“Some people are unhappy that ‘Fine Man’ and his cohorts have been taken out” – Minister Rohee
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee says that, as far as he is aware, there is no phantom gang.
“If there is a phantom gang, we would have already been aware of who they are and where they are; but, as far as I am concerned, I’m not aware of any phantom gang, as the charge was before,” Minister Rohee told this newspaper.
The minister said that he is aware of persons who used to be associated with the so-called phantom gang, but he is unaware of whether they are carrying out activities that are associated with criminality.
Former Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj had been cleared of being integrally linked to a phantom squad that was accused of executing several persons who were said to have criminal backgrounds.
Rohee has lashed out at persons whom he claims are trying to create ‘another headache’ for the police following the successful tracking down and subsequent elimination of wanted man Rondell Rawlins and members of his gang.
The minister was referring to recent assertions by veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis, community activist Mark Benschop, and attorneys for dredge owner Leonard Arokium, who have all publicly expressed a lack of trust for the Guyana Police Force.
“Now that the police have come out on top, although we recognize that there are other challenges,…it seems to me that some people are very unhappy over the fact that these people (Rawlins) are no longer around,” the Home Affairs Minister told this newspaper.
He said that what seems to be emerging is a pattern that is being cultivated to replace what has already been destroyed.
He said that this pattern includes a plan to continue to maintain the tension in the society by encouraging people to believe that the phantom gang is back.
“One of them went so far as to say that the police are the phantoms and the phantoms are the police, which is most ridiculous, as far as I am concerned,” the minister said.
Recently, the police have come under the microscope, with persons linking them to extrajudicial activities.
Some have gone as far as to link the police with extortion, especially in the wake of the arrest of a policeman in Berbice for similar activities.
But Minister Rohee brushed aside these incidents as isolated.
“It seems to me that people are seeking desperately to recreate a new scenario to keep in the minds of people that, look, there is this gang around that is visiting us with a view to either eliminating us or something,” Rohee said.
He added that many persons seem to be reluctant to get out of the “Fine Man Syndrome”.
Trade unionist Lincoln Lewis, although going public with his claims of being targeted, has not yet reported the matter to the police, citing a lack of trust.
But Mark Benschop, who also expressed a lack of trust for the police, has met with Commissioner of Police Henry Greene and reportedly provided information on what he described as a plan to execute him by persons associated with a phantom squad.
Rohee described Lewis’s actions as irresponsible.
“For a man of his stature, I think it is highly irresponsible. The police force is the sole authority under the law that is vested with the responsibility to investigate these matters.
“My position would be, give the information to the police, and when they fail to investigate it, then you have a stronger argument against them. But you can’t say that you are not giving the information to the police,” the minister explained.
He warned that anytime a policeman is involved in criminal activity, he must be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
The police force has come a long way from the days when its relationship with the public had reached an unprecedented low, five years ago.
But Rohee said that the persons who are speaking out against the police force are fuelling a negative perception of the organization.
“As far as I am aware, the police have done a good job. Let them continue doing a better job, and let us give them the support so that they could continue doing a better job,” the minister pointed out.
He questioned whether the recent negative utterances would help the country as a whole.
With regards to the Mark Benschop issue, Minister Rohee said that Benschop had done the wise thing by providing information, even though he had expressed his distrust for the force during his meeting with the acting Commissioner.
“The Commissioner made a public statement that they are going to investigate all these claims of ‘people visiting people’ to do them something. The police made that commitment,” Rohee stated.
Crime Chief Seelall Persaud has told this newspaper that the force is actively looking for a well-known man in relation to the Benschop matter.
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