June 8, 2003
So at last the vice that the Buxton criminal fraternity has had on the population of the lower East Coast over the course of the last fifteen months is loosening. Finally, finally, the security forces were apparently given specific orders to go into the village instead of cooling their heels on the perimeter while the bandits held court in the Gulf in open defiance of the authorities.
After the President had ranted in public about the insubordination of the army in particular, when clearly they had not been given the kind of orders which would have addressed the root of the problem, the Commander-in-Chief, it seems, has finally got around to looking reality in the eye. Why, oh why, the public wonders, did it have to take the kidnapping of a US diplomat and what one presumes is pressure from the Americans, before the administration got around to doing that which everyone else could see needed to be done? That there has been a failure of government over the past year is the very least that can be said about the situation.
If we are indeed coming to the end of the reign of terror on the lower East Coast, it is, perhaps, the time to ask the Government to provide some answers to questions that have been troubling citizens for many months. For example, who really supplied the weapon which the now infamous five used to effect their escape from the Georgetown jail in February 2002? Just who would have the connections necessary to procure - not a handgun - but an automatic weapon for inmates incarcerated in the nation’s largest prison? Was this escape operation something which was organized from outside the prison, or was the plan hatched between the five (and whoever else) inside, and then contact was made with people outside in order to secure an AK-47? And if the latter, who paid for the gun?
And what about the larger context of the escape? Were the five merely agents in the execution of some kind of ambitious scheme, rather than its originators? If there was a larger conspiracy, rather than an ordinary break-out which later acquired more grandiose aims, was it locally hatched, or did it benefit from any measure of inspiration/links/assistance outside our borders?
To the uninitiated eyes of the population at large, the rampage of the criminals seems to have had phases associated with particular members of the group. The first phase certainly belongs to Andrew Douglas, with his appearance on television, bin Laden style and replete with weapon, to make his claim of being a resistance fighter. Thereafter the resistance theme went somewhat into abeyance as the rather flashier Dale Moore held sway, until finally, the seemingly shrewder Shawn Brown who was surrounded by a second generation of gunmen whom no one heard of in the beginning, took over.
Periodically the public would hear about a ‘code of conduct’ among the bandits, and for a time there were the racially charged handbills in circulation. On an ongoing basis, of course, there was the targeting of Indian families in the villages neighbouring Buxton. But if there was some larger political objective, as opposed to the more immediate aims of garnering funds through banditry and terrorizing the vulnerable out of an ethnic motivation, then what was it, and who was associated with it? And if there was, as raised above, was it there from the outset, or was it grafted on to what had started out as a different agenda? Or was it the other way round? Does the Government have any idea?
The administration first linked the PNCR with the bandits, and then abandoned that thesis to blame the drugs trade. Are we to conclude, therefore, that the five had some connection to illegal narcotics trafficking? Will the Government please say something to clarify this. And what about the arsenal that the expanded criminal circle had at their disposal? Exactly where have the weapons been coming from? Some time last year in answer to that very question, the Minister of Home Affairs said breezily that Guyana’s borders were very porous. No news there. But across precisely which border does the Minister believe that the M70s, the Barettas, the AK-47s and whatever else are coming? Does he know? If he doesn’t, has he tried to find out? And if he knows, does he have any idea of the means by which these guns are being imported, and most important, who the vendors are?
And then there is that mysterious group which first reared its head around the time of Dale Moore’s killing. Dr Luncheon in a fit of inspiration labelled them the ‘Phantom Squad.’ Just who are the Phantom Squad? What is their role in the story? And just where, and from whom are they getting their weapons? Since there seems to be nothing very phantom about their activities, would the Government please tell the public if it has investigated this group, and if it has, what its findings are in relation to them? (It might be mentioned in passing that it has been a great deal more reticent about them than it has been in the case of the Buxton squad.)
Up to this point, the last surviving member of the five - Troy Dick - was still at large. Let us hope that he, in particular, is apprehended, along with any other surviving criminals who have taken part in the banditry of the past year, so that we will have the opportunity to learn something about the network that sustained so many gunmen for such an extended period. If the Government is really as ill informed as the public, then what it needs at this stage, is arrests.