Judge, jury and executioner?
January 18, 2004
THE principles of the rule of law and due process seemed not to have had an impact on Mr. Robert Corbin and the People’s National Congress. Under the PNC regime, of which Mr. Corbin was a key player you are condemned and sentenced as charged by that Party.
The PNC dictatorship was the most oppressive in our region. Their violation of human rights is unparalleled in the English-speaking Caribbean. Walter Rodney, Fr. Bernard Darke, Jagan Ramessar, Bholanauth Parmanand and Ohene Khame in the struggle for democracy were all found guilty and sentenced to their death by that same PNC regime. There was no due process. No right to be heard. The only crime these men committed was to oppose the PNC dictatorship. Their sentences were handed out by the PNC armed agents with either a bullet or a knife. Those were the tragic days of our sordid past.
Today, there is no longer persecution and punishment because of one’s political belief. All the Human Rights Conventions and Protocols have been adhered to. Since 1992, consecutive United States of America State Department Human Rights Reports have hailed the end of political persecutions and killings that characterised the erstwhile PNC regime. The people of Guyana at three consecutive elections – 1992, 1997 and 2001 - have told the PNCR that its ideology of fear and violence are not relevant. This ideology, premised on destruction and hate, has no place in our multi-ethnic society.
The forward movement of democracy on the basis of the rule of law and respect for each other’s rights is irreversible. But for the PNCR this is either a difficult lesson to learn or a hard reality to accept. There is an old saying: ‘As a dog returns to his vomit so does a man return to his bad habit.’ This is what the PNCR seems to be suffering from. As an opposition party since 1992, the PNCR is finding it hard to desist from the role as a “judge, jury and executioner” when it comes to the Government and its officials. It is this same mentality of the PNCR leadership that has led some of its misguided supporters, on many occasions, in street protests to beat and rob ordinary Guyanese on suspicion of their political affiliation. Ordinary folks were convicted, tried and sentenced in the streets during PNCR post-election marches of 1992, 1998, 2001, and during the 2002/3 crime spree.
I do not only blame those misled protesters for their crimes when they behaved like judge, jury and executioners during street marches. I hold their irresponsible leaders fully responsible for those criminal actions.
Let’s look at a current situation of Mr. Corbin and the PNCR taking on the role of judge, jury and executioner. Allegations and accusations have been made by a so-called informant against the Minister of Home Affairs. Before the alleged informant completed his statement to the media and others, the PNCR Leader found the Minister guilty of the accusations and has condemned him by calling for his resignation. Mr. Corbin unwittingly returns to his old habit when as part of the PNC regime there was no respect for due process. But it is unexpected that Mr. Corbin would act so hastily and politically immature to assume the positions of “judge, jury and executioner” on the current matter.
Mr. Corbin would do well to recall when, as a Government Minister, a much more serious charge was brought against him in relation to an alleged incident on September 27, 1986 in his Office. Then in 1989, another devastating charge was made against the PNCR Leader again when he was a Deputy Prime Minister in the PNC regime which led to the infamous Report of the Commission of Inquiry in the acquisition, purchase and performance of the power barge. These references are not intended to attack the PNCR Leader’s controversial past. They are merely reminders of the importance of due process when allegations are made against anyone including public officials.
The PNCR and certain opposition news outfits have ignored the fact that the Police are conducting a vigorous investigation into the allegations. A number of persons have been detained and questioned. The US Embassy in Georgetown is indirectly involved in the matter as the alleged informant has had interactions with certain Embassy staffers. Further, the Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon has not ruled out the possibility of another Inquiry.
The Minister of Home Affairs has told the media he expects “the police to conduct investigations based on what reports they have…(the alleged informant) claims of making me an offer to establish a killing squad is a mere allegation…there is suspicion and on the basis of suspicion there is speculation.”
Mr. Corbin, instead of walking out of ceremonies and meetings, picketing and other public relations gimmicks, would do well to act mature and support a full investigation into the matter. But I doubt that it is the PNCR’s intention to have any complete investigations into the allegations. Political mileage, scare mongering and undermining the credibility of the law enforcement agencies seem to be the underlying objectives of their current antics which are supported by other elements, including ROAR and CN Sharma parties. Having been unable to attract more than a couple of dozen protesters outside of the Ministry of Home Affairs over the past days, certain PNCR leaders are now threatening communal violence.
The PNCR has a tough time subscribing to responsible and non-confrontational politics. When will the PNCR and its sidekicks learn to behave in a democratic and enlightened political environment, an important feature of which is the rule of law and due process?
Robert Persaud is Information Liaison to the President.