A Patient by the Name of Gregory…

Gregory Isaacs. Legendary Jamaican singer dies. a memorial.

Gregory Isaacs, from the Gleaner archives

Gregory was drifting across the stage, in an orange three-piece suit, his skinny back swayed like a sea-horse, his voice a rippling whinny.

–Colin Channer, Waiting in Vain

It’s for lines like this that I rate Colin Channer; with 25 cannily chosen words he curates a transcendental image of  the inimitable Gregory Isaacs, the much beloved Jamaican singer who surrendered to the big C in London today. Popular well beyond the shores of this small island the words Gregory and Isaacs have been trending worldwide on Twitter today. To understand what a feat this is, know that during the peak of Buju Banton’s recent troubles in New York, he trended for half a day in the New York region only. With Gregory every ten minutes 112 new tweets are pouring in from all over the world. Not all of them are in English (see sample below) showing that the Cool Ruler’s reach transcended geographic and linguistic boundaries in a virtual enactment of his song The Border. It’s hard to choose any one GI song as No. 1 but for me this one comes close.

If i could reach the border
Then I would step across
So please take me to the border
No matter what’s the cost
Cause I’m leaving here
I’m leaving out of Babylon…

This place could never be my home…
we waan we waan go home…
where the milk and honey flow
That’s where we want to go…
we waan we waan go home…
Africa we want to go…

So please take me to the border
and i will pay the cost
coz i’m leaving here…

The metaphor of Babylon has multiple meanings in Jamaica but the most potent is that of the biblical Babylon, the proverbial den of iniquity, reeking of corruption and venality…a place we know well…guarded by the world’s most brutal soldiers, themselves known as Babylon. The Jamaican Police.

When i moved to Jamaica in 1988 Gregory’s Rumours ruled the airwaves and the balmy, steamy nights just before Hurricane Gilbert. The dramatic opening chords and riddim bars hint at that heady mixture of menace and romance that typifies the Jamaican landscape. Another favourite…I still think of it as Rumours of War…which is what i thought i was hearing but it was actually Rumours a gwaan…

A pure rumours a gwaan, (rumours a gwaan)

Please mr. officer, leggo me hand
You don’t know me and you don’t understan’
You see me flashin’ a criss rental
So you claim that me a criminal

Rumours dem spreadin’…



Then who couldn’t love the perfectly fork-tongued Night Nurse, on the one hand a straightforward song of playful passion that so many couples can relate to, on the other a veiled paean to Gregory’s one time muse–the other big C–

Tell her it’s a case of emergency
There’s a patient by the name of Gregory

Night nurse
Only you alone can quench this Jah thirst
My night nurse, oh gosh
Oh the pain it’s getting worse

I don’t wanna see no doc
I need attendence from my nurse around the clock
‘Cause there’s no prescription for me
She’s the one, the only remedy

There have been 553 new tweets since i started writing this an hour ago. (PS: One is not making exaggerated claims for number of tweets as any indicator of real quality mind you, for alas, today, the day after i posted this, Gregory has been replaced by Paul the Octopus as a top trender. Apparently poor Paul was found dead in the water this morning. “Anyway Paul always had four feet in the grave…” quipped @Sidin. No doubt because his mortality had intimated itself to him !)

But back to Gregory…i present an excerpt from a conversation on Facebook between me and Olu Oguibe, a Nigerian artist and critic.


Olu Oguibe Declaring 24 hours of nothing but The Cool Ruler

Annie Paul Times like this you realize not just the breadth but the depth of Jamaican music...

Olu Oguibe Still remember and cherish my first Gregory Isaacs cassette tape: Gregory Isaacs Live at the Brixton Academy, 1984. Wasn’t till I moved to Britain 5 years later that I realized Brixton Academy isn’t a real academy, but a night club, lol!

I was once even wooed with Gregory’s words by someone who thought he was the paradigmatic expression of Jamaican male angst (‘Though she isn’t in my top ten, still she is on my chart…”). Gregory forever holds a place in my heart on that count.

