By Dale Andrews
Former treason accused Phillip Bynoe has denied any association with the Buxton/Agricola gang that was led by the now dead Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins.
Bynoe was linked to the gang after it was reported that he had connections with the Christmas Falls logging camp that provided a haven for Rawlins and members of his gang before it was raided by the security forces earlier this year.
His name also surfaced when it was disclosed that one of the gunmen killed in last Friday’s shootout at Cromarty foreshore, Cranston Gill had previously worked with Bynoe at Christmas Falls.
“Never met them, never saw them. Don’t know what they look like, except this guy that died recently. This guy was always an intelligent guy. He was one of the best workers. I never knew that he would have eventually involved himself in that,” Bynoe reflected yesterday.
He lamented the scourge of violence among young people who are seeking a fast dollar and pointed out that the problem can be tackled economically and psychologically.
According to Bynoe, the rumours about his association with the Buxton/Agricola gang was rooted in a series of articles by Freddie Kissoon after July 3, 2002. These were never based on fact and were just speculation, he added.
He said that he may have had people working at Christmas Falls who may have subsequently become members of the ‘Fine Man’ gang.
He stated that because of the location where his operation was, people began linking him to the gang.
“None of it had any basis, none of it. What can I say,” Bynoe contended.
Breaking his almost seven years of silence, Bynoe explained that the events that led to the July 3, 2002 fiasco, in which the compound of the Office of the President was stormed, stemmed from what he called dishonest dealings on the part of some people with regards to the livelihood of the people of Kwakwani.
“The sum total of it all was that Kwakwani was going to be without electricity, without medical services, without pure water. The bauxite company in Kwakwani was going to face closure and so I decided that this had to be stopped, that we got to protest this thing, and so I started the mobilization.”
Looking quite relaxed at his home in Wismar, Linden yesterday, he said that in retrospect he made mistakes, albeit not conscious ones.
“The mistake that I made is that when we arrived in Georgetown, I should have focused my protest on Region Ten and the particular issue at hand,” he explained.
In order to get mass support he said that he decided to broaden the protest and link it with other issues in other areas in Guyana.
But, in his own words, he came up against the realities of politics in Guyana.
“You’re organising a protest of a thousand people, two thousand people, you can actually monitor that protest–get marshals to prevent people from attacking shopkeepers, robbing people, beating them and so on. When you got thirty, forty-five thousand people, you don’t know who is who.
“You’re glad to see the crowd swell… but you don’t know who coming, you don’t know what they will do, you don’t know what is their objective and so what played out on July 3, 2002 was unfortunate.”
Following the event at the Office of the President, Bynoe went into hiding and several days later a warrant was issued for his arrest after a treason charge was instituted.
According to Bynoe, charges are instituted by a government to remove a politician or politicians ‘from the scene’. He added that after a number of years and now that the threat is removed, these charges disappear.
“Don’t take my word for it, do some research. Check treason charges generally. In Guyana, there was a subtle attempt to transform a politically charged person, who is charged for treason – which is a political crime – to convert that person into a real nefarious bandit, into a criminal, and there is where I have immense disappointment with the media,” Bynoe told this newspaper.
He pointed to fellow former treason accused, Mark Benschop.
“The fact that Mr. Benschop was charged with treason is that Mr. Benschop just happened to have found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is all I can say about Mr. Benschop.”
He stated that Benschop was not at all a part of the entire process on the East Coast of Demerara and in Georgetown when the protest was organised.
“I have nothing to gain by saying that Mr. Benschop was not a part of it. Mr. Benschop just happened to be there at the Office of the President on July 3. Mr. Benschop was never a part of it.”
Bynoe explained that the entire march was organised by his People’s Solidarity Movement and the opposition People’s National Congress (PNC).
He said that it was recognized that the objectives of the two entities merged and at the time the entire activity was breathing life into the PNC.
“Everything that we did that had the slant of antagonistically coming up against the government was the wrong tactic, the wrong approach, and it bred the wrong consequences for which personally me, Phillip Bynoe, I am sorry.”
Following the treason charge, Bynoe then retreated to a logging concession in the Upper Berbice River, owned by some of his business associates. He described the location as a vast, pristine forest.
“So I was happily away from the whole scene taking place in Guyana,” said Bynoe.
He said though that because the road had deteriorated, logging operations in the area ceased sometime in 2006.
However, the last time the concession was visited by officials from the logging company he was associated with was in 2007 when the final set of cut logs was removed.
According to Bynoe, when the logging operations had started, a number of persons from several parts of Guyana were employed, among them Cranston Gill, who was recently shot dead along with James Gibson and Cliff Chichester in a shootout with the police on the Cromarty Foreshore, Corentyne, Berbice.
“We employed people; we never knew their minds and what their intentions were. So that whole linkage with me, it was speculation; it was mischievous speculation that was only designed and could have only caused me and my family harm. But then again I take it as par for the course. You’re charged for treason, you can’t respond, you can’t correct anything. If you try to, then you’re gonna expose your location, so I let it ride,” Bynoe explained.
He said on Monday that he had written President Bharrat Jagdeo since November last year and having not gotten any response, he wrote a few months ago.
He told this newspaper that he even asked certain persons to intervene on his behalf, including his sister who resides in the United States of America.
He said that his first indication that the president would have assented to his request for pardon was when he received a telephone call at about 17:50 hours from the Office of the President.
“They read the statement that was made available to me and I was taken by surprise. I just expressed my heartfelt thanks. I was surprised, pleasantly surprised. It was a feeling of relief, great relief. The human being is of such that your heart is hard today, give it a couple of years and it will be softened,” Bynoe said.
But now that he has been pardoned, what does the future hold for Philip Bynoe?
Many would agree that for a man like Bynoe to remain silent for long would be wishful thinking.
“There is no way I can live in this country and not be involved in influencing political decisions. By nature I am a political animal, politics is my field,” Bynoe said, adding that fate and happenstance cannot restrict him to Linden alone, although the mining town may be the epicentre of whatever positive change may be brought about.
He said that having been out of the limelight for so long, he has had an opportunity to study Guyana and its complex problems.
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