Aside from all of the other ramifications, the sentencing of Mr Roger Khan in a New York court for conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States shines the spotlight brightly on the government’s stark failure to interdict and tear down the drug trade.
Worse, in this instance, considering the claims that Mr Khan has made about his support to the state in repulsing the crime wave inspired by the 2002 jail-break a case could be made of the state deliberately ignoring the misdeeds of this drug baron and cooperating with him. The government is yet to convince the public that it did not work along with Mr Khan in going after alleged criminals. It is also still to convincingly explain how Mr Khan was able to flee to Guyana as a fugitive under US law and make a meteoric rise on the rungs of the local business sector without being recognized as a trafficker.
Even more troubling is that while alleged criminals and a range of other people were being mysteriously gunned down during this most bloody period of our history, there appeared to be a parallel war between Mr Khan’s phantom squad and his competitors. Several members of longer-established drug dealing enterprises were taken out without these cases ever being solved. It would strongly appear that while Mr Khan was supposedly helping the state against criminals, his gang was also ensuring that his competition was wiped off the map so his trade was not threatened.
There is still a lot more for Mr Khan to tell about this period either from his jail cell or in courtrooms as a cooperating witness for the US government. Time will tell whether he is willing to confess to the full range of his crimes and the unofficial cooperation he received from the state and its security apparatus beginning with his infamous interception at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara with high tech weapons and the ever controversial spy equipment. It was a spectacular bungle for him and his cohorts and success for the intelligence arm of the army which later paid a dear price for its vigilance.
Mr Khan’s sentencing has sparked an outpouring of diametrically opposed views; those who agree with the sentencing or were in favour of a more severe penalty and those who believe that he should have had a lighter penalty or escaped punishment altogether because of his “assistance” to the state.
It must be pointed out that Mr Khan was sentenced on the initial charge of conspiracy to import cocaine into the US where after expensive and exhaustive legal manoeuvring he was forced to throw in the towel and accept a plea deal after being ensnared in a sinister bid to tamper with witnesses in his case.
No law-abiding state, or indeed, law abiding citizen can tolerate collaboration with the drug trade and its architects. Those who support Mr Khan and wish for his early return to these parts are labouring under a grand illusion that is poisonous and inimical to the state and totally oblivious to the ruthlessness of the drug trade and narco-terrorism.
For those who counter that point with the rejoinder that Mr Khan saved the country from the jail-break criminals and the gangs that they mobilized, the only thing that can be said to them is that well-functioning democracies based on the rule of law do not and should not have to seek any recourse to hired guns to do the job that the state is supposed to perform. The primary task of defending the people from the rampage of the jail-break criminals in 2002 fell to the PPP/C government which had already been in place for a decade and the security sector which it had presided over for that same period. Their combined failure to tackle the criminals is what brought the society to the edge of the precipice. There were, however, other means through which this carnival of violence could have been addressed by the state such as expert help from friendly police forces or assistance from Caricom and further afield. The government steadfastly opposed this because it wanted to remain in total control of the security apparatus, and indeed, there was no shake-up in the police hierarchy over this period which is what one would have expected if the performance of the police force was so dismal.
So this canard being peddled by those who support the phantom intervention by Mr Khan is really an excuse for the abject failure of the Jagdeo administration and its security forces. Those who support Mr Khan were doing so because they refused to pile the blame on the government as they were unwilling to part ways with it under any circumstance. As to the argument that the opposition and opponents of the government were giving succour to the criminals and actively directing their violence and therefore Mr Khan was the only option available, again it remained the mandate of the state to ferret out these links and to prosecute to the fullest those guilty of this. The inability to do this was a direct result of the de-professionalising of the security forces over a long period and the unwillingness of the PPP/C to radically reverse this decline through comprehensive reforms. President Jagdeo and his government have to take full responsibility for this.
And also of note is the point that Mr Khan’s phantoms didn’t end the horrific violence. The worst was to come in 2008 with Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek and the reign of Fineman and rogues in the security services. Death squads like the ones that prevailed during the jail-break years seldom create neat, surgical interventions. They worsen the problems, become self-perpetuating and fundamentally wound law and order. The gruesome murder of Dweive Kant Ramdass stands as silent testimony to this.
It leaves the question of whether this government can credibly fight the real business that Mr Khan was involved in – the drug trade. Having turned a blind eye to the trade – Mr Khan was never formally held or questioned about it in all the years he resided here – one is left to wonder whether this government has the stomach and the will for it. The fingerlings – couriers, ganja growers and the small peddlers of cocaine continue to be paraded before the courts while the big players like Mr Khan remain untouched and protected. Conceivably, those who have replaced or are thinking of replacing Mr Khan in this trade may believe that they can enter arrangements similar to the one that their predecessor carved out. This is the necrosis which this government has to address. It has to show that it is taking muscular steps against the real business that Mr Khan was involved in and the only way this can be convincingly done is to prosecute the purveyors of the trade in court and win convictions. It also has new legislation, thus far unutilized, enabling the seizure of assets accrued through the drug trade. Put it to work.