Here’s a selection of tweets on Gregory from local tweeters. i challenge you to guess which singer @bigblackbarry is referring to:

bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa He isnt in the category I was referring to but your dad would prolly be the biggest trender currently god forbid if he died.

oblessa [to] @bigblackbarry yeah he would be in that catagory God forbid.

@bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa prolly the biggest i believe.

@bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa but he aint “current” so he doesnt count.

wadablood R.i.P gregory issacs real legend. What a year this has been oniel, sugar now gregory

@cucumberjuice Amen»RT @MsTrendsettas: Dear Lord, please don’t take Beres Hammond! Many thanks!

Below a few random tweets from the twitterverse at large…people expressing their appreciation of Gregory in many languages. Keep ruling Cool Ruler…

roots

@csr_0922 roots
また偉大なアーティストが逝ってしまった。R.I.P Gregory Isaacs http://bit.ly/9l6v5l

João Júnior

@joaojunior_pi João Júnior
Rra relembrar a lenda GREGORY ISAACS NO RONDA DO POVÃO – TV MEIO NORTE http://t.co/aXUq1Go via @youtube

brandy@whothefackcares brandy

I DO care about Gregory Isaacs…R.I.P

Rafa Melo

@RafaellaMelog Rafa Melo
R.I.P. Gregory Isaacs, uma lenda do reggae.

황승식

@cyberdoc73 황승식
얼마전 타계한 Gregory Isaacs을 추모하며, 그가 부른 Night Nurse란 곡( http://youtu.be/K6oYyG0KcvQ )을 듣습니다. 멋모르고 처음 쓴 논문이 교대 근무 간호사에서 수면 장애에 관한 내용인지라 달리 들립니다.

What do I mean by this?

In which i explore a brand, new ‘in’ phrase in Jamaica. What do i mean by this?…

What do I mean by this?

Have just realized that there’s a new ‘in’ phrase in Jamaica and it’s spreading from commentator to commentator with the speed of hemorrhagic dengue fever. What do i mean by this? Yes, precisely, that is the phrase I’m talking about. What do i mean by this? That it is this phrase i have now heard used for the third time in the space of one week here in Kingston, Jamaica. And before it spreads much further I’d like to trace its origins. Can anyone tell me where it comes from? Please tell me who first used this phrase and why it’s taking Jamaica by storm. Was it a preacher? a ‘motivational speaker’? some first world politician like Obama? Why do I say this? (a variant of the said ‘in’ phrase…) .

First Angella Bourke of the People’s National Party used it on Impact last Thursday. She repeated it twice if i remember rightly. On Friday I heard someone else using it on radio, can’t remember who. Could it have been Emily Crooks? Naomi Francis? Cliff Hughes? Definitely not Raga. And those are the voices i regularly listen to on a weekday. Was it Carol Narcisse? Oh wait maybe it was someone at the Book Industry Association of Jamaica’s seminar on digital publishing in the Caribbean. I simply can’t remember but i did hear it again. And then just now, catching up with last Sunday’s dead tree media (the newspapers) i see that Clyde McKenzie has also caught the virus. In his article On the Success of Jamaican Music in last Sunday’s Observer he says:”In fact, ironically, the success of Jamaican music might well be working against Jamaican artistes. What do I mean by this? Well, on his return from etc etc….”

Seet deh? What do i mean by this?

Just that i want to know who originally popularized this phrase. Why do i say this? Because i can. Nuff said.

Diana McCaulay and the Palisadoes Highway

I find myself torn between Diana McCaulay, who heads the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET) and Greg Christie, Contractor-General of Jamaica as candidates for my Man of the Year award.

After the devastating rains we’ve had recently and yesterday’s minor earthquake (could this be the minor before the major as @Marxshields asked on Twitter) we should be even more conscious of the environment we live in and how fragile it really is. Yet how many of us are willing to be activists in ensuring that Jamaica’s delicate ecosystem isn’t eviscerated by ambitious ‘development’ plans with little consideration for preserving the country’s coastal integrity?

