Stabroek News has definitely cornered the local media market with its almost daily reportage of WikiLeaks cables that reveal the impressions and allegations as noted by US Embassy officials in Georgetown and transmitted to Washington DC.
While the principals behind WikiLeaks may have to deal with any legal fallout from their daring efforts to embarrass the United States and its allies, the people of Guyana have to be grateful for what we are learning about how the US government saw (or still sees) Guyana through the eyes of that government’s operatives on the ground in Georgetown.
Not surprisingly, most of what we either knew or strongly suspected about the Jagdeo administration’s relationship with jailed drug kingpin Roger Khan, has been buttressed by intelligence gathered by the US Embassy, and the only question that needs to be asked is: Why hasn’t the US taken action (sanctions) against the Jagdeo regime in light of the myriad deeply troubling revelations? If we are to go by the contents of the leaked cables, Mr Khan was not merely a major drug smuggler and financier of an extra-judicial killing squad, operating with the full knowledge of the government in Georgetown, but as one cable pointed out, Mr Khan met more than once with Suriname’s Mr Desi Bouterse, who was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands on major drug trafficking charges. Consider that connection and the fact that when Mr Khan was caught in Suriname after fleeing Guyana in 2006, he had 213 kilos of cocaine on him.
Worse than that, one cable named Mr Khan as the person who supplied a shipment of weapons to FARC, a Colombian paramilitary left-wing group, which has allegedly received financial assistance from Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez in the past, and which has been fighting to overthrow the democratically elected Colombian regime. In this particular development, Mr Khan’s criminal cum political profile had to be raised several notches in the eyes of the US government, to the point of at least requiring the US to take drastic action, not only against Mr Khan, but against the Jagdeo administration, which appeared to have provided a safe haven in Guyana for Mr Khan to function.
Truth be told, Mr Khan’s FARC links appeared to have made him an indirect threat to America’s security interests in Colombia and the wider Latin America region, so his lenient 15-year prison sentence in New York, therefore, cannot be seen in the context of mere drug smuggling, but in the wider context of likely coughing up valuable information to the US authorities that may incriminate several major players in the Guyana government who knew of his pivotal roles in extra-judicial killings, and drug and gun smuggling. I believe that had he not given up valuable information he could have gotten a life sentence.
Anyway, to PPP presidential candidate cum presidential advisor, Mr Donald Ramotar, there are earth-shaking revelations in those cables that could affect several current and past players of the PPP regime if and when the US decides to act. And to the Jagdeo regime itself, while the local justice system is so broken it cannot take action against criminally corrupt persons in the government, there is still something called ‘international justice.’
Before I close, Editor, permit me to tangent off a bit and comment on the alarm being sounded by the publisher of Kaieteur News, Mr Glen Lall, that because of his newspaper’s persistent outing of corrupt and highly questionable practices in the Jagdeo regime, he feels he is being set up by the state as a target for local drug smugglers and dealers.
The basis for being targeted, it appears, is a revelation in one of the leaked cables that Mr Lall snitched on drug smugglers and on a former hotel builder/owner. I actually read the Sunday, September 4, 2011 Chronicle lead story, “U.S. Embassy Official says…” which highlighted that Mr Lall has a sketchy past, is rumoured to be involved in “alien smuggling,” has links to the “underworld,“ and runs a newspaper devoted to muckraking (either exposés or mudslinging).
Regardless what we think or suspect about Mr Lall‘s rumoured past, or given his frame of mind in the wake of having five employees gunned down execution style as he allegedly spoke to US Embassy officials, any attack on him or his businesses at this time must be construed as a vindictive reaction for his newspaper’s hard-hitting exposés of the government’s corruption.
Those daring exposés definitely hurt the government, which, instead of taking remedial action, appears to resort to its usual stance of being retaliatory. This behaviour definitely reflects a depraved mindset in government that is dangerous for Guyana’s well-being.
At the end of the day, we have to be vigilant against efforts to stifle press freedom in Guyana via ads withdrawals or boycotts or threats on lives of media persons, and while the price of this eternal vigilance may be very costly, we all must be prepared to bear the cost by standing up and speaking up for those being targeted for defending and promoting the freedoms and rights of the people or suffer the consequences of subsequent attacks.
Who would have thought that after the Jagdeo regime withdrew state ads from Stabroek News that the day would have come when the President himself would stand up and urge local businesses to boycott another private newspaper, Kaieteur News. Makes you now question the government’s true motive for withdrawing the state ads from Stabroek News.
In fact, on reading Tuesday’s Stabroek News’ story, “Jagdeo seen as willing to hit critics where it hurts – cable,” I am convinced more than ever that this regime is the most vindictive in the region and will do anything to get even with its opponents or critics. Pray for the protection of the vital local Fourth Estate. Vote for a new party.