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Roger Khan: The elephant in the room

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

By STABROEK STAFF  |  EDITORIAL | MONDAY, JANUARY 23, 2012

As President Ramotar settles into his mandate and comes to grips with his agenda for the year and beyond, nothing will test his freedom of action and sincerity in reforming the security sector like the question of a full investigation into the rampage here of convicted drug lord Roger Khan and whether his activities ensnared senior members of the last two administrations or at worse criminalized them.

It is the proverbial elephant in the room. No other issue can hold a candle to it. Every other security matter will be a jigsaw missing its biggest piece without a true accounting for the Khan penetration of the security apparatus, his run-amok phantom squad and the ease with which he trafficked in cocaine. In his previous roles as PPP General Secretary and as presidential hopeful, like many others high up in the PPP/C and the government, Mr Ramotar did not grapple with the seriousness of the problem. His position then was quite likely in conformity with the stance of former President Jagdeo.  Mr Ramotar is now, however, the person in the seat of the presidency and he now has to answer as President.

Whenever they get their act together, the parliamentary opposition will no doubt press the issue of the Khan inquiry and whether this entails a full-blown investigation of all of the violence and carnage of 2002-2008. The parties aside, there would be few independent-minded people in this country who would be opposed to a full-fledged Commission of Enquiry into the Khan reign of terror and drugs. This enquiry must be done for all the people of this country, particularly those who were directly affected by the terror and lost loved ones to the actions of this man who now sits in a US jail instead of having been subjected to the full extent of the law here and possible incarceration at Lot 12 Camp Street. The enquiry must not be seen as a trade-off between the parties or haggled into a reductive undertaking as was the case of the hearing into the allegations against former minister Gajraj.

Indeed, President Ramotar is in pole position to stake out the high ground. He can declare his intention to investigate the Khan period and enable a commission of enquiry with full powers. There may be challenges within his party and administration to it but it would be the right and appropriate thing to do. It is also worthy of note that Minister Ramsammy whose name was mentioned in a US court in relation to the permission for the purchase of spy equipment for Khan’s use has been retained in the Cabinet.

Despite the absence of a criminal investigation here into the many crimes that Khan was alleged to have committed, the disclosures in several cases in New York coupled with the revelations contained in the WikiLeaks cables place beyond any doubt that Khan was allowed to conduct his affairs here without fear of prosecution because of his connections. Where government officials are alleged to have been caught up in these matters the Rubicon has been crossed and the pathway to law and order and just governance has to be swiftly retraced.

Whether the government proceeds with foreign-funded reform of the police force which was so perversely obstructed by senior government members in the Jagdeo administration will not matter much if the nub of the Khan reign isn’t unlocked, understood and extensive walls built to defend against a recurrence.

Ultimately Khan is the one who is answerable. He has thrown in the towel and pleaded guilty. Surely he may now be in the frame of mind where he recognizes the futility of denying his role in the cocaine-spiked bloodshed here. He faces the prospect of being returned here upon the completion of his sentence in the US.  He must certainly be aware that he would be a person of enormous interest in any number of murder investigations in connection with which his name has been called but for which there was never any prosecution. He might be prepared to make a clean breast of it and perhaps provide testimony to the Commission of Enquiry. On a state to state basis the Ramotar administration should be prepared to approach Washington on the prospect of having access to Mr Khan in his cell. This as we have said before is a matter that is perfectly in the domain of the President.  There need not be any acrimonious parting of ways with the opposition over this matter.

Mr Khan fled here as a fugitive from American justice in 1993 – months after the PPP/C came to power – and at the time of his arrest in June 2006 he had taken over Kaow Island, owned and operated several businesses, had a private army and had been on the verge of securing a forestry lease in the south of Guyana undoubtedly for the continuation of his nefarious business. The collapse of that deal has raised questions about his possible involvement in the killing of Minister Satyadeow Sawh. All of this transpired under thirteen uninterrupted years of PPP/C governance and it is the PPP/C that has to enable its own conduct to be examined. Khan’s free reign was clearly a product of the compromised and broken security sector which the PPP/C never bothered too much about as control of the apparatus was its prime consideration.  This commission of enquiry would be not so much about Khan’s mastery of the degraded security apparatus but as to whether government officials or the government knowingly facilitated his ascendancy for whatever reason. This is what President Ramotar’s government needs to get to the bottom of before it can embark on the much needed reforms to the security sector.

