Pubdate: Sun, 23 Mar 2008
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2008 Stabroek News
Author: Nigel Williams


- - Terrorists, Not Ex-servicemen In Gangs

Retired army colonel Carl Morgan said drug trafficking  and corruption in 
high places were responsible for the  violent criminal uprising and he 
dismissed claims that  ex-servicemen were behind the two recent mass 
killings,  asserting that there were two gangs, one of which was associated 
with the drugs trade and the other  comprising home-grown terrorists who 
saw no future in a  society offering few opportunities.

Morgan, the current President of the Georgetown Chamber  of Commerce is 
also the President of the Guyana Legion  and a member of the Board of 
Trustees of the Guyana  Veterans Foundation. He told Stabroek News in 
an  interview on Tuesday that several ex-servicemen were particularly 
disturbed at recent utterances by  President Bharrat Jagdeo and other 
government officials  that former soldiers were behind the slaughter 
of  innocents at Lusignan and Bartica. Morgan said those  comments were 
unfortunate, noting that a quick look at the wanted criminals and those who 
had been killed  would reveal that none of them was an ex-serviceman.  "We 
cannot just apportion blame to anyone and randomly  accuse people. If we 
don't know who are the killers  then let's stay quiet," Morgan stated. He 
said he  noticed that Jagdeo, at his recent press conference,  attempted to 
clear the air on the issue, saying that  99% of the servicemen might be 
living orderly lives.  Morgan said this was a welcome development although 
he  was of the firm view that the damage had already been  done.

On March 6, government spokesman Dr Roger Luncheon said  it was no secret 
that ex-servicemen were involved with  criminal gangs. "I don't believe it 
is a secret that  many of the gangs have benefited from the presence 
of  former members of the joint services," Luncheon said at his 
post-cabinet media briefing. His comments were made  two days after former 
army officers Oliver Hinckson and  Dorian Massay had been arrested by the 
police. Hinckson  has since been charged with advocating the commission  of 
a terrorist act and uttering seditious statements.  He allegedly made these 
statements at a City Hall press conference on February 1.


Hinckson had told members of the media that he, along  with other 
servicemen, was prepared to mediate between  the gunmen and the authorities 
to bring calm. Asked  whether his organisations were prepared to play a 
role  in any negotiation, Morgan said they were not interested in mediating 
with criminals. He said what  was needed was for the authorities to 
identify who the  people behind the gunmen were and those were the 
people  to be spoken to. He said mediation was only one part of  the 
solution, noting that the authorities had to get to the root of the crime 
problem and remove the fertile  ground on which drug trafficking and 
corruption thrive.

The former army officer said both the Veterans  Foundation and the Guyana 
Legion could play a role in  giving advice and lending their expertise in 
the fight  against crime, but he said they had never been formally  asked 
to do so.

It had been said that a number of ex-servicemen had hit  hard times and 
many of them might have become  disgruntled with the political situation 
and had  decided to pick-up arms against the state. Asked whether his 
association had any knowledge of this,  Morgan said no, adding that the 
members of the Guyana  Legion were mostly war veterans who were too weak 
to  fight. He said members of the Veterans Foundation were  mainly 
ex-soldiers who were also not engaged in any type of criminal activity. 
"Look, those who are not too  old to be part of anything are busy trying to 
make a  living," Morgan commented.

It was put to him that the ex-servicemen did not have  to be young and 
strong to strategise and guide the  gunmen. "That is so, but we have no 
information on  that," the former army officer said.

He said he would not deny that there could be  ex-servicemen who had taken 
the wrong path. However, as  far as he was aware, there was no evidence to 
make any  broad statement on a criminal link. "The bulk of the  robbery and 
the killings we see today are being  committed by men in their 20s -  we 
see no  ex-serviceman on the police wanted list."

The Killers

Asked who he thought might be behind the killings,  Morgan said the country 
was confronted by two gangs -  one linked to the drugs trade and the other 
a band of  home-grown terrorists who have no future in a society  where 
there are few opportunities. He added that  certain elements in society 
especially those with  strong connections to narcotics and weapons 
trafficking  have capitalised on these vulnerable groups and 
have  succeeded in using them to carry out their activities.  Morgan, who 
is also the vice chairman of the Private Sector Commission and CEO of MMC 
Security Force, said  it served the purpose of drug dealers to have 
an  unstable society - which was what was prevailing at the  moment - as it 
was easier for them to carry out their  nefarious activities. While law 
enforcement authorities  were sidetracked hunting down gunmen, drug 
shipments  were flowing through the country's porous borders, he  said. 
"But what we face as a nation is not peculiar to  us; other C! aricom 
nations are experiencing similar  crises, although their problems might be 
as a result of  a different source," Morgan observed.

Caricom leaders will be meeting next month in Trinidad  to discuss and find 
solutions to stem the tide of  violence across the 15-nation bloc. On 
January 26 and  February 17, gunmen slaughtered 23 people at Lusignan  and 
Bartica. Police have since only charged one man  with the Lusignan 
killings. The authorities said that a  gang, led by the country's most 
wanted man, Rondell  'Fineman' Rawlins, was behind the killings. 
But  security officials believe there is a link between the Bartica killing 
and drug operatives.

Security experts blamed the criminal uprising on the  lack of a national 
security strategy, but the Jagdeo  administration insisted that it had a 
strategy in the  UK-funded security sector action plan.

Foreign Experts

Morgan said there was a feeling among many that foreign  experts could come 
and solve the country's security  troubles overnight; a position he 
disagreed with. He  said one need not look too far to see that this was 
not  the case, pointing to Jamaica, which for the past  several years had 
had British experts working in senior  positions in the police service. He 
noted that  Jamaica's crime situation was no better than it was  before. 
"It takes time and will, so we can have a good strategy but if we do not 
clean up the corruption and  drug-running that are fuelling the crime 
problem then  we are not going anywhere," Morgan said.

Asked what needed to be done urgently, Morgan said that  in addition to 
rooting out corruption from the top to  the bottom, the authorities needed 
to look at the root  causes of the violence the country had 
been  experiencing over the years. Several political parties  and civic 
groups had in the past called on the  administration to look into the root 
causes of the  crime problem. When the violence broke out along the  East 
Coast in 2002 following the Mash Day prison break there had also been calls 
for an inquiry into those  activities.

On whether the security forces were capable of  defeating the criminals, 
Morgan said he had no doubt  that if properly managed the lawmen could be 
effective.  However, he said that in the current situation where  both the 
army and the police forces were under strength  it would be difficult for 
them to deal with any form of widespread criminality. The security forces 
had been  found wanting in a series of high-profile criminal  operations 
dating back to the assault at Agricola which  claimed the lives of eight 
people. In that incident as  well as the two recent killing sprees, the 
security forces' response was slow, although during the last two  they were 
said to have been on high alert.

When implemented, the UK-funded plan would build the  operational capacity 
of the police force in terms of a  uniformed response to serious crime, as 
well as augment  forensics, crime intelligence and traffic 
policing  capabilities. It would also strengthen policymaking across the 
security sector to make it more transparent,  effective and better coordinated.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D