I was not responsible for your five years in jail – Bynoe tells Benschop

August 26, 2013 | By | Filed Under News 

“Mark Benschop decided on his own to listen to the advice of his attorney and turned himself in. Phillip Bynoe took his own counsel and refused to turn himself in,” Bynoe said.  

Controversial social activist Phillip Bynoe has categorically denied that he was responsible for Mark Benschop being incarcerated for five years on a treason charge.
In a tell-all interview with Benschop himself, Bynoe, who was also charged for treason but remained at large until he was pardoned, explained how he managed to elude capture by those who wanted to incarcerate him, while admonishing Benschop for misunderstanding the politics of Guyana and turning himself in.
He described Benschop’s move to turn himself in as poor judgement.
“Mark Benschop decided on his own to listen to the advice of his attorney and turned himself in. Phillip Bynoe took his own counsel and refused to turn himself in,” Bynoe said.

 Phillip Bynoe and Mark Benschop shake hands during their first meeting after the 2002 fiasco.

Phillip Bynoe and Mark Benschop shake hands during their first meeting after the 2002 fiasco.00

The treason charge stemmed from the storming of the Presidential complex on July 3rd 2002, during a protest march organized by Bynoe in protest of government’s treatment of the people of Kwakwani and other Berbice bauxite mining concerns.
Two persons were shot dead in the compound when presidential guards opened fire on those who had barged in after forcing open the gate.
Based on his utterances, Bynoe was obviously aware that the state had intended to institute treason charges long before it was made out.
“I don’t want to call the name of the first person who told me about treason, but the very night (after the invasion of the OP complex), the very first Guyanese that told me the people will charge you for treason, is a leading political figure. He alone knew that the people were going to charge me for treason,” Bynoe revealed, adding that the whistleblower is presently serving as an Opposition Member of Parliament.

