President Jagdeo’s broadside earlier this month against the Alliance For Change (AFC) in which he alleged among other things that the party was financed by someone who was involved in the export of cocaine with pepper sauce on the side reminds one of the old adage that the best form of defence is attack.
But before he had even uttered the word `pepper’, President Jagdeo should have checked his and his own party’s tolerance level on the Scoville Scale lest the heat of the accusation overwhelm them. The first point that should be made is that the fiasco surrounding two large exports of pepper sauce cocaine from this country truly exposed his government’s inability to get on top of the drug trade, notwithstanding the unstinting efforts that have recently been made by the new administration of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit. Moreover, no one, not even the unnamed person who was supposed to have spiced up the AFC’s campaign machinery has been charged by the authorities here. Why? It is more than likely that the Canadian and US administrations do not feel sufficiently confident in the local law enforcement system to transmit the requisite evidence needed for prosecutions here. The US in particular has shown a keen interest in capturing its targets in places other than Guyana, something that no one here should be comfortable with.
President Jagdeo has had 10 years in the presidency to gain the upper hand in the fight against the drugs trade. He and his administration have failed miserably and no preaching about the consumption practices of the developed world will alleviate the extent and starkness of this failure. When President Jagdeo’s law enforcement machinery brings to justice the drug lords who continue to purvey their poisonous trade via the coterie of mules and direct shipments and levies punctiliously on their assets, his pronouncements on the drug trade will have a greater ring of credibility.
Greater credibility will also come when he and his 2001 administration comprehensively convince the general public that there was no co-operation by the state with drug accused businessman Mr Roger Khan in the fight against crime. Mr Khan is undoubtedly entitled to his day in court but with each passing day it is clear that the US is putting together a substantial case which may be difficult to defeat particularly in the wake of the witness tampering charges that now face Mr Khan and his counsel Mr Simels.
And with each passing day, more and more questions are being raised as a result of US court documents about what this government knew about Mr Khan and his activities, when it knew it and the nature and extent of its collaboration with him. The government has already acknowledged doing business with Mr Khan but nothing else. It’s quite all right if this was the type of business it engages in with all others but if it was the case that Mr Khan was immersed in nefarious activities that the government turned a blind eye to then that is quite unacceptable and exposes the farce that existed then in terms of fighting drug trafficking and detecting money-laundering.
Mr Khan in his effort to escape the clutches of local law enforcement under the command of Commissioner Felix made much of his self-declared assistance to the government in fighting the post-2002 jail-break fiends who had overwhelmed law enforcement and brought the nation to the brink. The government has not acknowledged Mr Khan’s efforts but it is well known to all Guyanese that the fight against the 2002 jail-break crime cartel saw substantial participation by a shadowy private gang which would gel well with Mr Khan’s version. This private campaign against the criminals and non-criminals also intersected with the drug trade during which known operators in the business were taken out. It all came to the fore with the declarations of the now dead George Bacchus but was never fully tested as the limited inquiry into the allegations against Minister Gajraj failed to magisterially address the question of the functioning of death squads.
The recent revelations in US court documents that Mr Khan’s so-called `spy’ equipment was now in the hands of US law enforcement having been seized from Mr Khan’s attorney Mr Simels during the witness tampering allegations has prompted a veritable treasure-trove of incredible answers. The best information coming to the fore is that after he was acquitted of the guns charges stemming from his apprehension in December 2002, the ‘spy’ equipment was returned to Mr Khan for him to continue with his alleged crime fighting efforts. This may well explain his later release of tape recorded conversations with several high officials. Otherwise, how was this done and why didn’t the government know that a private citizen was engaged in such practices? What equipment did Mr Simels export from Guyana if it wasn’t the much-vaunted `spy’ equipment?
One other connection with Mr Khan will also give much indigestion to the government if it had to explain it in minute detail. How did the state’s forestry commission almost hand over a prime logging concession to Mr Khan in the south of Guyana? Mr Khan was not a forester and didn’t come backed with the deep pockets of a multinational. How then could he have been a possible candidate for a forest concession? Wouldn’t a proper due diligence have raised questions about his background considering that he had jumped bail in the US and fled here and then amassed wealth in short order? Were it not for the exposure of this imminent transfer of the forest concession to Mr Khan it would have been in his hands for him to do as he pleased. What was the level of connection between Mr Khan and the government that placed him on the cusp of being a forest concessionaire holder?
Since his indictment in the US on drug conspiracy charges has the government sought to investigate his activities here and to determine the source of his wealth? These are the hot topics that this government must answer before it has the temerity to cast aspersions on others.
Whichever government succeeds this one, it will come under unrelenting pressure to initiate an investigation of the post-jail-break rampage, those who participated in it and the swirls in the vortex that resulted in hundreds of men being gunned down. It will be most unpleasant business but business that is important to the healing of the nation.