The politicians have to address the ethnic security dilemmas of the African and Indian communities
Stabroek News
May 20, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Reacting to the introduction of the word 'terrorism' into the political discourse by the PPP in the wake of the activities and statements of the five escapees, since their Mash Day breakout from the Camp Street jail, ex-foreign Minister Mr Rashleigh Jackson advised, "Let us eschew unsuitable concepts like terrorism" (SN: 25.4.02). ROAR, on the other hand, has taken the position that specifically, the escapees should be treated as "domestic terrorists" (SN: 13.5.02). We would like to clarify our position in light of the arguments of the learned gentleman.

Mr Jackson accepts that we've experienced terrorism in Guyana and as examples, referred to some events in the sixties. Unfortunately, these were all culled from the historical memories of "one side," but we all know that there were no angels on either side during that era. Mr Jackson, however, sought to make a more profound point when he cautioned that in the post September 11th hysteria, we should not succumb to our penchant "to look outside of our country for solutions to problems that are ours." Mr Jackson is undoubtedly correct about our historical "colonial mentality" but luckily, he is not insisting that we abjure all foreign concepts: we'd be reduced to apoplexy. He only insists that we should not "uncritically" accept "externally determined concepts." I agree.

The fact of the matter is that across the globe we are witnessing persons with 'causes' who are willing to either work alone or in collaboration with a few cohorts, to inflict incredible suffering on innocent civilians to force governments to take 'their side' of an issue. This is terrorism, and we can be sure that KFC, credit cards and Pizza Hut will not be the only concepts imported from abroad. Terrorism is in the air. No longer are budding terrorists dependent on the CIA and the KGB (via Cuba), to supply weapons and tactics, as occurred in Guyana in the sixties when the PNC had recruited from the urban lumpen and criminal elements while the PPP resorted to training and using their cane-cutter base for their 'dirty tricks.' We don't even need deported criminals: the TV is enough to educate the disgruntled.

Today, the escapees who have robbed, hijacked, assaulted, murdered and committed general mayhem, have declared that they have done so as "Freedom Fighters" on behalf of African Guyanese against Indian Guyanese. It matters not if only 1% of the African Guyanese support the terrorists - this in fact is the norm with terrorism. Taking Mr Jackson's caution in good stead, we cannot but hold that Guyana is under attack from domestic terrorists. We also, however, have to move swiftly against them for another reason.

While the direct link between the terrorists and political parties is yet to be proven, their nexus is almost inevitable given our type of politics. Our ethnically polarised politics since the fifties exacerbates the potential for one of the most virulent kinds of domestic terrorism - ethnic violence - and this is the primary reason why we have to move quickly to prevent a recurrence of the sixties and beyond. The present political system presents the African Guyanese with a political dilemma, wherein he is locked out of executive office.

Their control of the state coercive apparatus, which presents the majority Indian Guyanese with its own physical security dilemma, has always encouraged African Guyanese to move outside the official political system to gain executive power. Complaints by the representatives of African Guyanese about exclusion from the power relations inevitably reverberate in the various sections of the African community. We ought not to be surprised that political resentment is being whipped up and articulated amongst prisoners and ex-disciplined forces members. African Guyanese are overwhelmingly represented in these two institutions and the PNC has always tapped into this resource. When the WPA began to infiltrate these assets in the late seventies the PNC felt threatened enough to move decisively against them. When the PPP was in opposition it used its cane-cutter corps to sabotage the sugar targets by burning unripe cane and other such shenanigans. The PPP operatives are also good at intimidating other Indians who may wander from the PPP's fold. Today both the PPP and the PNC are busy hurling accusations of terrorism at each other, after the PPP fired the first salvo. In the meanwhile, real terrorists are executing real innocents with impunity because the PPP leaders are ashamed to admit that they are directionless.

Mr Jackson is also rightfully concerned that the political directorate may abuse any powers acquired to combat terrorism by deploying them against the political opposition. The history of Guyana under both the PPP and the PNC makes this a most pressing concern. Up to now, the PPP has simply been playing politics as it hurls labels such as "terroristic" at the PNC, while it refuses to even define what it means by "terrorism." It dubs the bandits "terrorists" but at every opportunity takes pain to assert that they do not have a political agenda!

To ensure that we don't, in the words of Mr Jackson, "invite the accusation of opportunism," ROAR proposes that Parliament (all the parties) sits down to "indigenously" define "domestic terrorism" and to craft a comprehensive plan to address the phenomenon. By setting guidelines for the forces to be arrayed against domestic terrorism, Parliament would in effect also be defining 'state terrorism,' which is implicit in Mr Jackson's concern about professional standards for the police. To this end ROAR proposes that a Special Anti-Domestic Terrorist Force (SATF) be constituted immediately, with members drawn from the elite units of our Disciplined Forces, (including the 'Black Clothes') and reflecting the population of this country. The operations of SATF would be subject to scrutiny of a special bi-partisan Parliamentary Anti-Domestic Terrorism Committee.

Ultimately the politicians will have to address the ethnic security dilemmas of the African and Indian communities, which can fuel resentments in those communities and lead to individual or organized terroristic behaviour.

In the meantime, in this eruption, the PPP must move decisively against these terrorists who are keeping their promises of ethnically directed violence against Indians with chilling precision. The time for condemnation is over. The time for retribution is here.

Yours faithfully,

Ravi Dev