Diana McCaulay has almost singlehandedly been taking the fight to the authorities on the matter of the proposed transformation of the Palisadoes spit leading to the airport into a mega highway. We all know the kind of disruption and destruction of the environment this invariably entails. And in case we don’t McCaulay explains it eloquently in her post The Destruction of the Palisadoes Spit:

An environmental victory is in some ways an absence – a road not built, a mine averted, a hotel relocated, a golf course avoided. We are used to the presence of a natural resource – while it persists, it’s unremarkable. An environmental victory is always temporary – no matter how solid the case, how overwhelming the public support – at some point in the future, an attempt will be made to reverse it. The plans for the mine will be dusted off, there will be a new investor for the hotel that wasn’t built and a case will be made for the golf course.

Environmental defeats, though, are glaring – forests razed, rivers “trained,” sand dunes destroyed, beaches scraped clean, wetlands laid waste. And despite the promise of the relatively new science of restoration ecology, such defeats are mostly permanent.

On the doorstep to the city of Kingston in September 2010, you can see an environmental defeat. The Palisadoes spit, that jointed arm that holds Kingston Harbour in loose embrace, has been bulldozed by the National Works Agency (NWA), via their Chinese contractors and/or Jamaican sub contractors, led by the Minister of Transport and Works, with the willing and enthusiastic support of the National and Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). At this point, it appears that the entire spit will be denuded of all vegetation, its beaches compacted, sand dunes destroyed, the few struggling strands of mangroves obliterated in order to construct or expand (it’s not entirely clear which) an utterly unnecessary road.

 

Palisadoes removal of vegetation 14 Sep 10-1

 

It seems that NEPA whose role is to safeguard the interests of the country in matters involving large scale developments which impact on the environment is often toothless when it comes to laying down the law. At a public meeting called on Oct 4 with one day’s notice to stakeholders such as JET, McCaulay delivered a small coffin with the assets of Palisadoes inside it and an RIP sign to Peter Knight, head of NEPA. It was an expression of her frustration with what now seems to be a done deal–the razing of the Palisadoes strip to accommodate a major highway to the airport.

There are plans to also create a boardwalk along the new roadway, which would really be a lovely thing. I visited Barbados in 2009 and enjoyed the beautiful wooden boardwalk the government there had put up along one of the most popular coastal strips there. Why couldn’t we have one like that i remember thinking, so i’m not at all averse to the idea. It’s just that the concerns being raised by the environmentalists here seem not to be gaining any traction and if the price tag is too high, in ecological terms, might we not be exposing ourselves to more violent storm surges and coastal erosion in the future?

It takes balls for a single woman to go up against the state in the way Diana McCaulay has which is why she’s my candidate for Man of the Year.  Below is a video she created to document the proposed changes to the spit, a link to a JET statement about the proposed highway and below that is a link of a University of the West Indies study of the Palisadoes spit done in 1994.

STATEMENT FROM THE JAMAICA ENVIRONMENT TRUST 4 Oct 2010

Click to access PALISADOES.pdf

Sani Showbizz…The Future of Jamaican Music?

Interview with and performance by the unprecedented Sani Showbizz

It’s about two months ago that Peter Dean started sending me links to interviews with a Sani Showbizz. He was convulsing over them but I remained skeptical. Sani was the latest incarnation of a mutual friend who specializes in multiple personalities and maybe i was reluctant to meet the latest avatar but i refused to become a fan. Well, I’ve changed my mind now. Yesterday PD posted a link to a new Sani Showbizz video in which the schizophrenic star is interviewed by none other than PD himself. The interview is intercut with Sani prancing and dancing, a kind of Leroy Smart meets Neila Ebanks…methinks Jamaica has finally found its Charlie Chaplin.

