Fairness versus self-interest Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
March 17, 2004

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IN the days since George Bacchus claimed that his brother, Shafeek, was slain by members of a phantom squad, to which the self-proclaimed informant linked Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj, opponents of the Government have transformed Bacchus' claim into an ideology.

"Ideology," no less a person than Daniel Bell (Harvard academic, prominent figure in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and one of the theorists of post-industrialism) writes, "is the conversion of ideas into social levers."

For the Government's opponents, then, Bacchus' claim has become a link between action and fundamental belief.

To be sure, Bacchus' claims are serious. In fact, any allegation that an undocumented force is out there murdering people is serious, and it has to be taken seriously. That a Cabinet minister is alleged to be or to have been linked to such a force is equally, if not more, serious.

So also are claims linking the opposition to a force of criminals proclaiming themselves to be freedom fighters - as prison escapee Andrew Douglas did in May of 2002, when he released a videotape showing himself wearing army fatigues, holding an AK-47 rifle - and explaining why he and four other prison escapees were targeting mostly Indo-Guyanese businessmen.

By the end of 2002, eleven months after the Mash Day (2002) breakout of prison by Douglas and his four accomplices, 21-year-old prison officer Troy Williams stabbed to death and prison warder Roxanne Winfield shot and permanently incapacitated in the process, a total of 142 persons had been murdered. That's more than double the 79 murders recorded in 2001.

Wrote Stabroek News in its review of that year: "Two thousand and two was the year Guyana lost her innocence. Life went on as it always does, and ministers held press briefings, parties made statements, managers took decisions in this or that sector, and accidents happened. But the normal panoply of life receded into insignificance in the face of a tidal wave of crime whose accompanying violence was of such an order that even ordinarily cynical citizens were stunned...

"After making good their escape on February 23, the bandits staged their next appearance on the evening of February 25, when they hijacked Oliver Insanally's car in the city. The following day they held two SECURICOR guards at gunpoint in Festival City, stripping them of their weapons. Making their getaway in Insanally's car, they took the opportunity to spray the Ruimveldt Police Outpost with bullets as they drove past (February 27)".

Of the 142 persons killed in 2002, 13 were policemen. Five more cops were murdered in the first 13 days of 2003 as "the killing season" continued until mid-last year, when a joint police-army squad implemented a cordon-and-search operation in Buxton, to which criminals had laid siege and taken refuge as their safe haven.

By mid-2003, when crime wave had become almost unbearably intense, the so-called freedom fighters had subjected hundreds of family members of the businessmen, policemen and other persons that lost their lives during the reign of terror - and we're not so taut as to attribute all the executions, drive-by shootings, rapes, kidnappings, robberies and carjackings to the escapees - to a traumatic lifespan engendered by the criminals' disrespect for the rule of law and for human life.

Yet, ironically - but happily, the issue for the opposition is about obedience to the rule of law.

We would hope that amid its campaign to demonstrate the need for Government to adhere to the rule of law by investigating the Gajraj/phantom squad "affair," the opposition will not betray a characteristic thought pattern by substituting self-interest or partisan party culture for fairness for ALL who have suffered the loss of a loved one to violent crime.

In his scholarly book, The Political Man, Yale University's political science professor Robert E. Lane lists some of the reciprocal duties of each citizen thus: patriotism and loyalty, obedience to the laws of the society, respect for officials and government - even in one's pursuit of long-term self-interest.