March 4, 2003
Among the beneficiaries of the process of globalization over the past decade have been the criminal networks which have been responsible for the current unrest in the country. Many offences, which were once ignored and even encouraged as mere economic necessities during the decade of depression in the 1980s, have now become indestructible monsters.
The Guyanese pastimes of ‘back-tracking’ (illegal migration); narco-trafficking (illegal trade in drugs); money-laundering, tax evasion and customs fraud (illegal financial transactions); and gun-running (illegal trade in weapons) have all become efficient businesses involving, at different times, foreign embassy officials, customs and law enforcement officers, and civilian entrepreneurs. It is evident that the illegal movements of people, narcotics, money and weapons have made the current crime wave more deadly and more enduring than any previous episode of violence in this country.
When the Police confirmed that a Trinidadian national was one of the men shot dead at a roadblock at Ogle in January, questions were raised about the presence of foreign mercenaries and paramilitary elements in the crime wave. The dead man was the second Trindadian to be shot and killed here under questionable circumstances. In this case, ammunition, bullet-proof vests, communications equipment and several weapons were found in the car the rear of which was also fortified with steel plates.
In November 2002, the first Trinidadian to die was among a group of men who infiltrated Buxton Village, opening fire on residents only to be later found shot dead, execution style, his body still clad in camouflage clothing and a bullet-proof vest.
In yet another incident, a bullet-proof pick-up vehicle was found with a laptop computer programmed to trace cellular phone users, a town plan of Georgetown and a quantity of high-powered assault rifles and submachine guns from some of which the serial numbers had been effaced.
Dr. Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, who is also Secretary of the Guyana Defence Board and, most important, Chairman of the Central Intelligence Committee, was the first to announce that the Intelligence community over which he presides had started to pay attention to the activities of what he called a ‘phantom force’. In the past, Dr Luncheon said, the Intelligence Community had worked to recapture the Mashramani escapees and their criminal gangs who have been blamed for the upsurge of crime but was now extending its focus to the ‘phantom force’. Not only have most of the escapees been killed but it had become apparent that those few desperate men could not have been the only ones responsible for the upsurge in crime.
Seven days after the 28 October 2002 ‘Bloody Monday’ killings of Dale Moore, Mark Fraser, Lancelot Roach, Mark Singh and Franklyn Solomon which followed Brahmanand Nandalall’s amazing escape, five others - Othneil Embrack, Basdeo Dyal, Andrew McPherson, Oliver Springer and Dereck Torrington were killed in the 4 November ‘Diwali massacre’. The discovery of the bodies of two men in Melanie Damishana and Buxton - both with gunshot wounds - the shooting deaths of Joel Evans and Inspector Gadget and the discovery of Mark Rutherford’s body at Annandale, made it apparent that some sort of paramilitary death squads were at work. The best explanation yet for the mysterious appearance of dead bodies may be that paramilitary death squads could be responsible for the mysterious killing of persons listed by the police as ‘wanted’.
The death squads are merely the foot-soldiers who protect the four-headed, international ‘Hydra’ of back-tracking, narco-trafficking, money-laundering and gun-running in this country. These activities, not dirt poor villagers, pay for the computers, communications equipment, vehicles and weapons and facilitate the recruitment of foreign mercenaries.
The Government must have realized by now that it is fighting not one war against those it calls ‘bandits’, but four wars. Its efforts will fail unless it devises a new strategy to confront this global and local reality.