For your viewing pleasure I append the video below. At first it appears like a rather long-winded interview with someone with one hell of a mongrel accent to say the least. But if you persist you’ll see a brilliant performance of the Jamaican singer as he enacts his lyrics in front of a video camera. Also below that are links to the rest of the interview including a segment in which Sani discusses Major Lazer:

.

http://vimeo.com/14345525 Sani Showbizz’ opinion of Zimboo’s first video..

http://vimeo.com/14342458 Showbizz’ upcoming plans…

http://vimeo.com/14345268 Sani Showbizz talks about Zimboo and Major Lazer..and how they left him out of their last video.

Also see Sani Showbizz buss!

The Police Gang

Jamaican police beat and kill Ian Lloyd, a citizen records this on video, providing evidence that Lloyd was unarmed and not dangerous when killed. This also contradicted the police force’s own statement that the shooting was an act of self-defence on the part of the police.

The police in Jamaica are once again at the centre of a maelstrom of criticism after a video surfaced showing some of them beating up and shooting a man in cold blood. TVJ (Television Jamaica), having learnt its lesson in May after deciding not to air its exclusive footage of masked men in Tivoli Gardens getting ready to defend Dudus (later beamed to the world by the BBC which had no such qualms) sent shock waves through the nation by airing the graphic video of the police killing, shot by an onlooker who sent it to them. The Constabulary Communication Network (CCN) had earlier reported that the man, Ian Lloyd, was shot dead after he attacked members of a police party. The video footage, captured by cellphone, however contradicted this story, clearly showing an unarmed and subdued man lying on the ground.

Lloyd was reportedly a drug addict who had just killed his female partner and was generally considered a nuisance to the community, members of which were seen on video cheering the police on as they circled the man beating him and then shooting him. Still, at the end of the day the question remains: is this what the police are paid to do?

This is not the first time i’ve had occasion to write about the excesses and corruption in the police force. The very first blogpost i ever wrote, in January 2008 when i started this blog, was about Detective Constable Cary Lyn-Sue who confessed in the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate’s Court that he had fabricated witness testimony in the trial of 22-year old Jason James, allegedly a member of the Killer Bee gang.

Lyn-Sue openly admitted that it was frustration that had driven him to invent a crown witness complete with incriminating testimony when fear prevented any actual witnesses from testifying. He was aware of various crimes committed by the accused, he said, and thought that getting James off the streets even for a day would be doing society a favour.

In September that year I had occasion to publish a piece called “Pronounced Dead” in which i was discussing the distortions of the English language one frequently hears and reads in local media reports starting with the much abused phrase “pronounced dead”. This term often appears in radio newscasts recounting police shoot outs where “shots were fired”, “the fire was returned” and then “the injured men” (rarely members of the police force) are taken to hospital, where “upon arrival” they are invariably “pronounced dead”.

In December last year I wrote about the police killing of  Robert ‘Kentucky Kid’ Hill, a musician who had predicted his death and actually named the cops who would be responsible. According  to the Sunday Herald, Hill, virtually in tears, said he was convinced that cops were stalking him and he felt intimidated. Within a few weeks Hill was killed during a shootout with a police party on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 causing leading journalist Cliff Hughes to declare on Nationwide radio that this wasn’t the Jamaica Constabulary Force, it was the Jamaica Criminal Force. Virtually nine months later nothing has come of the investigation into Kentucky Kid’s killing by the Police.

My focus on police excesses has not been restricted to the Jamaican police. In January i published a piece called Police states, anthropology and human rights by an Indian anthropologist named Nandini Sundar who had suffered abuse and harrassment at the hands of police in India. At the time I wrote:

Just in case we thought that the Jamaican police were unique in their brand of brutality we are reminded that police forces anywhere can be equal opportunity purveyors of brutality and state terror. This is a depressing way to start the new decade for true. Are police forces merely gangs licensed to torture, bully and kill by the state? Packs of wolves hired to keep rebellious sheep in line?

