Oct 19, 2009 Letters
On reading Kaieteur News’ October 17 lead article, “Roger Khan’s jail term sparks division in Brooklyn courtroom,” I recognise it was inevitable that the sentencing would evoke a mixed reaction from Guyanese at home and abroad.
There would be those who view the sentencing as the highest honour to be bestowed on a hero-turned-sacrificial lamb, while there would be others who are satisfied that justice was done in some fashion in America, and it raises the vexing question as to why the Guyana Government couldn’t have done the same thing long before Khan was renditioned to America.
While the reaction from Guyanese is split between hero and criminal, in Khan’s mind, most likely, he sees himself as a saviour of the Bharrat Jagdeo-led PPP government, having professed in newspaper advertisements and statements released through his lawyers in Guyana as he fled to Suriname, that he saved the government from collapsing at the hands of dangerous criminals on a runaway crime spree. At one point he even made the bizarre claim that the US government, the PNC and the GDF were conspiring to overthrow the PPP government, and so I wondered if he was fed that line by government or ruling party officials or he just conjured it up.
And while I could understand the hero status some have conferred on him, it is his self described saviour title that is making me now ask how he could make such a claim and the government never knew who he was. To answer this I have to go back to the pre-Mash Day 2002 prison breakout years when Khan got involved in the drug smuggling and money laundering businesses, ‘eliminating’ his narcotics competition so he could emerge as the nation’s number one drug baron and flourished unfettered by local law enforcement.
So, long before he became a hero to some and a saviour of the government, Khan was actually a creature of a deeply compromised and corrupt system, which he then infiltrated as he used his illicit profits to wield influence among government officials who turned a blind eye to his drug operations.
What the Mash Day 2002 prison breakout did was to simply hand Khan an opportunity to easily move from thriving drug baron to potential hero and saviour, because he was able to tap into his reservoir of illicit financial gain to pay for his Phantom Squad operations, which undermined and defeated the criminal elements behind the crime spree. Unfortunately for Khan, the very squad he relied on to achieve his crime-fighting goals was the basis of the collapse of both his drug empire and extra-judicial operations, because former squad informant, George Bacchus, became disgusted over the fact that squad members were hiring themselves out on pay-to-kill hits by killing non-criminal human targets and exposed the whole operation.
But throughout the entire ordeal, what was rather striking was the fact that the President, who is into every little thing that happens in Guyana, said he never knew or met Khan, and no government official ever admitted to knowing or meeting Khan. How could this be possible given that:-
1) Khan said he used officers on active payroll in the police force to help him confront the criminal elements, and that he used his resources to fight criminals and save the government, yet the government never moved to have him extradited from Suriname to explain what he meant and what he actually did.
2) Khan acquired prime pieces of real estate on which he built several houses.
3) Khan received permission from the Guyana Forestry Commission to acquire a swath of land to undertake ‘logging operations’.
4) Khan confessed to bugging a police commissioner’s phone, but rather than the President ordering a probe into how he could have engaged in such a major security breach, the President ordered his Prime Minister to investigate recorded remarks made by the commissioner.
5) Khan was instrumental in the spectacular freeing of a kidnapped US diplomat and after naming the kidnapper and identifying an army major as supporting the Buxton criminal gang, the President ordered the major to return immediately from a training programme in the United States.
6) Khan was able to obtain and use a spy equipment from the United States, even though such equipment can only be approved for export after the supplier receives a letter of permission/authorisation from the government of the country to which the item will be shipped.
7) Khan was named by the United States in a 2005 narcotics report as a major drug smuggler in Guyana yet the government failed to have the police launch a probe of Khan.
Khan’s sentencing may have closed a traumatic chapter in his intriguing life, but it does not close the chapters in the lives of others in Guyana and the United States, including Guyana government officials, his drug conspirators in Guyana and America and, very importantly, the grieving families of those who lost their relatives to Khan’s Phantom Squad.
Just as I discerned the pain etched in the face of his mother as she left the Brooklyn Court House after his sentencing, I can imagine the pain of surviving relatives who know that Khan and his mother will one day reunite, but not so for these surviving relatives of Khan’s victims in Guyana. In fact, many in Guyana probably wish the dead criminals, criminal suspects and ‘soft targets’ of Khan’s trigger men could have been afforded justice the same way Khan was afforded justice in America.
I would be remiss, meanwhile, if I did not speak to the issue of those innocents who were terrorized and or even died at the hands of the so-called Freedom Fighters and other straight-up demented criminals. The pain of who those who were terrorized and the pain of those who lost loved ones can never be diminished or forgotten or lost in the moment of Khan’s sentencing.
We have to keep this pain front and centre until justice is done so there can be closure, because we are talking about multiple murders and not regular criminal offences. The only problem I am having with respect to this group of victims is that the government owes it to them to ensure justice is served in their case the same way a sense of justice is served in Khan’s sentencing, but to government, the cases are closed because the criminals and suspects have been shot dead. If government had called in peacekeeping forces from CARICOM, the Commonwealth or the United Nations after the GDF and GPF failed to assure internal stability, rather than rely on Khan’s so-called heroics, it likely could have assured justice for this group of victims.
But just like government failed to stop Khan’s rise as a drug baron, it failed to obtain requisite foreign assistance to deal with an internal security crisis. The only plausible reason for this disturbing failure in the first instance is that the government never viewed drug smuggling as a serious criminal offence as the United States does.
And in the second instance, the plausible reason has to do with government’s concern that foreign forces operating in Guyana would uncover the extent of the drug smuggling operations that may very well have been facilitated by a deeply compromised government. It’s almost similar to the plausible reason why government is said to have refused to allow the British to station their police personnel among Guyana’s own as part of the police reform exercise: fear of being exposed.
In closing, I think the Khan sentencing is just a prelude to the next chapter of his life as a drug smuggler; a chapter in which he may yet become a star witness against government officials who knowingly facilitated his operations in Guyana. If I am right, he may never return to Guyana, but after his release may be placed into a witness protection programme and reunite with his family in America.
What such an eventuality may mean for those who think he should face justice in Guyana is not clear right now. But overall, his sentencing is not just about his crimes in Guyana and America, but the indictment of the Guyana government for failing to enforce its own laws evenhandedly. The only winner at this time, therefore, is justice, because the Guyana government lost a lot of credibility and is likely to lose more later on, and Khan not only lost his freedom in America, but after saving the Guyana government from collapsing, he lost its support as it denied knowing him and abandoned him. Come to think of it, this has been the PPP’s trademark for decades: use people and then refuse them. Is its support base paying attention to its true nature?
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