested and then brought to Georgetown.
Williams’ statement has been a point of contention for the Commission.
Lawyers representing the GDF, Roysdale Forde and Leslie Sobers had previously made an application for Williams to make an appearance before the CoI.
“We would like to have his response to questions in real time.”
The lawyers said they would be satisfied to hear him speak “even if it’s via Skype”.
However, even as the CoI wrapped up the public hearings into the matter yesterday, presiding Commissioner, Justice Donald Trotman denied the request of the lawyers, calling it unnecessary and unadvisable. The CoI is scheduled to continue its work privately until the end of June.
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