Benschop did not object to being sanctioned for breach of the traffic laws

Dear Editor,
Devanand Bhagwan’s letter captioned ‘When should we cross the line in defying the law’ (SN, December 18) takes a disingenuous look at the issue involving Mark Benschop and the consequence of his protest over that environmentally health hazardous garbage dumpsite situated in a particular community in Georgetown. His examination of the issue and the issuance of the facetious rebuke to Mr Benschop suggest that like many, wrongs and rights can be conveniently spinned to satisfy fractured logic.

From Mr Benschop’s own assertion, he never objected to being sanctioned for any defiance of the traffic laws. His objection was against his residence being surrounded in the middle of the night by armed policemen that were traumatizing his young son, and over a traffic violation that is normally addressed by service of  process/summons. It requires a great deal of disingenuousness for anyone to ignore that facet in the issue while writing self righteously about defiance of the law. Last I remembered, defiance of the law was a stock-in-trade attribute of PPP activism back in the day.

According to Mr Benschop, at his home the arresting ranks refused to advise him of the grounds for his arrest or the charge that was being instituted against him. I do believe that the police have a legal duty to inform anyone they arrest of the grounds on which they are being arrested at the time of such arrest, or if inconvenient due to circumstances beyond their control, as soon as practicable afterwards. It would be enlightening for those who consider themselves social commentators to make themselves acquainted with the legal rules for due process under the laws and constitution of the land, before waxing disingenuously about issues such as these, and thus clearly evidencing the kind of biased presentation that comes off as shallow and facetious.

Martin Luther King opined, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law…” I am sure that patriots like Mark Benschop, Freddie Kissoon, Lincoln Lewis and others, who challenge policies and decisions that amount to an injustice to an affected community, embrace this parcel of wisdom bequeathed to all conscientious social activists by that great martyr. What they do not embrace, is the insidious hand of political directive encroaching upon violating the tenets of due process and the rights of citizens.

It is quite obvious that Orwellian thinking inundates not only the perspective and reasoning of the autocrats who consider themselves more equal than the rank and file of the population, but also those who lay claim to objectivity and non-partisanship in their social commentary. What else can one conclude from a missive that ignores the excessive use and deployment of law enforcement powers, while waxing hypocritically about a non-issue.

Again, the rebuke about crossing the line and defying the law is a fabricated argument fashioned to ignore an inconvenient truth. And that truth is that the police are being used to go after those who actively challenge the policies of the regime in power. The writer, rather than dealing with this, chooses to make up an argument that was not a characteristic of Mark Benschop’s protest and objection to the legal proceedings that followed his activism at the environmentally hazardous dumpsite. He did not say he should not be charged for a traffic violation, which is what his “defiance of the law” amounted to. He objected to the excessive and unlawful manner in which such legal proceedings took shape, and the violation of his fundamental rights to due process with respect to the circumstances of his arrest, and the kind of force that was considered necessary for a case involving a minor traffic violation.
Yours faithfully,
Robin Williams

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