Perfunctory expressions of regret at the passing of Members of Parliament and the recognition of their service have been the norm in the House since independence. Such a practice is perfectly in order and on many occasions it has united the deeply divided sides of the House in common expressions of sympathy and admiration for the deceased. However, as in any other endeavour a line has to be drawn somewhere.
For instance, in a society wracked by mind-boggling violence against women, it is quite unlikely that an MP convicted of such crimes would be heralded in one of these motions. Mr Abdul Kadir’s conviction in a United States court of plotting to commit a serious act of terrorism also falls into the category that should be considered to be beyond the pale. There will be no re-litigating of Mr Kadir’s case and the records will show that on December 15, 2010 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in a New York court by Judge Dora Irizarry.
Mr Kadir, formerly known as Michael Seaforth, was convicted of conspiracy to attack a public transportation system (the John F Kennedy airport in New York); conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive; conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials; conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities; and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility. He was unable to convince the court otherwise and he therefore has gone down in the record books as a former Member of Parliament of Guyana who was engaged in plotting an attack on the JFK Airport in New York which if such a plot had been successful could have had dire consequences for the thousands who use that facility on a daily basis including many Guyanese.
There were other troubling parts of the case that had been made out against him. During his trial, Mr Kadir had denied an accusation by the US government that he spent years working as a spy for Iran. However according to news reports on the trial, Mr Kadir admitted under cross-examination that he drafted regular reports for the Iranian ambassador to Venezuela, including details like the alleged “low morale” in the Guyanese army. The documents he allegedly drafted included a five-year development plan to promote Islam in Guyana, which included references to infiltrating the military, police and other government agencies.
On the announcement of his sentence of life imprisonment, then United States Attorney Loretta Lynch who would later serve as Attorney General of the United States between 2015 and 2017 said “This sentence imposed on Abdul Kadir sends a powerful and clear message …We will bring to justice those who plot to attack the United States of America.” She also extended appreciation to the Guyanese and Trinidadian law enforcement authorities who assisted with the investigation and apprehension of the defendants.
The APNU+AFC government in its near four years in office has made many ignorant decisions. This one for a sympathy motion for Mr Kadir ranks prominently on the charts. The motion and its passage have brought the highest law-making forum of the land and a branch of the government into disrepute. The legislature will now be recorded as disembodying this serious terrorism conviction from Mr Kadir’s record merely for the purpose of partisan praise of his service over five years as an opposition MP. What credibility will this Parliament have now in bringing anti-terrorism laws and speaking out against this scourge that has seen a slew of deadly attacks recently in disparate locations as Christchurch, New Zealand; Colombo, Sri Lanka and San Diego, California?
Even more damaging, the country will be perceived to be soft on those convicted of terrorism-related offences given that its government piloted this motion to recognise its former MP when his conviction should have deterred any such consideration. This can no doubt have repercussions for international relations. Since 9/11 Washington has been particularly sensitive on these matters and there could be fallout since Mr Kadir’s conviction came in a US court in a case constructed by the US government in what was apprehended as a serious plot against a major installation in New York.
Last Tuesday, Barbadian Attorney General Dale Marshall warned Barbadians that terrorism threats might be closer to home than they think. He was speaking in the House of Assembly as members debated and approved amendments to the Money Laundering And Financing of Terrorism (Prevention And Control) Act, Corporate And Trust Service Providers Act, and said
“I have to caution the Barbadian listener that the tentacles of terrorism, though they may not have seen expression in Barbados, we guard every single day against the possibility of it happening here”.
“You only need to reflect that as far back as the time of Cricket World Cup , there were individuals . . . from Trinidad and Jamaica who were being watched very carefully not just by regional governments, but by the governments of the United States and England and other places because of their associations with significant terrorist organisations”, he added.
Georgetown would also no doubt be acutely aware that this country will face growing risks of various kinds the deeper the entrenchment by US majors in the oil and gas sector here. It was therefore a most inappropriate point at which to present a motion of this type.
Why did the government wait this long to bring the sympathy motion? Mr Kadir passed away on June 28, 2018. Is it the case that it waited for a boycott of the House by the PPP/C to avoid the other side of the story being told? The motion appears to be a simplistic play to the Linden base of the major component of APNU+AFC, the PNCR and also another in the attempts by the PNCR to rehabilitate its image and those of some of its key figures without making the kind of mea culpa which is long overdue. If it wanted to recognise the efforts of Mr Kadir it could have done so in its own name, not drag the National Assembly into the morass of having to deflect concerns about where it stands on persons convicted of plotting serious terrorism. This senseless decision by the PNCR to promote this motion can have untold repercussions on the country and it must be held accountable for these.