February 9, 2007

Burial ground fiasco may take grave turn

The Ministry of Health wants to know if legal action is going to be taken against either Environmental Health Officer Michael Bacchus or the ministry over the cemetery lockup fiasco that took place three weeks ago involving SEARCHLIGHT’s CEO Clare Keizer and reporter Adrian Codogan.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Lanceford Weekes said that they have received a report from Bacchus, who has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he was in principle “an onlooker.”{{more}}

“I also had a meeting with him but we are now awaiting indication from Miss Keizer and the police to find out if any court proceedings are going to be brought before we make any ruling on the matter,” Weekes said.

Meanwhile Keizer said that while she was willing to put the matter to rest, recent statements made by Deputy Warden of the Kingstown Town Board, Benjamin Haynes have made her rethink her position.

“Instead of making lame excuses and shifting blame, an apology and acceptance of responsibility is what should be forthcoming,” is the advice being given to Haynes and all others involved in the imprisonment saga.

Haynes, at a recent news conference disputed claims that journalist, Adrian Codogan and Keizer were held against their will at the Kingstown Cemetery three weeks ago while they were investigating reports that a body was being exhumed.

“A health officer misled us into believing that it was the right process,” said Haynes, who admitted that he was one of a group of persons witnessing the exhumation of a corpse which had been buried in the wrong spot.

He said that when the journalists came on the scene they began to take pictures but no one spoke to him on the matter. He further disputed Keizer’s claim that they were locked into the cemetery because they refused to delete pictures that had been taken of what was going on.

“The security locked the gate because it was supposed to be locked at 6 p.m. so the security did not do anything wrong by locking the gate,” Haynes said in response to questions posed to him at a news conference. Haynes also claimed that Keizer and Codogan never asked him to open the gate.

“Mr Haynes’ statement is filled with irrelevances, inconsistencies and outright lies,” said Keizer.

She reiterated her claim that Environmental Health Officer, Michael Bacchus, who was also present, clearly outlined to her that all photographs taken had to be deleted if she and her reporter were to be released from the cemetery.

“How could I have asked Mr. Haynes to open the gate when he walked off on me when I tried to speak to him?” she asked.

Keizer also laughed off suggestions made by Haynes that she tried to record him without his knowledge because all she had in her hand was her cellular phone. “Neither one of us had a recorder,” she said.

Meanwhile, reporter Adrian Codogan disputes Haynes’ claim that he did not identify himself as a reporter. Codogan said that he identified himself as a reporter with SEARCHLIGHT to the persons around and was willing to swear by that in court.

“Haynes is a bold-faced liar, he also threatened me,” Codogan said.

Codogan said that the Senior Town Board official told him that he needed to leave, stating that he was a Justice of the Peace and asked “Do you know what the power of a Justice of the Peace is?”