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/opinion/editorial/01/23/roger-khan-the-elephant-in-the-room/

Wikileaks – Confirms what most Guyanese knew, the Bharrat Jagdeo PPP/C are a cocaine friendly government

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Guyana heading for narco-statehood; govt lukewarm about drug trade– Wikileaks|
Written by Demerara Waves
Saturday, 27 August 2011 13:47

The United States (US) badly wants a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office in Guyana because the South American country is approaching narco-statehood, already resulting in drug seeping into almost all layers of the society.

“Post requests the formal establishment of a DEA office at Embassy Georgetown. Guyana is well on its way to narco-statehood — a prospect that poses a real threat to U.S. interests,” said then American ambassador, Roland Bullen.

The cable was dispatched on May 24, 2006 to, among others, the US Secretary of State, DEA Headquarters in Washington. “The level of narco-trafficking influence on the political, judicial and economic systems in Guyana creates ripe conditions for the emergence of a narco- state,” the Grenada-born ambassador told his principals as well as counterparts in Trinidad, Suriname and Venezuela.

The American envoy believed that a DEA presence in Guyana would significantly improve the US government’s ability to fight drug trafficking in Guyana.

Bullen noted that while Guyana, with a population of 750,000 people and an official Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of less than US$1 billion does not attract much US government attention, narco-traffickers regarded Guyana where they can “operate with impunity” partly because of its geography, law enforcement corruption and a government that is less than enthusiastic about smashing the drug trade.

“They see a country with porous borders, corrupt and ineffective law enforcement, little or no control over its airspace, vast swaths of uncontrolled land, ready access to the Caribbean, North America, and Europe, and a government that has been lukewarm about clamping down on the drug trade,” Bullen said in his missive.

In an earlier cable dated January 6, 2006, Bullen noted that the two countries have been talking about setting up a DEA office here since 1999 and questioned the Guyana government’s sincerity in wanting one. “The current stumbling block is the GoG’s inability or reluctance to give approval for basic logistical details. Post’s position remains the same — the USG is ready to work with and advise the GoG as soon as the GoG is fully prepared to move forward in its fight against narco-trafficking.”

The Guyana government has, over the years, complained bitterly that countries like the US have been reluctant to provide enough funding and other rescources to combat the narco-trade. Guyana expects support through the one-year old US-Caribbean Basin Secuity Initiative (CBSI) to fight the narcotics trade and money laundering.

In the May 24, 2006 cable , the American envoy described as “an especially disturbing development” was Guyana’s involvement in “drugs for arms; financing for insurgent groups like the FARC throughout the region.

In addition, large-scale Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) infiltration into Venezuela has led to their playing a significant role in narcotics smuggling activities on the Guyana/Venezuela border, he said.

The US embassy’ primary objective in 2008 of disrupting criminal organisations was, he said, difficult by the lack of a permanent DEA presence in Guyana. The office in Trinidad is fully pre-occupied with the counter-narcotics initiatives in their host nation.

Describing the narco-situation in Guyana as “severe”, he said the DEA could work more effectively to accomplish the critical MPP counter-narcotics objectives and provide more sustained support to local law enforcement agencies in Guyana.

The DEA was expected to establish a vetted counter-narcotics unit in Guyana but the ambassador told the Secretary of State that he was worried that it could become infected by corruption.

“An important challenge facing this unit is the pervasive corruption in the country, which has undermined previous Guyanese counter-narcotics initiatives,” he said, adding that establishing a DEA office will allow close and constant monitoring of the vetted unit to help alleviate this problem.”

There has been no proper development in Guyana for forty-five years

June 2, 2011 1 comment

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dear Editor,

We are facing the election year in Guyana and most people are expecting it to be an historical one. This is the time when all the political parties will have to plead to the nation for their help. We have seen forty-five years of no proper development in Guyana. The two major parties have taken this country for a ride, diminishing its prestige from the time they received independence from the British to now.

They have caused international embarrassment. A Prime Minister from Jamaica said that Guyana is a begging country; it existed on foreign aid.

It does not have the ability to generate successful economic activities from its own natural resources.

Many smaller countries in the Caribbean are more economically stable and enjoy a better standard of living. The late Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr David Thompson, said that Barbados was too small for Guyanese to keep running there, looking for jobs and proper living standards. He said it should have been the other way around.

Let’s see what is wrong. Three massacres in less than six months, and only one of the areas that experienced it was compensated. There was the Roger Khan episode and over two hundred died; extra- judicial killings; the torching of a boy’s genitals by the police; the killing of a schoolboy in West Demerara; contracts being sub-contracted; government officials failing to adhere to court orders, and many others.

The Georgetown Public Hospital is supposed to very well equipped, but why do top government officials not make much of it whenever they get ill? They go overseas or visit some expensive private hospital in the city. We’ve got so bad that we cannot even control our own sugar industry and in 2009 we had to import sugar from Guatemala.

