Sunday, June 14, 2009



Posted By Stabroek staff On June 14, 2009 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | No Comments

The ever circuitous Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Roger Luncheon, perambulated his way around the question of an alleged link between the Government of Guyana and drug-trafficker Roger Khan in his customary fashion the week before last. A “comprehensive response,” on the matter, he told Stabroek News, depended on “comprehensive disclosure,” and not on information being made available in “piecemeal” fashion. The administration, he said, had “absolutely no intention” of becoming subject to “the cut and thrust of the media pronouncements, media disclosures” on this issue. “There should come a time,” he went on, “when there is a comprehensive submission to the administration… I suspect that will depend significantly on what comes out [or] what goes into the public domain of the engagements in New York. At that time, we would be in a much better position to respond.”

Curiously, he was also quoted as saying that in the interim the press was “making interesting reading,” and that the government would continue making its own observations. It made it all sound as if the administration was simply an observer in this instance, and not the subject of the allegation. In its most recent formulation that allegation concerns Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who has been cited in emails sent by Roger Khan’s former attorney, Robert Simels, to representatives of the Smith Myers Communications Company of the UK. It was this company which supplied the triangulation equipment used by Khan to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of officials and others here, and which provided the training for use of the equipment.

One might have expected a robust defence at a high level, but it was left to Dr Ramsammy himself to vigorously deny the allegation that he was the government contact person in arranging training for Roger Khan to use the now infamous laptop – which according to our most recent report would appear be two laptops, both loaded with the surveillance software. “I don’t know anything about it…” he told this newspaper at first, later expanding on his denial, and offering to take a polygraph test as had been proposed by the AFC.

Dr Ramsammy, of course, is the Minister of Health, and was the Minister of Health when Khan acquired the triangulation equipment in 2002. As such, even supposing there were substance to the emails, unless there had been some secret and utterly bizarre redistribution of Cabinet responsibilities, the Minister would not have had the authority on his own account to operate as a contact person in a matter of this kind; he would have to have acted on the request of persons who did have such authority. If it were to be found, therefore, that the Simels emails have validity, Dr Ramsammy would only be the starting point of any inquiry as to what the links between the Government of Guyana and Mr Roger Khan might be.

Alleged links with government aside, it must be said that there has been no official enthusiasm for investigating Khan’s criminal activities here either. For his part, President Jagdeo has said that US collaboration was essential to any local investigation, and that it was Commissioner Henry Greene’s job to do this. It is true that in May last year we reported the police as saying that they had requested information from the United States on killings linked to Khan, but no more has been heard about it since. It can only be observed that the US authorities have not been reticent about their lack of confidence in a senior member of the Guyana Police Force, and the extent to which the Americans are prepared to exchange certain categories of information with the police, therefore, is open to question.

One might have thought that any government or police force would have been galvanized into action by information that an armed gang under the direction of a drug dealer was responsible for a possible 200 killings – an extraordinary number, even in the United States. The fact that it does not appear to be a source of anxiety to the administration, inevitably attracts attention. In 2006, Roger Khan claimed in a paid advertisement, that he had been “instrumental in curbing crime” during 2002, and that he had “worked closely with the crime-fighting sections of the Guyana Police Force and provided them with assistance and information” at his own expense. The general public perception is too that – their private criminal activities aside – Khan’s Phantom Squad did indeed have a role in confronting the escapees and other gunmen in 2002. When held at Good Hope with the laptop in December of that year, Khan claimed he was using it to watch the escapees.

Of course no government will willingly entertain an investigation into a drug dealer’s activities, if at some point it has had links with that drug dealer, no matter how justified in its eyes the association. It would have to be pushed to do it. At this stage, either the government has things to hide in this matter or it doesn’t. If the latter, then there is no excuse for its lethargy in relation to investigating Khan’s activities as well as any alleged connections he had, including the one which has brought Dr Ramsammy’s name to the fore. If the former, it might be noted in passing that it may regret not pursuing a proposal put forward at the end of the 2002-03 crime wave for an inquiry into all aspects of that unpleasant episode – how it arose, whether there were political links of any kind, etc. The truth about that period no doubt has the potential to embarrass more than one party, and an official inquiry after it ended would have opened the possibility of putting it behind us.

With all the stonewalling and contradictory statements – especially about the spy equipment – which have been emanating from officialdom, people will inevitably infer that the government has something to hide. Given the way in which the drug trade has warped the fabric of this society, no serious administration would back away from at least investigating Khan’s criminal activities. If it shows no enthusiasm for even this, it gives traction to the allegations about links.

As it is, no one can predict what else might be revealed via the agency of the US courts, and if more details emerge, the allegations will haunt the government and undermine its credibility. There will come a point when it will find itself having to respond more meaningfully than it has done so far, whether or not the criteria for Dr Luncheon’s “comprehensive disclosure” have been met.

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