GINA – “It is the greatest tragedy from the national and international perspective.”
This was the way Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Clement Rohee described what happened at Jonestown in 1978.
Speaking with Martin Goolsarran of NCN Television, Minister Rohee said this nation needs full disclosure on what took place in that part of Guyana.
According to Minister Rohee, Guyana has been linked with Jonestown and many travellers are bombarded with questions about Jonestown when travelling companions hear they are from Guyana.
The Minister noted that the existence of Jonestown only came to light after the 1978 massacre and to date there are still questions in persons’ minds about the whole episode.
He recalled that before the massacre, only the Government of the day and probably a few others in Guyana even knew that Jonestown existed and what went on there.
According to Rohee, the whole deal behind Jonestown is still clouded in secrecy.
He recalled that Reverend Jim Jones, who it is widely believed was responsible for the massacre, held many of the same socialist ideas like the PNC leadership, which was in power at the time and engaged in the same sort of ‘demagogue’.
According to Minister Rohee, it was probably this that attracted Jim Jones to Guyana in the first place–a Government that spouted a similar philosophy.
He recalled that there was never any sort of consultation as is seen today as it relates to the establishment of Jonestown, which he referred to as a ‘State within a State’.
According to Minister Rohee, after reports of the Jonestown massacre were made public, it was then realised that that part of Guyana was off-limit to visitors. Anyone wanting to visit had to seek permission from Jim Jones.
The Minister also said that prior to the massacre, nothing of Jonestown or Jim Jones was ever brought to the National Assembly, and it was about a week after the incident that former Prime Minister Ptolemy Reid, who was mainly responsible for allocating the land to the People’s Temple, brought it before the Assembly.
The Minister also recalled that early investigations discovered 13 rifles, 14 pistols, semi-automatic weapons and ammunitions. He said there is no way an entity outside of the Police and Army where there could be such a number of weapons without the knowledge of the authority.
According to Rohee, up to today, no one knows who gave permission for the importation of the weapons. He said the PNC should have launched a full inquiry into the massacre.
He compared situations of today with the massacre and while noting that comparing allegations of death squads to Jonestown is like comparing chalk to cheese, the Minister said the current Government has shown its commitment to transparency and accountability. He pointed to the inquiry into allegations against Minister Ronald Gajraj.
The Minister called on those who were in power during the tragedy to come forward and make a full disclosure to the nation on the negotiations that led to Jonestown being established in Guyana and exactly what went on at Jonestown.
The Leader of the Opposition Mr Robert Corbin was invited by NCN TV to participate in the discussion. Mr Corbin did not respond to the invitation.