Sunday, December 6, 2009

David Clarke

David Clarke

Posted By Stabroek staff On December 6, 2009 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | 6 Comments

“…when you finish writing your memoir I would like to read it,” said US Judge Raymond Dearie to David Clarke prior to sentencing him. Well wouldn’t we all. However, no doubt we need not hold our collective breaths; there will be no reminiscences emanating from that quarter any time soon – at least not on any of the subjects in which most of the citizens of the Co-operative Republic have an interest. Mr Clarke’s testimony, the local wags presume, might be needed again by the federal authorities, in which case discretion will be forced upon him. In any case, he may also have personal safety issues to consider.

Judge Dearie appears to have been impressed by the defendant – one presumes because he did not fit the profile of the average drug trafficker who normally passes through his courtroom. “This is a remarkable case,” he observed, apparently repeating at other points that it was one of the more interesting ones which had come before him. While it was clearly a remarkable case for the judge, it was even more so for Guyanese, who knew – and still know – hardly anything about either the former major or his trafficking activities. Neither the GDF nor the Government of Guyana saw fit to even inform them that he had been indicted by the United States in 2006, and that he had voluntarily turned himself in; the information that he was incarcerated in the US on drug charges was revealed much later by this newspaper.

It was that revelation which miraculously unsealed the President’s lips, since he then informed the press that when Mr Clarke had been in charge of Operation Tourniquet in Buxton during the notorious years of 2002-03, the then captain had been in league with the criminals. “… the information on Clarke came from people whom I know in Buxton,” he said, “And I would never ever, ever betray their confidence because they told me this in confidence.” It might be added that Mr Roger Khan had made a similar accusation, but against this has to be juxtaposed the fact that the US considered that he and the former army officer were co-conspirators in the export of drugs. This appeared to receive confirmation when Mr Simels (Mr Khan’s former attorney) identified Mr Clarke as the prime candidate for ‘neutralization’ because he was a critical witness in the case against his client.

Whatever he was doing when based in Buxton, Mr Clarke, who reiterated his apologies to his family and the American people when he spoke in court, directed not a word of contrition towards his homeland and his Guyanese compatriots, whose trust he had betrayed and who had provided the opportunities for him to rise – opportunities, it must be said, which he had squandered.

Mr Clarke is now free because of time served, and what is more surprising, he is not to be deported. For the gossips in this country that means that he was very helpful to the prosecution, and/or as suggested above, that his evidence might be required in other cases. And according to the federal prosecutor Ms Shannon Jones, Mr Clarke’s brother and a dozen others were sheltering in Guyana out of reach of the US authorities. If the President signs the Fugitive Offenders (Amendment) Bill into law, then that could allow the institution of extradition proceedings potentially with results more palatable to American justice than what obtains at present. We can only wait and see whether the long arm of US law will be in fact be able to reach directly into Guyana at last.

But we come to a more fundamental point, and that is that the highest profile Guyanese criminals risk facing justice in the United States, but not in Guyana. The government can talk blue cheese about its commitment to fighting narcotics trafficking, and it can churn out as many drug master plans as it pleases, but in the end it has produced zilch in terms of results. The only thing our local drug barons have to fear is that they will end up in a federal courtroom, because the probability that they will ever have to defend themselves in the High Court on Avenue of the Republic is so low as to be almost non-existent. And the worst of it is the government seems totally unconcerned about this.

And there is the extraordinary silence on the part of the administration about what has emerged from these New York trials in general, and from this last one in particular. Apart from the President’s brief interlude of garrulousness occasioned by the revelation from Stabroek News that Mr Clarke was being held in the United States, the authorities here have been silent on the case. What was so secret about the army officer’s arrest that the citizenry could not be told? And why were proceedings not instituted against him here? Mr Jagdeo’s remarks about protecting his Buxton sources (it must have come as a surprise in many quarters that he personally knows people in Buxton who would give him sensitive information of that kind), surely makes no sense. Ways could have been found to pursue investigations without the source of the information ever being disclosed.

If on the basis of intelligence received law enforcement cannot build a case that someone is in league with criminals then something is really wrong. As it was, Mr Clarke was allowed to remain in the army, although the President did block his promotion and recalled him in the middle of a training stint in the US, of all places. The fact that he was put on trial in the United States, Mr Jagdeo thought, vindicated his actions re the recall, etc. Well, not quite. With all that information to which the President was privy and which the joint services could have followed up, he still ended up being held on an American indictment and not on a Guyanese warrant. This seems to be an instance of total incompetence on the part of the authorities; other than that, they open themselves to the accusation that they did not want to arrest him for some reason. And if they didn’t want to pursue a case against him, then why not? Clearly there is a lot more yet to be uncovered in this matter.

Last week Parliament passed the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, which makes it easier for Guyana to seek help from Commonwealth countries or other countries with which Guyana has a treaty concerning such assistance. As PNCR MP Debra Backer commented, this was the second time round for this bill, which had been passed unanimously by the House in March 2006, but which had not received presidential assent.

So now three-and-a-half years later, it has made its second entrance, and presumably the President has every intention of signing it this time, although he never explained why he didn’t sign it on the first occasion. While as Ms Backer said, it will enable the government to seek information on the drug cases against Roger Khan, David Clarke and others, whether it actually acts is another matter entirely. As in the case of Mr Clarke’s memoir, no one should hold their breath.
6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "David Clarke"

#1 Comment By La Dorada On December 6, 2009 @ 6:38 am

Prez didn’t sign the Bill. Hmmm, must be just one of those things….like the marriage certificate.

#2 Comment By MXQBH On December 6, 2009 @ 7:47 am

Blue cheese! Very bad metaphor, ed-op writer. I can think of some more appropriate metaphors, non even vaguely edible, but not blue cheese. Blue cheese is considered a delightful delicacy among cheeese aficionados.

#3 Comment By Raj On December 6, 2009 @ 9:41 am

SN go after this story and expose it for all its worth. A key piece of the government role is when Khan told Simels to nutralize Clarke but don’t kill his mother because the government will be upset. Why would Khan say that if the government is not complicit in Khan/Clarke association or at least know something.

#4 Comment By Carl On December 6, 2009 @ 11:51 am

Lest it seems that David Clarke or Roger Khan voluntarily chose to apologize only to Americans for their crimes, I’d like to advise readers that an apology to the U.S. is required as part of a plea deal.

Besides, no criminal would apologize for crimes committed in a jurisdiction in which he/she is yet to be charged. After all, almost everyone always claims to be innocent after being charged with a crime. And neither Clarke nor Khan is ready to offer apologies that could be immediately construed as guilt.

#5 Comment By Blackrattlesnake On December 6, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

La Dorada…..the Prez always on the move…..he’s jetsetter with plenty frequent flyer miles…..Guyana is where he changes his suitcases and clothes……no time for trivial things like signing stuff here……as a ‘finance’ man…..his pens are only for signing ‘money’ matters.

#6 Comment By Blackrattlesnake On December 6, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

MXQBH….them really meant to use the expression…’talk til them blue in the face’…..proof-reader lapse…..

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