Bynoe revealed that after learning about the intended charge, he sought refuge in a “close by jungle” where he could have visited what he called phone zones, an area close to Linden where he could have gotten telephone signals to aid in his communication with civilization.
“I used to talk to three attorneys. One of them said to me ‘we know that we can’t convict Mark, but we want to commit Mark because we want get he out the way’. Another attorney, who is a leading opposition figure, told me ‘Phillip give yourself up, we’re gonna fight for you’….he said ‘I will organize a battery of lawyers and we will fight for you.’”
However, the assurance did not find favour with Bynoe, who told the attorney ‘you could take your battery of lawyers and use the current and shove where the monkey shove the nut because I ain’t going no way and giving me self up.”
He said that at the same time he learnt that Benschop, who was also charged with treason for the same incident, was planning to turn himself in to the authorities.
“I said to myself that is poor judgement. Mark does not understand Guyana’s politics to go and do something like that. Once he gives himself up, he’s not going to be freed in a hurry.”
“Mark Benschop was not a part of our struggle. I never spoke to mark and say ‘come and join this thing’. When the entire thing was finished and when people were going away, up came Mark Benschop with a bull horn, and he started to say ‘do not shoot at the protestors…’ mark only went there when things were at an end, when all the damage was done,” Bynoe stated.
Benschop was charged with treason after turning himself in following a wanted bulletin that was published for his arrest, while Bynoe went into hiding.
A jury returned an 11 to one verdict of not guilty at Benschop’s subsequent trial and it was not until after he had already spent five years of life that he was eventually pardoned by former President Bharat Jagdeo.
Many had felt that there was not sufficient evidence to support the charge against Benschop. In fact, former Acting Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder-Allen had publicly stated that she would have discharged the matter if she found that the prosecution did not have enough evidence.
Bynoe said that another contributing factor to Benschop’s extended incarceration had to do with the role played by a prominent attorney at law, now political party leader, who he said had filed a High Court motion, which successfully got the matter removed from Holder-Allen’s court.
Bynoe, in the recent interview with Benschop, disclosed that the then Director of Public Prosecution had advised that no treason charge should be instituted, since there was no evidence of treason.
He claimed that there was the suggestion that charges such as unlawful entry or something relating to a riot.
He also said that the same attorney who caused the then Chief Magistrate to be removed from the preliminary inquiry, had also filed a motion to have Benschop’s High Court trial delayed.
“What I say here is public record, this is not my opinion. And you know what, Mark Benschop knew about this. He knew about this, he subsequently learnt about this afterward.”
“If I never invited you (to be a part of the protest), how could I be a part of a set up to get you? What logic is that? So there is no way I owe you an apology for that.”
“One thing I will say though, is that because of your own unwise counsel, because of the fact that you listened to people and turned yourself in, because of the fact that you turned up at that Office of the President when you were not invited… and you were wrongly incarcerated.because of that, what Phillip Bynoe will say is that as a fellow Guyanese and as a fellow human being, I am sorry that you went through all the suffering that you did. But put it this way boss, you called it upon yourself, and you must look in the mirror and say ‘hey Mark, you shoulda never give you self up’.”
Bynoe said that Benschop should tell his listening public about the role the attorney played in his incarceration.
On the programme, which was aired last week, Benschop admitted that he did confront the attorney some time in 2011 and was offered an apology which he accepted.
Bynoe vowed never to again get involved in mass protest, “because when the numbers reach a certain level, you cannot control that protest any longer.”
According to Bynoe, although the protest was planned at a meeting at Congress Place, the headquarters of the People’s National Congress, there was no plan to invade the Office of the President.
“There was no intention to invade the Office of the President…that happened spontaneously by angry people…if you ever got involved in leading a group of people that have been whipped up into a state of angry frenzy, you will know what I’m talking about. That was a sad and unfortunate occurrence,” Bynoe said.
But knowing all of this, Bynoe remained silent while Benschop was fighting the system for five years.
Many persons are still of the view that Bynoe, who admitted that his communication to the outside world was not inhibited while he was in hiding, could have indicated through the media or any means necessary that, the state “had the wrong man.”
“No one on earth can tell me what to say, how to say and when to say it….that is a decision I always make by myself. Not only did I remain silent about you (Benschop) and your trial and all that, I remained silent about the entire episode.”
Bynoe said that breaking his silence was not going to serve any purpose; instead he believes that it would have complicated things further.
He reiterated that when he heard that he was charged for treason, he took the decision to disappear.
He stated that he knows this country like the “back of my hand”.
“I can disappear anytime and go at some places where no one can find me if I don’t want to be found…and I could live in a pipe, I could live in a tree, I can sleep on the ground for many, many…weeks if it is necessary. I can live off the land, I trained myself that way,” Bynoe boasted.
“Where I went, I went to a part of Guyana where no human being has ever tread before. I cleared 15 acres of land and I built a house and I lived there. You are right; I took in things to make my life comfortable. I stayed away from civilization. I did have a satellite phone, and there are two persons who I spoke with in this government…they didn’t know where I was. Anybody that said they knew where I was, are the people who I took there or the people who I had carried there. Nobody knew where I was.”
But were the authorities really hunting Bynoe?
“Whether they wanted me or not, I always operated as though they always wanted me and there is nobody who is alive who can describe what Phillip Bynoe looked like…because I certainly didn’t look like how I look now.”
He claimed that he was very comfortable in hiding. He planted both cash and permanent crops at his hideout and challenged anyone to go to the spot where they can pick all kinds of crops.
However, the former treason accused said that he never saw himself as a fugitive. He said that all over the world, administrations have used the treason charge to remove from the body politic, an opposition person who they cannot handle.
“You do not pander to the state by bowing to a treason charge and go and challenge the state in a judicial system that you don’t know whether you control or they control. That is suicide. And because I did not agree to participate in that suicide, it is being said that Bynoe enjoying heself with he family, while poor mark have to suffer,” Bynoe said.
“Is poor Mark mek Mark suffer, not Bynoe,” he stated.
Incidentally, tomorrow marks five years since Benschop was released from prison.

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