Guyana and the War on Terror
December 6, 2006
THE detention for questioning of a suspect in the "terror threat e-mail" incident may have come as a surprise to many Guyanese.
The Internet to most of us is still simply just a place where we go to call our friends and family overseas.
That someone sending an e-mail from a single terminal at the most popular net café in New Amsterdam could be detained in Georgetown just a couple of days later seems an almost miraculous event.
Of course, the reality may be more bound up in the reality of modern technology but it brings to light something incidental but interesting -- that Guyana may be one of the countries high up on America's terrorism watch list.
Since it is highly unlikely that the FBI has computer experts ready to drop their work and fly to any location some prankster sends an e-mail from, it may be safe to assume that the speed and level of the mobilisation involved in this operation was not routine but part of an established system of anti-terrorism manoeuvres tailor-made specifically to a "Guyana Scenario."
It is not that the government or people have displayed any particular belligerence towards the United States; bilateral relations between the two countries have arguably never been better.
Nor is it likely that the considerable Muslim population here is, in general, the cause for any overtime at Langley or Foggy Bottom. Not only have Guyanese Muslims never been even vaguely sympathetic with any sort of terrorism, but have offered little commentary, if any, on the larger conflict currently between Islam and the West.
The most radical undertaking of the major group, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), was a statement of protest against the infamous Jyllands Posten cartoons earlier this year.
In a brief press release, the CIOG stated, "we encourage Muslims in Guyana and elsewhere to add their voices to the protest in a manner that is lawful, dignified and constructive."
Guyana's status as a country to focus on when it comes to America's war on terror comes out of the perception, real or imagined, that it cannot adequately monitor its porous borders; and that the international narcotics trade has undermined its capacity to investigate and prosecute organised criminal activity.
As Chris Zambelis writes in an article entitled "The Threat of Religious Radicalism in Guyana", published in the July 2006 issue of the periodical Terrorism Monitor:
"Despite a lack of hard evidence implicating extremist elements operating in Guyana, many observers worry that radical ideologies will find resonance among Guyanese Muslims and others in the region. In many respects, these concerns mirror growing fears of al-Qaeda's ability to inspire Muslims and potentially others across the globe to its cause. By all accounts, the potential threat of radicalism in Guyana should be seen in this context and not as a unique case. Nevertheless, Guyana's porous borders and growing problem with violent crime remain a concern, especially as its security and intelligence capabilities are overwhelmed, thus presenting a potential opening for radical Islamists to gain a foothold."
While Mr. Zambelis' journalistic objectivity may be questionable – writing as he does for a publication of the Jamestown Foundation, a policy group which has been accused of promoting and profiting from the War or Terror – similar fears have been expressed by U.S. government officials.
Most notably, former U.S. Ambassador to Guyana Roland Bullen had stated slightly before his mid-year departure, that the international narco-trafficking cartels operating in Guyana potentially provided the basic framework for the launch of terror attacks against America using this country as a base. It doesn't help either that one of America's most wanted terror suspects, Adnad Shukrijumah, not only has Guyanese roots and a Guyanese passport but was actually seen here in December of 2003.
The basic lesson in all this, of course is that, e-mail prank or not, the global war on terror is not as far away from us as we have previously thought.
There is the saying that all politics is local.
In this age of the Internet and the threat of internationally inspired terrorism so, it seems, is all conflict.