Roger Khan and inquiry into ‘The Troubles’

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WE have learnt that convicted drug-trafficker Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan will be released from a U.S. prison today after spending around 15 years there for narcotics trafficking. The sordid story of Khan and his connections to the opposition are well known to this country. If deported, he will find a very different society and authorities that are not tolerant of his activities.

Back in 2003-2006 Khan had set up a criminal network here including active policemen and a number of former ranks, ostensibly to go after criminals, but at the same time protecting his narco-trafficking interests. He was nabbed in neighbouring Suriname in 2006 while fleeing local police, and was later handed over to U.S. authorities.

Although the PPP government had sought to distance itself from Khan, the drug-trafficker had stated publicly in an advertisement in local newspapers that he had been fighting crime on behalf of the Bharrat Jagdeo-led government. Khan had also implicated former Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy in his escapades, and documents bearing the then minister’s signature authorising the purchase of a sophisticated wire-tapping device were produced in U.S. courts during Khan’s trial.

The descent of this country during the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, which President David Granger has described as the ‘ Troubles’ was the “darkest hour” of this nation’s recent history that was characterised by drug-driven chaos and bloodshed. Jagdeo was President of Guyana from August 11, 1999 to December 3, 2011, during which there were three massacres: Lusignan, where 11 people were killed; Bartica, where another 12 were killed and Lindo Creek, where seven miners were slaughtered. Besides, there were countless extra-judicial killings– with some activists estimating that around 400 Afro-Guyanese males were gunned down.

President Granger has on many occasions signalled his intention to mount an inquiry into the violence which gripped Guyana during that period; perhaps with Khan returning, this might be the most opportune time. Victims of the violence of that period came from all ethnic groups, but African-Guyanese young men were hit hard. Thus, that community would obviously have an interest in such an inquiry.

We support such an inquiry. This nation needs to know who the players behind that deadly period were in our recent history. Hundreds of African-Guyanese lives were lost. The community of Buxton was virtually dislocated. Policemen were shot down. Innocent Indian Guyanese were killed and attacked. A government minister and his family were murdered. Outside of the violence of the 1960s, this was the most violent period in our recent history. What was behind the violence? Was it politically motivated? What was the agenda of the players?

These and other questions are unanswered. The PPP has always sought to make mileage out of the murders of Indian Guyanese, but refused to properly investigate the murder of its own minister. There are hints that some of the then rulers were connected to the operations. If so, who were they? And to what extent were they involved and why?

The once proud village of Buxton was transformed into a killing field. People were randomly murdered. Women were raped. Children were turned into child soldiers. Under-age girls were bought by gunmen. Schools were disrupted. Even today, a decade later, the scars of that experience are still fresh. An entire generation of Buxtonians has been negatively affected. Parents, children and relatives still mourn their loved ones. The village is still to shake off the image of violence. Some people are still afraid to go there.

Guyana has had too much bloodshed, too much state-sponsored violence. It is time we learn what really happened, so that we can correct the wrongs done to ordinary working-class folk. We are behind you, Mr President.