Guyana Chronicle
March 28, 2004

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The PNCR much-advertised recent `rule of law’ march and rally failed to attract any considerable support. Notwithstanding, an angry Mr. Robert Corbin, judging from his demeanour on television and media accounts, fulminated before his small audience. All that Mr. Corbin and his fellow spokesperson have done is to repeat the same old anti-PPP, anti-Government rhetoric, which preceded their violent actions as most Guyanese and foreign observers know only too well. It is extremely very doubtful if all the publicity prior to, during and after the ‘rule of law’ march served any purpose other than to provide photo opportunities for Corbin and certain others. Since his address was highlighted in the hostile media, it must have aroused some attention locally and internationally. Some comments on just a few of the many false and offensive statements are necessary.

Corbin: “…the fact that the PNCR has structured a responsible and cooperative approach to dealing with the problems of this country.”

Mr. Corbin honestly doesn’t even believe this himself. Every initiative since 1992 to have dialogue and constructive engagement between the Government and Opposition were taken by the PPP/C. And in all instances when these processes were put on “pause,” suspended or stalled, as with the current situation, were acts of the PNCR. The resort to breaking up dialogue or any `cooperative approach’ is typical of the PNC from since the pre-Independence period and until 1985. Like a spoilt brat, when it does not get its way, fully, there is whining and walking away.

Corbin: “Crime is on the rise but most of all the Government used that period to solve economic problems to trample on the rights of ordinary men in this country.”

There should be no justification for criminals who beat, rob and kill citizens. First these criminals were referred to as “freedom fighters.” Now the economic situation is the excuse. Well if this was a legitimate reason for crime then prior to 1992 about 90% of the population, which lived in dire poverty, ought to have resorted to a life of thievery, kidnapping and banditry. The intensified fight against crime from 2002 has led to additional and phenomenal security measures. None of those measures has either reduced or taken away any rights of Guyanese. In fact, they have served to protect the right of all citizens to safety and security. There is no anticrime measure, which can be considered unjust in comparison with what obtains in CARICOM and North American states. The job of the law enforcement agencies is not done in the East Coast of Demerara corridor in light of the recent crime episodes. That these recent acts coincide with the renewed PNCR protests are not coincidental.

Corbin: “The first set of evidence that was presented, is not evidence that the PNC or any other party will have to present, it is a fact that every Guyanese know that over the last 10 to 14 months, many of our young men, particularly African young men have been shot in cold blood in the same circumstances and their bodies found all over Guyana.”

This is the same lie being peddled by the extremist lunatic fringe of the society. The 2002/2003 crime wave affected Guyanese of all ethnic groups, although persons of Indians descent were the main victims. A Guyana Human Rights Association report on questionable deaths showed that between 1985 and 1992 the number of persons of African descent who were killed under those circumstances annually, were higher than now. The report also acknowledged underreporting given the non-access to certain information then. I am not seeking to justify any form extra-judicial killing. The logical question then is: Are we to assume that the PNC regime then targeted young African Guyanese? The PNCR, in recent years, fiddled with criminal elements and later got its hands burnt so much so that the crime situation backfired. The Government has not and will not condone any group or squad dispensing justice. Not even extra-judicial killings by the law enforcement ranks. It is for this reason the Disciplined Forces Commission was given the remit, inter alia, to investigate allegations of extra-judicial killings. Not a single case was made out or evidence presented to this Commission.

Corbin: “…unless he deals with this issue I say nothing else can happen in this country. It will be ground to a halt.”

A clear threat by the PNCR leader who is unable to shed his old behaviour. This statement reinforces the earlier declaration of his predecessor to make Guyana “ungovernable.” Mr. Corbin should explain to the nation what he means by nothing nice will happen and the country will be brought to a “halt.” Is he hinting at violence or attempts to rekindle a politically-inspired crime wave? Already certain PNCR activists are going into various East Coast villages to encourage and whip up disruptive elements to put pressure on the government. Their message has been that the government will only respond to pressure. How short is Mr. Corbin’s and his colleagues’ memory. The 2002/2003 campaign of violence and criminal attempts at igniting communal violence did not work. Nor was the Government weakened or fell to the opposition ploys to remove it including the storming of the Office of the President complex on July 3, 2002. One thought that Mr. Corbin had changed and joined the movement of a new and enlightened political culture characterised by dialogue, debate, reason and commitment to the national interest.

Corbin: “I can’t say too much because we exercise certain amount of privileges and release to certain comrades confidential information we were keeping for the enquiry then the next thing you know it is splashed big in the front page of a paper.”

