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OPINION: Convicted drug trafficker? Common criminal? Folk hero? Political pawn?

By Yolande Gittens 

Roger Khan was deported to Guyana last Friday night.

For weeks following his release from a US prison where he had been serving time for drug trafficking, there had been speculation as to his arrival date. Such was the anticipation, that many false sightings were reported. Social media sites were in overdrive. Speculation mostly revolved around discourse that ex-President Jagdeo and members of the opposition PPP, were/are fearful that Khan’s return would result in the revelation of “secrets”. Khan purportedly has knowledge of various extra-judicial killings, including that of Ronald Waddell and Donald Allison (allegations yet to be proven in a court of law).

A casual perusal of social media sites, and local newspapers websites revealed an overwhelmingly re-current theme of Khan as somewhat of a folk hero. One such comment on a newspaper’s online report of Khan’s questioning by police on arrival, praised Khan for stopping a conspiracy to overthrow the PPP government between 2002-2006. Apparently, a “terrorist squad from Agricola and Buxton” was unleashed to murder innocent men, women, and children.” The commenter claims Khan allegedly was responsible for stopping this. “Mr.Khan brought back civility and peace back to Georgetown and we thank him for it”, the comment continued. Further, the comment also stated that it was only the “die hard PNC trolls and criminals” would have anything negative to say about Khan. Another was adamant that the “government and police are f****** Indians in Guyana and Roger Khan coming back for s****.”

In trying to understand the above and other similar views, I relied upon the criminal theory that among the five categories of criminals, perhaps the one that Khan may be slotted into is that of external circumstances driving him to the crime of drug trafficking. Bear in mind that I have no empirical evidence to support this premise; other than the generalisation that a large number of petty drug traffickers in Guyana, were more often than not, marginalised through poverty. Hence they suffered from the get-rich-quick syndrome and so turned to drug trafficking as a means of wealth acquisition.

Is it then that Khan is viewed in some quarters as a folk hero because of his perceived political affiliation and alleged foiling of a coup d’etat? Or is it from him reportedly heading the so-called Phantom Squad, the parallel security force which, during the previous administration, operated with impunity and was allegedly responsible for the extra-judicial killings and disappearance of many young black males.

Is the folk hero/political pawn view of Khan being peddled as an attempt to further the cause of ‘them against us’ views in the forthcoming general elections?

If this is the case, then what does it say about us as a people? Each of us has a moral compass and dictates of right and wrong by which we are guided. However, I dare say the trend is evident. Once more, fear and distrust are being whipped up. Unfortunately, normal right-thinking citizens become so caught up, that we set aside what we know is right or wrong in the us against them scenario.

So how is the misguided notion of Khan the folk hero to be dispelled? Should there be a Commission of Inquiry held in order to glean a better understanding of what really transpired during that period? The holding of a COI for what it is worth, serves a larger purpose in that not only does it have the potential to uncover previously-unknown facts. During such an inquiry, it’s also possible to obtain more statements from those wishing to have their say on record. It also forces all involved to confront and address social and political problems which are often ignored in the hope that they will magically disappear.

Additionally, allegations of Khan’s use as political pawn could be ventilated at such a forum with a view to clearing up definitively, who or if anyone was indeed his puppeteer. Alternatively, is there any room for a possible plea bargain under local laws? While, not trying to lessen the enormity or heinous nature of the allegations against Khan, there may be some gains to be had in being able to obtain potentially useful information from him. Those may in turn lead to several other prosecutions.

One must be vigilant and wary of the false inferences that Khan is some type of political folk hero. The bottom line is that Khan is a convicted drug trafficker/common criminal. Not a folk hero to be glorified as some type of saviour. Time will tell if he will be prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the murders of Waddell and Allison for which he is currently being questioned.

Yolande Gittens is a former journalist in her native Guyana.