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Thursday, May 25, 2006




GUYANA is marking its 40th anniversary of political independence on Friday, with celebrations coinciding with fears over controversies on two fronts with related implications for political stability and national security-elections-readiness and criminal networking.

If the people of states like T&T and Jamaica are traumatised by murders, kidnappings and armed robberies, they should also know that in Guyana there has now surfaced a group committed to extra-parliamentary politics in the name of a so-called African Guyanese Armed Resistance.

It feels confident enough, in the absence of condemnation from the opposition parties or any warnings from the security forces, to openly boast in the local media to the government that it was not dealing "simply with criminals'', but a "domestic insurgency''. Further, that it was very unlikely that the government can defeat this resistance "given the ethnic and political history of our security forces''. Very sinister stuff in a multi-ethnic society. It is the sort of irresponsible, dangerous politics that borders on treason and which requires some focused attention from the Caricom Secretariat in Georgetown, given the grave implications for the rule of law and stable, democratic governance.

With the 65-member parliament dissolved and elections arrangements deferred to September 2, the main opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) and a collection of minor parties continue to pressurise the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the government of President Bharrat Jagdeo for a national verification process of the Official List of Electors (OLE).

The bipartisan seven-member GECOM, which is solely responsible for conducting elections, has already rejected as unnecessary and too costly the opposition's original demand for nationwide house-to-house verification of the OLE. The opposition seems ready to create problems for the conduct of the coming elections. The government said it expects the security forces to "do their duty in the national interest''.

In this atmosphere of uncertainty about the elections, of fears resulting from threats of street protests and, more ominously, "armed resistance'', there have also emerged stunning claims in the local media.

These claims have come from a businessman, Shaeed "Roger'' Khan, an alleged top drugs trafficker, about his collaboration with local and US intelligence officials and why he thinks US authorities may have fingered him as a dealer in illicit drugs and want him to face trial in America.

Khan's claims of collaboration with the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force have come while he remains in hiding. They are contained in statements released to the local media by one of his lawyers and extensively reported by the Stabroek News and Kaieteur News.

Among his claims, Khan has named officers of the local security forces as well as the United States, including US Regional Security Officer, Brandon Lee, and Deputy Ambassador of the US Embassy in Guyana, Michael Thomas, whom he has worked with between 2002/2003.

He cited assistance in the rescue of a kidnapped US diplomat, Steve Lesniak, from a criminal network operating from the East Coast village of Buxton, where a so-called "armed resistance movement'' has a base. Also, the theft of 33 AK-47 rifles and five pistols from an arms depot of the Guyana Defence Force; and in the police hunt for armed criminals involved in execution-style murders.

The claims also extend to a still unsolved bugged conversation between Police Commissioner Winston Felix and vice president of the opposition PNCR, Basil Williams that covered sensitive security matters.

The GDF felt compelled at the weekend, following publication of claims by Khan of his collaboration with army officers in relation to the theft of AK-47 rifles and other arms. But the army steered clear of related claims of involvement in any conspiracy either against Khan or in any destabilisation activities against the government.

At the time of writing, neither the Guyana Police Force nor any agency of the US government, or its local diplomatic mission, had responded to Khan's claim that in the process of his "assistance'' to them, he had discovered linkages between elements of the local security forces and well-connected criminals to destabilise the government of Guyana.

Further, he insists, US intelligence, anti-narcotics and diplomatic personnel could not honestly claim unawareness of the linkages involving local security personnel and "politically directed armed criminal elements'' in killings and destabilisation tactics.

Such, then, are some of the allegations and fears in a climate of uncertainty as Guyana prepares to celebrate its 40th freedom anniversary.



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