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Raffique Shah


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'We done dead already'

By Raffique Shah
March 3, 2013

If this country observed the rule of law to the letter and applied it evenly, someone or several persons would be in jail by now over the Flying Squad issue. I can think of any number of charges that could be proffered against Sgt Doctor Mervyn Cordner if the man is telling the truth about its establishment and/or existence. Even if he is lying, he should be under arrest. And if the police say they have no basis on which to charge Cordner, then maybe they should charge Jack Warner with compromising the security of the nation or lying.

Now, I am no attorney, although over the years I gained some notoriety as a "bush lawyer". But my limited knowledge of matters legal tells me that Cordner, having confessed to have formed, equipped and rendered operational a quasi-military or quasi-police unit, must have breached several statutes that prohibit such activities.

As lawless as this society may be, you or I cannot just "ups" and decide that since the police seem impotent, we would proceed to recruit a squad of ex-police officers, establish barracks, offices, whatever, acquire some vehicles and possibly weapons, and without the knowledge of or authorisation by the Commissioner of Police or the Minister of National Security, engage in fighting crime. That is ludicrous.

If we did, you or I, we would be promptly arrested (if we were lucky—otherwise shot) and charged with a string of serious offences. It may be impersonating police officers or recruiting a damn army: Cordner claims to have hired 50-or-so men. Based on his public utterances, I envisioned the one-time sergeant somewhat like Colonel Shultz, kit et al, riding in a jeep at the head of a convoy of mavericks, attacking criminals with full force, and embarrassing the police in the process.

So, why isn't Cordner stewing behind bars, held in some dank cell at the Frederick Street facility, facing a charge sheet too long to print out? CoP Stephen Williams and Minister Jack Warner say they never sanctioned a Flying Squad, but Cordner insists that he established such a unit sometime last year. The media have published photographs of its headquarters, interviewed the owner of the premises, and produced an emails-trail that suggests the squad was operational…

If he is telling the truth, he should be under arrest; if he is lying, as Warner and Williams imply, he should be under arrest. Either way, he ought not to escape. How so? Well, if he is lying, Cordner could be charged with serious public mischief, for starters. Surely, no one—well, except for mad mullahs—can falsely claim to have established a paramilitary outfit in a country where the rule of law obtains. Further, he made serious allegations against the Minister of National Security, which, if they are untrue, bring the country's national security apparatus into odium if not disarray.

By not arresting Cordner, CoP Williams and those charged with enforcing the rule of law are signalling that any two-bit charlatan can toy with national security—not a comforting thought, but maybe that's reality. Which is a hell of a thing, as it raises questions about the minister: should he be charged with some infraction?

Warner has said repeatedly that he knows nothing about any Flying Squad, that he never authorised its establishment. If he is speaking the truth, and since there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that the Squad does or did exist, could it be that Cordner was running a small army without Warner's knowledge? If this is or was the case, that the minister knew nothing about this not-so-secret squad, it's a hell of an indictment against him. Hey, we are talking national security here, not aloo and bodi.

This scenario is frightening. It surpasses the intelligence debacle of 1990 when none of the security services had reliable information on the Jamaat al Muslimeen stockpiling arms and ammunition in preparation for a coup. The Muslimeen were doing it in secret, so the intelligence agencies and the then minister could plead that they knew nothing. The results of that lapse resonate to this day if only because of the Commission of Enquiry.

In this instance, however, we have a large unit with a fleet of vehicles conducting intelligence exercises and anti-crime operations openly (according to Cordner), but the minister knows nothing, or so he says. Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister, who chairs the National Security Council, indicated that she was shocked to learn of its existence. She called for a report from Warner, who has stuck to the mantra he has adopted ever since this scandal surfaced: I knew nothing!

It seems that all three top honchos—the PM, Warner and Williams—do not understand that their supposed ignorance in a matter of this magnitude is worse for the country than if they did know. Twenty-three years after 1990, with many more intelligence agencies (SSA, SIA, maybe a CIA!) and sophisticated electronic spying devices, yet no one knew that Sergeant Cordner was running a multi-million-dollar crime outfit.

Belatedly, the PM has asked the police to investigate the matter. Based on media reports, it appears that Cordner has suspended operations or closed shop, and he now intends to pursue through the courts some $50 million the Government allegedly owes him. In the face of the investigation ordered by the PM, the Flying Squad chief has promised to call out his troops, to speak out, to embarrass the government—as if that is possible.

This country is one big fat joke, yes. With the crime sludge suffocating us, why don't we resurrect Randy Burroughs? Or maybe our "don't know" leaders could adopt the Forbes Burnham survival mantra, "Back to back, belly to belly, we doh give a damn, we done dead already!"

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