In the United States many counties do not permit citizens to videotape police in public. I sincerely hope this will not be the recommendation of the committee investigating the killing of Ian Lloyd. If it is i hope they will also recommend that the Jamaican police follow the example of certain police departments in the US which are equipping their members with video cameras so that in case of accusations being made of abuse and excessive force they can provide their own footage to corroborate their stories of killing in self-defence.

More details on this can be found in this pithily titled story: Police turning to self-mounted video cameras to protect themselves from us.

Scoop! State of Urgency–Reggae Sumfest 2010 rocked!

First account of Dancehall Night Reggae Sumfest 2010. Vybz Kartel appears in prison suit and handcuffs. Bounty Killer calls for State of Urgency from government, as opposed to State of Emergency and vuvuzelas abounded…

DESERT CLARKS, EVRY CREP A GET FLING WEH!! Photo: @SugaTwitts

Right about now people are waking up and wondering how Sumfest 2010 went last night. Were there any brawls? Did Vybz destroy it? Was Bounty Killer cross, angry and miserable enough? Well folks i wasn’t there but i can give you the scoop on all this and more…

Actually i was supposed to be there. I even got as far as Falmouth with my par Hubert but the relentless rain got on our nerves and we decided to beat it back to Kingston. Luckily various attempts to buy tickets in advance had failed so it wasn’t an expensive decision (what’s with York Pharmacy insisting on cash only and then not having VIP tickets?? And why use Acropolis as a ticket outlet when it doesn’t open before lunchtime?)

Badd Girl Cecile at Sumfest. Photo: Marcia Forbes

Anyway i hit my comfortable bed in Kingston around 11 pm last night after seeing a tweet or two about Cecile’s performance. @marciaforbes reported that there was also a “Sumfest Lighter Tribute to O’Neil of Voicemail. About a dozen young men in white sing for O’Neil–Very touching!!” Woke up this morning and tuned in to find out that Miss Fluffy Kitty and Spice had had a “fluffy versus slim gal wining contest” with some help from Pamputtae. According to @marciaforbes “Spice [was] led on stage by Tivoli Demonstration ‘caz ppl are deading’ ‘Bruce me just want to ask u if Tivoli duppy dem don’t haunt u’.

Remaining two members of Voicemail, Craig Jackson, Kevin Blaire Photo: @itscraigyo
Craig Jackson @itscraigyo!!: @SugaTwitts

One of the highlights of the show was Kartel’s appearance dressed as a prisoner complete with handcuffs which had to be unlocked before he could perform, a literal reference to his arrest and two-week detention by security forces who claimed he was a ‘person of interest’ during the State of Emergency that ended at midnight last night. All i want to say on the SOE is that it’s remarkable that it’s always a DJ or some hapless individual from downtown that’s arrested as a person of interest, apparently the Jamaican middle classes and elites are composed exclusively of saints and angels.

Kartel Vybz Kartel in bright orange 'prison clothes' complete with handcuff. Photo: Marcia Forbes

According to @marciaforbes “Pure Police n Soldiers surround[ed] the entire backstage during Kartel’s performance ” and pandemonium and vuvuzelas greeted Kartel as he entered the Sumfest stage. She went on to tweet that the backstage security during Kartel’s performance was unprecedented. You have to wonder what exactly they were worried might happen!

Morning light, @iamthekartel closing the show. Oh! Ahoe! #sumfest Photo: @SugaTwitts

Bounty Killer (whose night it undoubtedly was) put it well when he said that the government needed ‘a state of urgency’ rather than a State of Emergency. Reggae Sumfest 2010 is mourning the untimely passing of pioneer Sugar Minott and Oniel Edwards of Voice Mail; Dancehall Night also celebrated the career of the redoubtable Bounty Killer, the paradigmatic Warlord of dancehall, the voice of the soil of Jamaica as he is sometimes called, a veteran who has not only towered over the landscape of dancehall for two decades but also launched the careers of a platoon of younger DJs including Vybz Kartel and Mavado.

