Jailed drug kingpin, Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan, was never recruited by the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration to take out criminal elements.
During an interview last week, former Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, was questioned on the then administration’s stance on extra-judicial killings, the presence of spy equipment and whether the PPP/C government, under then President Bharrat Jagdeo, had silently or otherwise given support to Khan and a so-called death squad that took out criminal elements.
He did make it clear that the timing was not right under the PPP/C reign for an inquiry into the killings, because of the raw wounds that were festering.
Last week, the Coalition Government announced former judge, Donald Trotman, as the Commissioner into the inquiry of the 2008 Lindo Creek killing and burning of the bodies of eight miners.
The inquiry would be one of several to determine the events of the 2000 crime wave, the David Granger government says.
However, Hinds in a letter to the editor last week made it clear that any inquiry into the events of 2000s where close to 400 persons, including criminals and business persons were killed, would have to go back to the 1997 elections.
The ex-PM served from 1992 to 1997, when he became President for a few months with the death of then leader, Dr. Cheddi Jagan. After that, Hinds remained Prime Minister through a number of elections that PPP/C won, until the 2015 elections.
Hinds’s willingness to talk about that dark period would be a shift from the silence of those days.
There have been repeated claims that Khan had close ties to the Guyana government of the day. In 2006, the police issued an arrest warrant for him, and Khan in newspaper ads claimed that he was fighting criminals on behalf of the administration.
On June 15, 2006, Khan was arrested in Paramaribo with three of his bodyguards in a sting operation that Surinamese police said netted more than 200 kilograms of cocaine – the biggest cocaine haul in Suriname of that year.
Instead of being deported to Guyana, then Minister of Justice of Suriname, Chan Santokhi, ordered that Khan be flown to Trinidad.
This decision, according to reports, received protests from then President, Dési Bouterse’s party, which then formed the biggest opposition party in the parliament of Suriname.
Upon the arrival at the airport of Trinidad, Khan was handed over to immigration authorities who then turned him over to US officials. Hours after he was expelled from Suriname, Khan was arraigned at the Brooklyn Federal Court in New York City on June 30, 2006 on a charge of “conspiring to import cocaine” and was ordered to be detained at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn.
In October 2009, Khan was sentenced in a courtroom in Brooklyn, New York to 40 years imprisonment for trafficking large amounts of cocaine in the United States of America, witness tampering and illegal firearm possession.
According to Hinds, other than what is in the press, he is not aware of any ‘spy equipment’ being approved by his government.
Of course, there were security briefings and some were on a need-to-know basis.
“I would say that I know nothing of it, except what is in the public…”
Hinds pointed to an interview by former President Bharrat Jagdeo who would have admitted that the then administration appeared be “walking in parallel directions” with Khan and his ‘Phantom Squad’.
“But we have not recruited him.”
There were reports and even documents surfacing that allegedly indicate that former Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, appeared to the be the Government conduit with Khan. The ‘spy equipment’ purchase, which was supposed to be a government-to-government transaction, had allegedly had Dr Ramsammy’s name on it, as acting on behalf of the Government of Guyana.
Then sensitive equipment, which had capabilities of monitoring cell phone calls, was later seized from Khan during a road block.
Insisting that he prefer to stay away from specifics, the ex-PM said that there are things that were reported that could lead to certain conclusions.
Some person even said that Ramsammy’s closeness to the US military would have allowed him to know his way around. That would also be the same for Khan, who appeared to have had links to the US military.
Did the PPP/C government give silent approval to Khan and his squad?
According to Hinds, it would be “hard to fight those arguments”.
He insisted that the situation was not one of “our own making”.
“We (need to) go back…we (need to) read back on the situation leading up to the 1997 elections and what started to occur afterwards.”
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