`When blind man tell yuh...' -Protecting Enrico's sources
By A.A. Fenty
January 9, 2004
Not blessed with the strong spines or testicular apparatus of two or three particular "older" journalists, I always hesitate to comment on certain issues, out of a fear that I'll anger the criminal protagonists.
But I did promise last Friday that I would seek a comment from the under-scrutiny Home Affairs Minister, ex-Army Officer Ronald Gajraj on the so-called phantoms. Addition-ally, Gajraj happens to be - as I also mentioned last week - one of the government Ministers who intrigues me, for a variety of reasons.
Many months ago I had done a column titled "What Minister Gajraj knows." This was during the height of the murderous crime spree with the village of Buxton a safe haven - willingly or reluctantly - for the killer-bandits. Recall if you would that I had opined that the Minister in charge of our collective safety and internal security was "no angel." Being an ex-GDF man, now attorney, politician and government point man, I shared my view that I had then detected Gajraj's frustration because he was aware of ways in which the joint Army-Police exercises on the East Coast of Demerara were being compromised. Resulting in the continual robberies, rapes and murders as the police, especially, were outfoxed and outgunned by the aided-and-abetted criminals. Gajraj himself did hint at some police rogues in collaboration with the criminals or their relatives, compromising even the lives of their brave colleagues. And that certain army elements on the East Coast Operations were not doing enough. Or perhaps some other connections were evident.
In any event, the hands of the good guys were tied, including Gajraj's. This did not prevent aggrieved interest groups and individuals from calling for his resignation - as the communities suffered, the guns roared and the body count mounted. He had said publicly then - to my question - that he would have done so if he thought it would have helped; that the criminal surge would be stopped or solved by his demitting office. Actually, only on Wednesday this paper's letter-columns carried an item calling again for Gajraj to go. This was penned by the articulate, erudite CRB Edwards, a group or individual suggesting the Minister's immediate "actual withdrawal" from public life explainable by a "diplomatic indisposition." Would a resignation really help? Help what?
Last Friday I reported that the Minister, somewhat reluctantly had expressed the view that political pressure - aided by specialised media support, I suspect - is being brought to bear because the opponents want him out feeling that no appropriate candidate is there to replace him within a PPP/C administration. He deemed that theory and strategy wrong. On both counts.
So, does my primary caption have anything to do with all the foregoing on Minister Gajraj? Of course. It has, once again, to do with the role of the press, the function of the investigative journalist; even freedom of the press and of expression.
How significant the role and responsibility of a journalist? In times of political upheavals, wars, natural disaster, economic crises, crime sprees!? I attended the Home Affairs Minister's year-end December 19 Press Conference. I smiled silently as Enrico Woolford and Adam Harris voiced their phantom-specific questions to the Minister. Afterwards, I asked him what he would like to see the informed, in-the-know media do to assist in bringing criminals to justice. I had reminded him that even in the height of the crime wave, it was obvious that journalists like Enrico had some access to wanted bandits or their associates as special interviews were aired on specific newscasts featuring specific criminals - dead or alive. Gajraj responded to me outlining how journalists could be helpful but acknowledging that journalists' - Enrico's - sources should be "protected."
Now, in another aspect of my life, I dabble in our folklore and oral traditions. One of my favourite folk proverbs is "when blind man tell yuh 'e gon pelt yuh, 'e already got e brick - or stone - in hand. To me, therefore, it is reasonable to assume that when Enrico asked Gajraj whether he (Gajraj) had known a murdered Axel Williams, Enrico - or Adam - already had his brick or stone - the telephone records in hand - from their source - which source, of course, must be protected.
Great "investigative journalism", it has to be admitted. Though I wonder if it doesn't intimidate some who would want to offer the authorities helpful intelligence. When some "confidentiality" of records is made public?
Well the Minister did not really elaborate with respect to any views he might have on the alleged phantom killing squad. Even when, outrageously, I admitted that I didn't mind the results of the unknown executioners' operations in the very beginning, even though I suspected how the consequences of their "assistance" could have developed.
Gajraj stuck to what he had told Current Affairs Editor Patrick Denny earlier: that he could not support the "concept" of an extra-police gang, as "a Frankenstein" could be created. He had or has no intention to create Frankensteins. Well, I'm far from being an investigative journalist. Perhaps I'm too scared. Real truth will emerge no matter how long it takes.
My gut feeling is that there seems to be some dissension in whatever group had and have business connections and guns. They seem to be disagreeing on either strategy, operations and/or victims. We without guns must stay far and stay alive. Oh yes, and find ways to rid the society of the gangs - and the career criminals now seemingly entrenched.
Two related notes conclude my offering today. The first has to do with the numerous calls the Home Affairs Minister and Ministry get from would be informants who prefer not to go directly to the police. How are those dealt with? How can prosecutions follow hard evidence collected - if informants can't or won't come forward?
The second note is a belated sympathy message to the Mother of the deceased Axel Williams. The fact that Ms Williams was a staunch pro-PNC/GPSU activist intrigues me, in light of allegations that her son was associated with a staunch PPP/C minister. Oh what a beautiful, blighted land we live in. No wonder Ms Williams is now a born-again Christian. So many things and people to pray for.
This is Guyana...
1) Coming next week: "Surely Comrade Corbin knows?"
2) What's the American interest in local Phantoms?
3) Next week too: CN Sharma investigates - and doing business in Guyana.
4) What is the real Rohee visa story, I insist. Caught up as an old socialist/communist attending world for a? Or some other reasons. Unprecedented!
5) Put condoms in prison here? Well Canada shares out fruit-flavoured condoms to its male inmates! Viagra too!?
`Til next week!