Warlord a talk di tings tonight!!! #sumfest tunnnn upppp!!! Photo: @SugaTwitts
GULLY GAADDDD!! #mavado #sumfest Photo: @SugaTwitts
Mavado and Wayne Marshall doing You're Messing with my Heart Photo: @SugaTwitts
Movado shellin down di place! Photo: KueSound
Reggae Sumfest (Vybz Kartel and Russian) Photo: NotniceRecords

All in all it looks like it was a stellar Dancehall Night. I missed it but i lived it vicariously via Twitter. Special thanks to @SugaTwitts for the best photos, @marciaforbes and @DougiePlatinum for providing me with fodder for this post. @marciaforbes was womanning the Phase3 production centre below.

Phase 3 console

My Favourite tweet:

anthonyhaley Just put @ladymycherie to bed. She & our son-to-be did Dancehall night all the way through Adi Teacha. Teach them young they say! #sumfest

Who Tipped off Dudus?

Paul the Octopus calls it in Jamaica’s Dudus saga…

Las May, Gleaner

Did anyone else watch the Diamond League showdown between Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt today? What a race! The top three spots were taken by Jamaican runners, Usain first with 9.84, Asafa next with 9.91 and Yohan Blake in third place. It’s called a Trifecta apparently…

Speaking of world beaters, Jamaica has two of the world’s best cartoonists as well. Las May of the Gleaner Co. and Clovis of the Jamaica Observer. The cartoon above of OctoPaul confronting the Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding with an accusing tentacle had me in stitches for days. Great way to tie in the World Cup in which Paul the Octopus played a starring role with local politics and the sensational Admiral Lewin revelations.

My Name is Khan…Roger Khan

What kind of sentence is Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke likely to get from a US court? Will he tell all? Who will he implicate? An examination of what happened in the case of Guyanese drug baron Roger Khan might provide some clues…


Driving Miss Dudus by Hubert Neal Jr.

Now that Dudus is safely in the hands of the US justice system what can we expect the outcome to be? That is the question in almost everyone’s mind with Observer columnist Lloyd B. Smith even wondering “Should Dudus sing?” in his latest column. What kind of sentence is Dudus likely to get? Will he ‘sing’ and get a reduced sentence? Who will he take down with him? Is anyone in government going to be implicated?

Even if we’re unlikely to know the answers to these questions anytime soon, we might get some clues from looking at other extraditions similar to that of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. In 2006 Samuel “Ninety” Knowles, a Bahamian drug ‘kingpin’ with ties to Jamaica was extradited to the US on charges of “conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it.” In 2008 a US court sentenced him to 35 years in prison.

Like the Jamaican government the Bahamian government had also dragged its feet before allowing Knowles’ extradition on the grounds that he might not receive a fair trial in the United States. The Jamaican government’s argument in stalling Dudus’s extradition was that the evidence provided by the US to prove that Coke was a trafficker was obtained by wiretapping, allegedly illegal under Jamaican law. Interestingly in his book Police and Crime Control in Jamaica: Problems of Reforming Ex-Colonial Constabularies Anthony Harriott noted that Jamaica citizens may be convicted on illegally obtained evidence with the exception of coerced confessions. (p. 40)

The most notorious drug kingpin of all was Colombian Pablo Escobar of the infamous Medellin Cartel who thumbed his nose at the US for years. Escobar formed a lobby group called Los Extraditables (their slogan: Better a grave in Colombia than a jail in the United States) that bullied the Colombian government “through murder, intimidation and skilful public relations” into repealing the laws allowing extradition of criminals. Escobar then designed a cushy prison for himself in a compound called La Catedral. As Guillermoprieto tells it: “”Despite enormous controversy, the government had finally agreed to Escobar’s terms: he got to choose the prison site, in the hills above his suburban fiefdom of Envigado, and he supervised its security measures. Neither Army troops nor police officers were allowed on the prison grounds, and Escobar personally approved the hiring of half of some fifty guards–the other half to be recruited by the Mayor of Envigado–who were to stand watch over him and his associates.”