When the PNC was in the office the PPP tried all sorts of tactics to get the PNC out of office. They encourage the sugar workers to strike for more money and better working conditions.

These strikes crippled the country’s economy, and they told the workers that under the PPP they would be better off. Now these same workers had to take the government to court for severance payments. Sometimes senior government officials have had to go to the courts to obtain their gratuity monies.

So the PNC and the PPP/C are like brothers and sisters; there is no difference between them except what they preach.

Many people say Guyana is a beautiful country, but the beauty of Guyana lies in the interior, which is very clean and healthy. If you want to see the true nature of Georgetown travel on a ship in the Demerara River from the mouth and take a good look at Transport and Harbours Wharf, and you will want to ask yourself if there has been a war. If you are going to the North West District and you manage to reach the stelling around 10am, you will have to wait until 11am when the vessel is scheduled to depart for the North West; then you can board.

The government by now should have taken time off to relax and say, ‘look what we have done for the past 19 years.’

Now they are trying to visit all the different regions with a Georgie bundle of cloths and outboard motors.

Yours faithfully,
Michael Hope

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2011/opinion/letters/06/02/there-has-been-no-proper-development-in-guyana-for-forty-five-years/

Phantom squad investigation

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Unanswered questions linger about the 22nd April 2006 assassination of Minister of Agriculture Satyadeow Sawh. Mr Bob Persaud, Sawh’s brother-in-law, has asked the Government of Canada for help to gain access to the convict Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan who is believed to have information about the massacre in which Persaud’s wife Phulmatie was killed.

Mr Persaud had earlier launched a lawsuit against the Government of Guyana for failing to protect the minister. He told this newspaper that “The way the Government handled their investigation was a tragedy and has all the hallmarks of a cover up.”

Unanswered questions linger also about Roger Khan’s entire criminal enterprise but the administration’s responses have been unhelpful in penetrating the shadowland of dissimulation and evasion. President Bharrat Jagdeo last year stated that his administration was “very committed” to launching an investigation into allegations about a “phantom squad” but insisted that the Guyana Police Force should conduct the investigation.

Presidential Adviser on Governance Gail Teixeira announced last May that “We cannot have an inquiry with no evidence or no information coming forward.” She seemed to miss the point that the purpose of an inquiry into the “phantom squad” would be to interrogate witnesses in order to acquire information to bring the culprits to justice.

Ms Teixeira’s presentation of the “Response of the Government of Guyana to the Universal Periodic Review” conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last month amplified the administration’s attitude. She stated plainly that the Government of Guyana considered that, among other things, allegations of murders allegedly committed by the “phantom squad” to be “one-sided, misinformed and prejudicial.” The administration therefore rejected recommendations to establish an independent inquiry into the “phantom squad.” She could not be more explicit.

Roger Khan, during his criminal heyday, was arrested at dead of night in December 2002 next to a vehicle which contained cellular electronic intercept equipment which enabled him to listen to the conversations and determine the locations of his intended victims. There was also a frightening arsenal of weapons to finish the job. That equipment, according to the co-director of the UK firm Smith Myers who testified in a US court, had been sold to the Guyana Government.

Evidence was led to the effect that Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy had purchased the equipment on behalf of the Guyana Government. A representative of Smith Myers Communications had travelled to Guyana to train the criminal Roger Khan in its use. Both the administration and Dr Ramsammy denied having any connection with the equipment.

The shadowy activities of the “phantom squad” were evident during Mr Ronald Gajraj’s tenure as Minister of Home Affairs. A Presidential Commission of Inquiry was convened in May 2004 to determine whether “Mr Ronald Gajraj has been involved in promoting, directing or otherwise engaging in activities which have involved the extra-judicial killing of persons.”

George ‘Bumbalay’ Bacchus, a self-confessed “phantom squad” member and the likely star witness in the Inquiry had alleged that there had been “numerous” murders of innocent men. He himself was murdered in June 2004 before the Inquiry could start. The Commission eventually found no evidence against the Minister. Largely because of Bacchus’s demise, witnesses prudently stayed away from the Inquiry.

The administration’s dodgy attitude to investigating the activities of the “phantom squad” has caused great anguish to persons such as Mr Bob Persaud and to the aggrieved relatives of the numerous victims of the troubles. It is high time for the administration to adopt a humane course of action by convening the independent investigation which the civilised world has demanded.

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2010/opinion/editorial/10/05/the-shadowland-of-the-phantom-squad-investigation/