Guyana Chronicle
May 23, 2004

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WHY do some elements exhibit a perverse obsession to destroy and decry our fellow citizens? That’s the question many, especially the young would ask given the current opposition tirade against members of the Commission of Inquiry set up to probe allegations of criminal misconduct against the Home Affairs Minister. There are those who relish indulging in a sickening political culture of a bygone era of destroying fellow Guyanese when they refuse to be part of anyone’s political agenda.

The destructive tendency to unjustifiably attack some of the best and brightest on one’s political altar affects people’s general willingness to participate in national life. No wonder few and fewer qualified and gifted young people are getting into national life and politics. I speak with many of my contemporaries and their explanation for not being active in public life is that they need not be exposed to unwarranted nasty, vicious and unfounded personal attacks against them and their families.

Politics and public life do carry with it public scrutiny and examination. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, the threshold is crossed when, without any merit, people’s reputation and integrity are questioned. This is even worse when non-partisan persons step forward to play their part in national life and are harassed, hounded, their families targeted for abuse and their commitment to country is debased.

Most of the time these attacks are launched when certain individuals refuse to do the political bidding of a particular entity or interest. Threats are issued against them and their families. A character assassination campaign kicks into gear. Certain talk shows and call-in programmes are used as vehicles to perpetuate the dirty-trick campaign.

On the one hand, there is talk about inclusion and participation of members of civil society. And on the other, if someone from that section of society steps forward to play some part in national life, that person is tainted with a political or ethnic brush. If that does not work, then rumours and lies are skillfully contrived and circulated in the media and certain social circles. During a bygone era, violence was even used against individuals who refused to “toe the line.” Those who employed such methods have not given up their penchant for violence, threats and intimidations to scare and dissuade Guyanese from following their conscience. The post-2001 elections violence and the politically-inspired 2002-2003 crime wave are the most recent examples.

The Guyanese who have been identified and consented to serve on the Commission of Inquiry are capable of defending themselves from the vicious opposition campaign. It is, however, worth mentioning that they have served in various capacities in our country, mainly during the PNC regime reign. None is known to be a supporter of either the Government or the PPP. And little needs to be said about their accepted competence and experience in the various disciplines. The President, in his public announcement, noted that much consideration was given before his decision was made and the members chosen.

The claim of lack of consultation as an excuse to attack the commission members is a nimble one. The efforts by the President’s office to contact the PNCR Leader or even arrange a consultation meeting were deliberately obstructed. The President stated his preference to have prior consultation with the opposition which was not bound by our statutes. Consultation was, however, held with different stakeholders in the country. The President did not and could not wait forever, whenever the PNCR leader was ready for consultation.

The PNCR acolytes including ROAR, WPA ought to have shown some self-respect and not be dragged with a leash, blindfolded into another destructive political plot. That they have joined the Congress Place chorus of attacks against members of the Commission is politically demeaning. One appreciates that they have no political support or clout of their own and as such are forced to hang on to the PNCR shirt-tail. But they must not be so spineless in joining everything that is aimed at keeping the country in political stalemate. Not only are they playing the same PNCR political tricks, they are also destroying the reputation of worthy citizens. This only prevents Guyanese from rising to the occasion when the nation demands and deserves their service and skills. The people of Guyana will certainly judge these political players of another era harshly for their destructive political escapades.

The expectation is that these three Guyanese will respect the national support for their task. They must not allow themselves to become victims of a nasty character assassination and political ploy of those who want to prevent a resolution of the current impasse.

The Government has moved from its original position regarding the mode of investigation into the allegations. While not a volte face, the May 14 announcement by the President is certainly closer to what the opposition, sections of the media, civil society and human rights have been calling for. A clear demonstration of political maturity! That’s the type of political posture required from all sides in building a new political culture. The culture of antagonism, acrimony and derailment is from a bygone era.

Those who persist in practising such sterile political habits will only consign themselves to the dustbin of political history. Guyanese want to move forward and beyond allegations and slander. This impartial Inquiry was intended to provide that window of opportunity for the country to move forward and let justice take its course.