In 1992 thinking that the government, which wanted to move him to safer quarters, was going to kill him, Escobar ‘escaped’ from his prison possibly walking out through the back door in women’s clothes. He remained at large until December 1993 when he was shot and killed by Colombian security forces. Alma Guillermoprieto’s book The Heart that Bleeds, from which I got this information, has more details on all this.

Perhaps the most sensational ‘extraditable’ close to home however was Guyanese drug baron Roger Khan who was arrested in Paramaribo, Suriname on June 15, 2006. Wanted in the US for importation of cocaine into that country Khan evaded capture in Guyana by escaping to neighbouring Suriname. In Guyana his close ties to the ruling party, the PPP, had allowed him to escape arrest but in Suriname, a country with a more serious attitude towards law enforcement he was caught by the police and forcibly deported to Guyana via Trinidad and Tobago. He never reached Guyana: The Surinamese Police had evidently tipped off the USDEA who were waiting for Khan at Piarco airport in Trinidad. From there he was flown directly to the US and imprisoned.

Roger Khan was the kind of criminal who makes Dudus look like a pussycat. He allegedly had at his disposal a paramilitary troop known as The Phantom Squad who ruthlessly terrorized and eliminated witnesses and others who stood in his way. Between 2002 and 2006 approximately 200 people are said to have been murdered by the Phantom Squad.


Roger Khan at Brooklyn Federal Court

There were several unique things about the Roger Khan case. Far from admitting to being a criminal Khan took out full page advertisements in Guyanese newspapers claiming that he was actually a crimefighter who had helped both the Guyanese and the US governments during an earlier crime wave. In a further twist during the course of his trial at an East New York district court his high profile lawyer Robert Simels was himself indicted for tampering with witnesses during his defence of Khan.

According to a March 17, 2009 Stabroek News article:

“Since being imprisoned, Khan and the prosecution have made some explosive statements about the inner workings of his criminal enterprise and other matters in Guyana. Khan’s former lawyer, Robert Simels, who, along with his assistant, Arianne Irving, is now his co-defendant in the witness-tampering charge, had stated that US government investigators had learnt that Khan received permission from the Guyana government to purchase surveillance equipment capable of intercepting and tracing telephone calls made from landline or cellular phones. The software is reportedly only sold to governments.”


Roger Khan after arrest in Suriname

The surveillance equipment in question was manufactured by UK firm Smith Myers; its co-director testified in the New York court that “the cellular intercept equipment used by drug kingpin Roger Khan had been sold to the Government of Guyana (GoG), a contention that officials here have repeatedly denied.” This despite the fact that testimony was produced in court showing links between Khan and Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy. Evidence disclosed to the court showed “that the equipment was purchased for and received on behalf of the GOG by Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy. Myers also confirmed that independent contractor, Carl Chapman, traveled to Guyana to train Khan and others in the use of the equipment.”

Among the persons killed for statements intercepted with the surveillance equipment were a popular talk show host Ronald Waddell and a young activist and boxing coach, Donald Allison. According to a Working People’s Alliance press release on July 28, 2009, Selwyn Vaughn, a former member of the notorious Roger Khan phantom squad and now informant for the US government, testified under oath about the involvement of Roger Khan and a high official in the Guyana Government, Minister Leslie Ramsammy, in the execution of PNCR member and political commentator Ronald Waddell and Agricola youth organiser Donald Allison.

For the record Ramsammy has vehemently denied that he has ever had any contact with Khan and said he has no knowledge about the surveillance equipment. As for the execution of talk show host Waddell, according to the New York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID):

President Bharrat Jagdeo, when asked at a press conference on July 28, to respond to Vaughn’s testimony that Ramsammy had been complicit in the assassination of Waddell, said “Maybe if at the end of the day, all the criminals were to deal with each other we may have a better society but I am not going to sanction that. This is not government policy… but I wouldn’t lose any sleep, frankly speaking, about criminals when they kill each other.” Jagdeo also further said that “If you believe all that this informant is saying you have to also believe that he (Waddell) was a member of the Buxton gang and that he was basically in a criminal enterprise. Waddell was a criminal involved in a criminal enterprise.”

