There is really something which doesn’t make sense about the PNC’s recent eulogy of Mr Abdul Kadir in Parliament on April 26. As our leader on Monday said, “The motion and its passage have brought the highest law-making forum of the land and a branch of the government into disrepute.” It went on to ask what credibility this Parliament would now have, drawing attention to the recent terrorism outrages in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and warning that “the country will be perceived to be soft on those convicted of terrorism-related offences.” This, it admonished, could have repercussions for international relations.
The consequences are so obvious, not least of all the strongly-worded condemnation from the US, that one might have thought that the PNC would baulk before following the line that they did. Even the defence of their action, sheathed in the mantle of a government statement, was so bizarre that one has to wonder whether they have not only lost all political sensitivity, but common sense as well. “The Government of Guyana,” ran the statement, “asserts that it had no intention of conveying the impression that the motion was designed to honour a former MP convicted of terrorism in another jurisdiction. The motion recognises the member’s service as a parliamentarian.”
It seems like the ultimate in irreconcilable contradictions: Mr Kadir was convicted of plotting to blow up the fuel tanks at JFK airport, but never mind that he was a terrorist, which the government and party say they condemn, he was an admirable man. And to underline the point, there was Lindener Ms Valerie Adams-Yearwood, who moved the motion in Parliament last Friday, informing the House that Mr Kadir was “a great man, a stalwart, a bold and courageous man.” Perhaps Ms Adams-Yearwood should explain what defines “a great man” in our context, because after this semantic confusion most of the rest of us genuinely don’t know. Current Region 10 parliamentarian Audwin Rutherford was equally perplexing: Linden, Guyana and the National Assembly [are] “lesser for his passing,” he intoned. Exactly how? most people must be asking.
It might be mentioned, as we did in our Monday editorial, that it had emerged in court that Mr Kadir had been attempting to undermine the army, and had been working with Iran. Never mind the United States, therefore, his behaviour also struck in a different way at the security of the Guyana state. Is that not a matter of concern to the PNC, not forgetting the government? And why did the AFC go along with the APNU decision?
There have been a number of MPs, including on the government side, who have been forced to resign recently on constitutional grounds because they held dual citizenship, but there has never been the slightest suggestion that any of them were anything but unswervingly loyal to Guyana. And here we have a man who only held Guyanese citizenship alone, but whose loyalties have been called into question and who is now being extolled in the National Assembly for his service there.
Of course, the government laid great stress on the fact that acknowledging the services of deceased MPs was a convention, and the state paper duly reported Clerk of Parliament Sherlock Isaacs as saying that he had drafted the motion. He may have drafted it, but the decision to bring it to the floor was that of the government. And in any case, how can procedure, no matter how long established, take precedence over ethical considerations?
What is especially strange is that Mr Kadir died not last month or the month before, but ten months ago on June 28, 2018. Furthermore, Ms Gail Teixeira of the PPP in a letter to this newspaper this week averred that at a parliamentary sitting of January 3, 2019, it had been reported that there was one minute of silence for 3 former MPs, namely, Heeralall Mohan, Ronald Gajraj and Abdul Kadir. If that indeed was the case, wasn’t it sufficient for the purposes of convention, one wonders?
If one were to assume, even if only for the sake of argument, that the PNC was not completely oblivious to possible consequences, and knew that the motion would produce a very strong adverse reaction from both within and without Guyana, then what could have inspired them to proceed as they did? It is no secret that in this country − and this applies to all our politicians of whatever persuasion − there is only one thing that trumps every other consideration, and that is electoral politics.
We are, of course, in an election zone, although when exactly that poll will be held depends on all kinds of factors, including a decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The PNC hierarchy has had an intermittently rocky relationship with the Linden branch of the party, particularly after it first came to office as part of the coalition, when its treatment of politicians like Vanessa Kissoon, who was popular with the Linden constituency, earned it no brownie points. Could it be, for example, that it is on a charm offensive in Region 10 to try and ensure that there is no disaffection and the vote there is solid in time for the election?
It is at the very least coincidental that all kinds of events appeared to be happening in the town proper and the Region this week. Among other things President David Granger held his first cabinet meeting in Watooka, on April 30, and only the third for this year. On the same day there was a ministerial outreach at the Wismar Market, where questions from the public were entertained. Then Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams handed over 40 agreements of sale for land in Coomacka. From Lindeners’ point of view the biggest breakthrough probably came with the handover of the Linden Broadcast Network to the Region by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, something for which the town’s residents have been waiting for years.
In a similar vein might it be argued that the PNC portion of the government, at least, is of the view that Mr Kadir was popular in Linden, since he was the town’s mayor between 1994 and 1996, and had been the Region 10 Representative for the PNCR in Parliament from 2001 to 2006. Perhaps it is thought that honouring him would go down well with the regional constituency. If that is indeed how they are thinking, then they have forgotten one of the fundamental rules of serving governments, viz that small party interest should never take precedence over the national interest. Yet from their behaviour the PNC under the guise of APNU, open themselves to the allegation that they are attempting to humour one segment of the party to the detriment of the nation.