The Government wants an investigation into the allegations against the Home Affairs Minister. This investigation/enquiry can only start if the information Mr. Corbin claims he and others have can be provided to the Commissioner of Police. The PNCR leader is guilty of withholding vital information and this questions his genuine interest in any proper investigation. If he is so convinced that his “information/intelligence” is credible why worry about media exposure and verification by the only competent authority under the law – the Guyana Police Force. Mr. Corbin should take up the Government’s offer and provide all the information he has to Mr. Winston Felix, the Commissioner of Police. As the President had advised provide the same information simultaneously, to the media or any one else if he is fearful of a police cover-up. I would hate to think that the PNCR Leader is questioning Mr. Felix’s integrity and competence by withholding information. It is time Mr. Corbin behaves like a serious political leader and ceases his political theatrics.

Corbin: “So I say to civil society those who are sitting on the fence and feel that it’s not important, I warn you today that the issue is not a matter of the PNC, it is not a matter only for the PMJ, it is not a matter only for ROAR, WPA and Sharma, and we hope that they will stand up and let (President) Jagdeo know that enough is enough, and we will talk no further.”

President Jagdeo does not pay attention to threats. In spite of its best efforts, the PNCR failed to project this campaign as attracting broad-based support. Everyone knows that it has been engineered and driven by the PNCR. Only the PNCR and its lackeys, including Ravi Dev, CN Sharma, and Lincoln Lewis seem interested in a `kangaroo trial’ model. The mini parties – ROAR, WPA and Justice For All -, which have joined the campaign, are appendages of the PNCR for sometime now. And bodies such as GID and PMJ are mere PNCR aliases. The hullabaloo about the rule of law campaign is very duplicitous. That only a small group turned up for the massively advertised and mobilised march and rally is a message to the PNCR Leader that people will not tolerate mob-like behaviour and approaches to issues of national concern. Once more Mr. Corbin has politically boxed himself in a corner and hasn’t a clue on how to come out. Interestingly, the last time such a threat was made at the Square of the Revolution lives were lost as protesters associated with Mr. Corbin and others (as reported in the Stabroek News of July 4, 2002) stormed the Office of the President compound. I have no doubt other groups and decent minded citizens share the Government’s desire for a proper investigation consistent with laid down procedures.

Corbin: “Think of a man like Ramjattan, you understand what I am saying, I told you what happened to a ROAR activist in Essequibo. We have seen what happened to Sharma who stood up to them.”

Mr. Corbin’s storytelling is not amusing. His attempts to paint the PPP as a movement that condones and promotes violence is silly. I need not remind him of his Party’s most recent track record. Sharma and Dev are self-avowed opposers of the PPP/C. They have even moved to the next stage of vowing to unseat the Government. The Corbin/Dev/Sharma despite being incompatible is merely a marriage of convenience intended only to remove the Government. The PNCR leader has now officially joined the hostile media in adopting the Ramjattan cause. The General Secretary of the PPP has said that the matter is closed. If Congress Place and others want to keep it alive, then that is their own business.

Corbin: “And now when we talk of the rule of law I want you to bear in mind the fate of Mark Benschop.”

This is a most ill-advised statement. How can anyone talk about the rule of law and in the same breath defend the behaviour of an individual involved in the storming of the Office of the President complex.

Corbin: “We look forward to the business community… the next time we come out it will not be on a Saturday. The next time we come out it has to be on a Friday and if that does not work then the next time we come out it will be on a Thursday and if that does not work then we will come out on a Wednesday and if that does not work then we will continue and continue until (President) Jagdeo wakes up to understand that enough is enough and we will tolerate no further.”

It’s the old PNC trick. When you don’t support them they dispatch threats and thugs. That this threatening statement to the business community was made before representatives of WPA, ROAR, CNS 6 and others without any objection sends a clear message: these elements are clearly in cahoots with the PNCR disruptive campaign. The deafening silence of the business community to this threat should end. If harm is caused to business owners and damages to their properties by criminals and other elements then Mr. Corbin and those who shared his platform must be held personally responsible. They should be charged and taken to court to face both criminal and civil action. The days of thuggery and bullyism are long gone. When will the PNCR realise that the way forward requires mature and responsible political behaviour. I wish to salute the thousands of PNCR supporters who have refused to be duped into dangerous adventurisms by staying away from these lawless and potentially violent protests. The PNCR should stop its performance for the hostile media and attempts to gain the international community’s attention.