Former PPP Minister Ronald Gajraj Dies

Ronald Gajraj

Hailed for his “Pivotal Role” in Fight Against Crime 

GUYANA — Ronald Gajraj, who served as Guyana’s Minister of Home Affairs and later as High Commissioner to India and Bangladesh, has died.

Gajraj, who served as Home Affairs Minister from 1999 until his resignation in 2005 as a result of then opposition political pressure, died on Saturday at the Woodlands Hospital. He was rushed there earlier in the day. Gajraj was 65 years old.

The cause of death was unclear up to press time, but sources indicated that most likely he suffered a heart attack.

Describing his death as a “great loss”, former president Donald Ramotar hailed Gajraj for his ability to stem the crime wave during the PPP/C’s time in office despite the political pressure he was facing.

In a Stabroek News report, Ramotar was quoted as saying, “You can now appreciate what Gajraj was up against at that period in time and the fact that they managed to bring the situation under control with the cooperation of some other officers in the force who worked with him professionally.”

In May, 2005, the Stabroek News said, Gajraj was forced to resign after local and international pressure was applied to the then Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration due to allegations linking the minister to the activities of a death squad.

Gajraj returned home from India where he was posted as Guyana’s High Commissioner to India and Bangladesh shortly after a change in government in May, 2015.

Ramotar joined other members of the party in reflecting on the many contributions that Gajraj has made to the country. Ramotar was reported by the Stabroek News as saying that, in additon to Gajraj’s security and diplomatic careers, he was an attorney and in his younger days served in the army.

Ramotar said that the period of time during which Gajraj served as the Home Affairs Minister, probably with the exception of the 1960s, “was the most difficult period in the history of our country because not only was the crime high, but the crime was high because it was in political hands and political direction.” He added that some of these elements currently hold high positions in the government.

“He really served this country as a patriot, fighting to protect the ordinary people from the crime that had existed then,” Ramotar was quoted as saying.

According to the Stabroek News, it was the series of sensational statements about the activities of a death squad and its links to Gajraj, made by self-confessed death squad informant, George Bacchus, that led to a presidential inquiry that resulted in the minister’s ouster.

The inquiry, however, cleared Gajraj of any involvement in the activities although it raised concern about his associations. It was believed that the death squad was formed in the wake of the 2002 jail break and was responsible for dozens of killings of suspected criminals and others. The then opposition had argued that he approved gun licences for the death squad.

Shortly after the inquiry ended, Gajraj was appointed High Commissioner to India by Jagdeo and kept a low profile thereafter. In April of 2015, just one month short of the General Elections, Gajraj was also appointed as High Commissioner to Bangladesh.
The father of two resigned when the APNU+AFC won the elections in May, 2015 and returned home and had been living here with his family.

Former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, in an invited comment, said that he has always held Gajraj in high esteem. “A solid comrade in arms. He served his country as a soldier, protecting our country’s territorial sovereignty, as Minister of Government in service to the people and as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of India. A respected attorney-at-Law,” he said.

Another PPP member, Anil Nandlall, took to social media following news of Gajraj’s death. “He was a colleague at the Bar, a former Minister of Home Affairs, a former High Commissioner of Guyana to India and a friend. In recent times, he called me on a regular basis to offer his wise counsel in many of the political cases in which I am engaged. His insights were valued,” he said before offering condolence to Gajraj’s wife Chandra Gajraj and his children, Aparna and Ranveer.

The PPP, in a brief statement, noted that he will best be remembered for the “pivotal role he played as Home Affairs Minister in the fight against crime at a very challenging time of this nation’s history”.

The statement added that Gajraj was also a very loyal and dedicated supporter of the PPP/C.