Biting the bullet Editorial
Stabroek News
June 20, 2002

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Last week former Economic Affairs Officer in the United States embassy, Thomas Carroll, was sentenced in a Chicago courtroom to more than 21 years in jail in what has become known as the visa scam case. While this was not without interest for Guyanese, of far more concern to them was what US District Court Judge Blanche Manning had to say about the Target Special Squad (TSS) some of whose members were recruited as enforcers by Mr Carroll in order to protect his operation and ensure that his 'customers' paid their money.

In a story in our June 14 edition, we reported Judge Manning as citing evidence from one TSS member, Mr Hargobin Mortley, who had said that the late Superintendant Fraser had had a Mr Shabazz arrested because he had threatened the operation by calling Carroll at the embassy. He had also planted evidence at the home of someone who had called Carroll's superior at the embassy about his activities, and had destroyed articles valued at US$300 at another person's home as a warning not to interfere with the scheme.

The report stated that US Assistant District Attorney, Carolyn McNevin had told this newspaper that the late Mr Fraser had admitted his involvement with Carroll to federal investigators, that another TSS officer, Mr Eustace Abraham, had been a material witness in the case, and that Mr Mortley had pleaded guilty and had served a reduced sentence in return for his cooperation.

It stretches credulity to believe that the Government was not aware that members of the TSS were involved in the scam; however, whatever they did or did not know before, they surely cannot avoid the truth now. Some members of the 'Black Clothes' squad are indeed criminals in the true sense of that term, and have sullied the name of the police force.

In our edition last Sunday, we reported the Minister of Home Affairs as saying that the police had no evidence at this time which would allow them to prosecute those officers who had worked with Mr Carroll. Maybe not. But the Minister surely has enough evidence in his hands to warrant setting up an investigation into the operations of the TSS. It would be the first step to rebuilding public confidence in the police.

In addition, as the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) among others has pointed out, the revelations in Chicago have lent some urgency to demands for timely inquests into the deaths of those killed at the hands of the TSS. Given the number of allegations of extra-judicial killings by that particular squad, it is important to find out which were "defensible", as the GHRA says, and which were not. As it also observed, without this, the ruling party would lose any "moral authority" for demanding that the opposition dissociate itself from criminal violence.

The nation waits to see whether the administration is now prepared to 'bite the bullet' of the TSS.