As usual the line between being a criminal and outlaw and being a legitimate businessman who was also a popular self-appointed leader is rather blurred. Khan was said to have “founded and operated a number of successful businesses, including, but not limited to, a housing development and a construction company, a carpet cleaning service, a nightclub, and a timber mill.”

Though repeatedly lobbied and besieged by public interest groups to have the entire sordid state of affairs thoroughly investigated the Guyanese government has resisted. The part that sounds mind-numbingly familiar is the following quote from another article carried in the Stabroek News:

The government so far has resisted all calls for such an inquiry; it can afford to do so because it knows that significant elements of its own constituency regard Roger Khan as a ‘saviour’ of sorts. Our reporter earlier last week sought out comments from the Guyanese diaspora, and of those who agreed to say something in the Liberty Avenue, Queens area (NY), the sentiment was that Khan had “saved” Guyana. One man told her that had it not been for Khan the country would have “gone down the drain”; that the US should not have “kidnapped” him and instead he should have been left to continue the “good things he started.”

Shades of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the ‘Don’ or ‘community leader’ phenomenon we know so well in Jamaica. But in Guyana there is an added complication that, mercifully, is absent from Jamaican politics: the vexed issue of race. As a 2009 Village Voice article alleged:

“Khan’s reputation seems to diverge along racial lines in Guyana, where about half the population is of African descent and half of East Indian descent, like him. To many Indo-Guyanese, he is a folk hero, responsible for cleaning up the streets when the country’s police force which is predominantly Afro-Guyanese couldn’t or wouldn’t, giving East Indians, who dominate the business community, a layer of protection where none previously existed. Khan has claimed, without copping to the existence of the Phantoms, to have helped the government put down a crime spree stemming from a 2002 prison break, and to have collaborated with the U.S. government in the region, most notably in the case of the safe retrieval of an American diplomat who was kidnapped off a Guyana golf course in 2003. Afro-Guyanese are more likely to associate Khan first and foremost as a leader of the Phantom Squad, a drug runner and thug, to blame for just about every suspicious death in Guyana. (Guyana, like Suriname, is a transhipping point for South American cocaine destined for North America, Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean, according to the DEA.)”

Because of his links to the the ruling PPP, Guyanese President Bharat Jagdeo stood accused of being a friend of Khan’s. Whether this is true or not, a story circulating about Khan, who like Dudus also bore the nickname ‘Shortman’, suggests otherwise. According to the tale Khan was in a particular club with friends when Jagdeo suddenly appeared causing him to ejaculate “Oh skunt boy, here cum the Anti-man!” before getting up to greet the President. As my source put it: Explanation: Jagdeo is believed to be gay — ‘skunt’ is a popular swear word in Guyana and ‘Anti-man’ is homophobic abuse for gay men used as an alternative to ‘battyman.

Homophobia: Another trait that Khan shares with the Jamaican badman (despite their willingness to don female clothing when the situation calls for it). There are plenty of parallels in the Roger Khan and Dudus coke sagas. Both Khan and Ninety, the Bahamian drug don also had ties to Jamaica. Those who are hoping that Dudus will sing long and loud in New York, revealing the dirt on organized crime in Jamaica, should bear the following observation by a Stabroek News editorial in mind:

Those who were optimistic that Khan himself might one day supply information about his operations here as well as his connections, must have been disappointed to learn that the likelihood is he will be deported at the end of his sentence. If he knows he has to return to his homeland eventually, it is hardly likely to put him in confessional mode. It is always possible, of course, that further information may trickle out from future trials which will throw some light on the events of a painful period.

A Breakfast of Champions?

Ok folks just linking you with Ground Zero less than an hour before the big one. after the semis i’m predicting Bolt, Ricardo Thompson and Asafa in that order. i’m about to set off for New Kingston to watch it with everyone else on the big monitor. so more later. but right now it looks like the Caribbean has a monopoly on track and field!