Monday, October 26, 2009

The police probe and Roger Khan

The police probe and Roger Khan
Stabroek News Editorial. October 26, 2009.

After years of unremitting pressure, the government seems to be attempting to do something about the elephant in the room – the rampage of Roger Khan and his cohorts in these parts. It came in the form of an announcement by the police inviting all and sundry to testify before the police about what they know about alleged murders committed by Mr Khan’s gang and by the notorious `Fineman’.

Whoever thinks that this was the initiative of the police force is deluded. Nothing about Roger Khan will ever see the light of day without the political directorate carefully scripting the act and putting the force’s figurehead in front of a teleprompter. It must be remembered that when pressed by the media on several occasions about the allegations flowing from the Brooklyn court about Roger Khan and what it revealed about his government, President Jagdeo brushed aside the matter by saying that it was up to the police to investigate these alleged murders and other matters. It was to put it lightly an unvarnished attempt to fabricate a parallel reality. Roger Khan is a political hot potato for the police force and is therefore a no fly zone. The discerning public is well aware of this. Second, President Jagdeo would no doubt be fully cognisant that the police force is intrinsically incapable of investigating any of these murders and other aberrations of the Khan and `Fineman’ rampage and so this would have been futile from the start.

This sop to the public is probably the result of the pressure that has been applied here and abroad over the Roger Khan debacle. It is also a pre-emptive strike to blunt any embarrassment at the upcoming meetings over REDD and the climate campaign at Copenhagen particularly in light of the governance issues that will be raised by donor countries and multilateral institutions. It won’t, however, amount to much and in the crucial weeks leading up to Copenhagen President Jagdeo and his spin doctors will have much explaining to do.

The bland announcement by the police force is an insult to the years of death, maiming, bloodshed and grief that rained upon the populace beginning in 2002 at the hands of the escapees who fled Camp Street in 2002 and the phantom groups that were subcontracted to go after them. And the timing, days after the sentencing of Roger Khan adds further insult to injury. Is it the case that the police have only now been convinced that Roger Khan is worthy of investigation simply because of his sentencing in New York? Even though he pleaded guilty months ago to conspiracy to import cocaine into the US and a dangerous witness tampering charge? Even though for years ordinary citizens here have harboured grave concerns about what he was engaged in and had repeatedly pressed the authorities in various ways to act?

And this is why the invitation by the police to members of the public is likely to be viewed with pure cynicism and trepidation. Can the police and the government reasonably expect people to come forward and testify when there are irresistible leads pointing to collaboration between Roger Khan and the police/government? The earliest indicator of this was his apprehension at Good Hope with high-powered weapons and the spy equipment, the clear reluctance to charge him and his subsequent acquittal on all of the charges. More recently, this view has been cemented by the shenanigans surrounding the spy equipment, several pieces of which Khan was able to import and one of which his now convicted lawyer Robert Simels apparently spirited out of the country. Also knotted into this are the allegations swirling around Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and his alleged facilitating of the purchase of one of the spy machines. So organized was this assistance programme for Khan that a trainer was dispatched here to school those who would be using the equipment. Surely if the police were serious about investigating Khan’s organization they would have already ferreted out information on the trainer’s movements here and tracked down who he was in touch with and relating to.

Do the police expect the public to have any confidence in their probe when Roger Khan operated here as the number one drug kingpin without so much as being hauled in for questioning? If in the six or seven years he functioned here as a drug trafficker and as the head of a violent criminal network that allegedly murdered dozens of people without being investigated by law enforcement authorities and prosecuted is it realistic to believe that the police can make any meaningful inroads in this investigation so long after the fact and with many of the potential witnesses not here or in the great beyond? How can these lapses – the length of the Essequibo – be squared with what the police are now attempting to do?

Do the police expect the public to come forward when dozens of serving and former law enforcement officers were known to be in the employ of Mr Khan? Many of the phantom killings were attended by strange movements of police vehicles and personnel as if to ensure that there was no hindrance or apprehension of those involved. Who is to say that these men are still not in the employ of the force or retain the ability to penetrate the upper echelons and gather information about what witnesses are presenting to the police? Remember it was Mr Khan himself who bugged the office of Commissioner Felix probably with the assistance of some ranking police officer.

Do the police expect the public to take this probe seriously when there are myriad recourses to the courts in New York for sworn affidavits, testimony and witnesses? If the force acted only after Roger Khan was sentenced in New York should it not have immediately applied to the courts there for all of the relevant testimony, access to witnesses and Mr Khan himself? There are state-to-state mechanisms in place for this as reported in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek but does the government really want to find out about Roger Khan’s drug business and the dealings of the phantom gang? Will Minister Rohee, as head of the designated agency under the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters now formally approach the US government for material which may not even have been made available to the courts and publicise this request so that the public can judge the government’s seriousness?

Yet, it is sage advice as provided by the Guyana Human Rights Association that this current investigation – warts and all – must be tested to fullest so that the sincerity and the machinery of the law enforcement agencies and the government could be assessed. Perhaps it could lead to a broader enquiry. However, before this is done the police force and the government need to put confidence-building measures in place or else the hotlines will remain silent and the force bereft of any meaningful leads. Considering that the force is riddled with corruption and that some of its serving members were colluding with Khan and may have taken part in some of his extrajudicial operations, the government has to enable a decent distance between those who might want to testify and the police force. One way of doing this is to have a team of credible civil society members and perhaps a senior law enforcement officer from within the Caribbean, be part of the investigating process. This will comfort potential witnesses who are likely to be skeptical that their accounts will be taken seriously by the police.

Second as was the case during the very limited investigation of former Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, there is an irrefutable need for witness protection. Remember that George Bacchus paid with his life after deciding to spill the beans. How this can be achieved in the present circumstances is unclear. There is, however, plea bargain legislation which could be employed to convince some who may not have committed the most serious crimes to tell of what they know in return for lighter penalties.

Third, if there are remnants of Roger Khan’s network engaged in illicit activities and continuing businesses in his name, the police, CANU and the Financial Intelligence Unit under the new anti-money laundering act, should immediately set about investigating even if this is shamelessly after the fact. There should also be a careful review by a security expert from outside the disciplined forces on why they failed so shockingly to detect and investigate Mr Khan over the drug business. This should entail detailed interviews with the police commissioners in question. Such moves would encourage members of the public to believe that the police are serious about getting to the bottom of this brutal phase of our history. It will be an uphill task.
8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "The police probe and Roger Khan"

#1 Comment By coolieman On October 26, 2009 @ 9:27 am

Time to move on

#2 Comment By tkhemraj On October 26, 2009 @ 11:00 am

Very good editorial. Only Stabroek News could say it like this.

#3 Comment By tkhemraj On October 26, 2009 @ 11:05 am

EDITORIAL: “Do the police expect the public to come forward when dozens of serving and former law enforcement officers were known to be in the employ of Mr Khan? Many of the phantom killings were attended by strange movements of police vehicles and personnel as if to ensure that there was no hindrance or apprehension of those involved.”

Well that more or less sums up the spurious nature of the inquiry!

#4 Comment By Bismattie Ramsawak On October 26, 2009 @ 11:42 am

A courageously honest editorial by the Stabroek News… very courageous indeed.

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