Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 August 2023, 7:47 by Denis Chabrol
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday has accused the military and police hierarchy during the 2002-2008 crime spree of giving the Guyana government wrong intelligence reports.
“I sat with Roger, and the leadership of the army and police would bring a report to us about the situation that was taking place on the ground when ordinary people were being slaughtered, ordinary soldiers and policemen killed and the leadership would bring a report and then five minutes later, we’ll get a call from some patriotic officers saying to us the reports were sterilised,” said Mr Jagdeo who is currently a Vice President and General Secretary of the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
Government earlier this year tabled legislation to establish a National Intelligence and Security Agency whose director would be answerable directly to the President. That Bill has been sent to a special select committee for bipartisan consideration.
He made know that position at the official funeral service for late Cabinet Secretary, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Secretary to the Defence Board and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee that at that time top military officers had been sterlising the official intelligence reports.
He said accused those unnamed military and police service personnel of attempting to mislead the government for political reasons. “All the important things were taken out of the report. They knew exactly what was happening, where the guns were going etc and they chose for political reasons to sterilise those reports and they thought they were duping us. They were not because you have among the soldiers many who were patriotic enough to say we would carry out our professional responsibility” he said.
Mr Jagdeo reiterated that certain aspects of the crime period that would remain top secret even after death. “They’re so many things that personally we had to work on in that difficult period that will probably go to the grave with all of us, as Luncheon took them to the grave,” he said. In a pre-recorded eulogy dating back to 2019 that was played during the service, Dr Luncheon provided no details of his political tenure in government and opposition from 1992 to 2023.
The Joint Opposition Political Parties (JOPP), including the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), had accused the then government of operating state-sponsored death squads that had gunned down mainly Afro-Guyanese men. While a commission of inquiry had cleared then Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj of such an accusation, soldiers had intercepted a bullet proof vehicle with convicted drug lord Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan and several ex-policemen with high-powered weapons and sophisticated cell phone interception-location equipment that could have only been purchased with government authorisation. During a manhunt for Khan, he had issued a number of statements in the newspapers including one in which he had claimed responsibility for preventing the Jagdeo administration from being toppled by the military. Khan was subsequently caught in neighbouring Suriname and sent to Trinidad from where he was picked up US federal agents, taken to New York, trialled and jailed for cocaine trafficking.
After the 2002 escape of five inmates from the Georgetown Prison, heavily armed gangs had taken up residence in Buxton, East Coast Demerara. They had robbed, kidnapped and killed numerous persons especially in the lower East Coast Demerara corridor as well as in parts of Georgetown. Gang members had been cited for the Lusignan and Bartica massacre as well as the gunning down of then Agriculture Minister Satyadeow ‘Sash’ Sawh and a number of his siblings at his La Bonne Intention, East Coast Demerara residence. A United States embassy Regional Security Officer , Steven Lesniak, and a number of Trinidad and Tobago water utility workers had also been kidnapped during that period.
Vice President Jagdeo praised Dr Luncheon for contributing to the social and economic development at a time when Guyana was facing tough economic conditions. “Roger was the man for that period. He was the best ally that a Minister of Finance could have a found in the Head of the Presidential Secretariat because he understood the challenges of the time. No money, huge needs in health, education and infrastructure but a lot of high expectations in the country,” he said.
Other difficult periods that Mr Jagdeo referred including political unrest based on false claims that the PPP had rigged the elections.
President Irfaan Ali announced at Dr Luncheon’s funeral service that the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) building would be renamed in honour of his legacy. “We have decided at the defense board, in his honour, the NISA building will be properly renamed to recognise his contribution to Guyana and the security of this country,” he said.
Dr. Luncheon died on August 1, 2023 at the Georgetown Public Hospital after an extended period of illness. He was 74 years old.