A video clip on Facebook showing a visit by police ranks to the Office of the Leader of Opposition was probably an occurrence that generations of the late 1980’s and 1990’s nor local millennials never saw in their living memory.
Any visit by police ranks, especially those from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), to a former President’s office or residence in any part of the world, cannot be construed as a courtesy call on the office holder to sip and chat over a cup of coffee and some fruitcake.
It is an encounter fraught with serious implications for democratic governance. In many countries it is called witch hunting. Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that such an occurrence is reminiscent of a past era many today may not have experienced.
In any democracy or dictatorship, where the government of the day turns unhesitatingly the coercive arm of the state towards its political opponents such an act by its very nature, is bound to have ominous political undertones characterized by political harassment, intimidation and victimization.
Worse yet, such an act is a stark reminder of the troubling times when the press was threatened as it is now with a minister of government threatening legal action against the independent Stabroek News.
On this occasion, freedom of the press is being challenged on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.
That aside, what is ominous about the visit at 304 Church Street was the blatant misuse and abuse of law enforcement by the Executive, pushing the police to engage in a fishing expedition to advance a politically motivated agenda.
It is rather ironical, if not mind-boggling to observe how police ranks, who once served faithfully, a previous democratically elected government, would allow themselves to be inveigled into committing an act that was clearly vengeful.
To practitioners and students of public policy and governance, there are important lessons to be learnt from the Church Street visitation. The visit was emblematic of a regime quixotic in its behaviour.
Prominent among those lessons is a national security ideology which, from all indications, has taken root within the statecraft practised by the Granger-led coalition administration.
This is a frightening development which, if not exposed and challenged successfully, can place Guyana’s democracy on the line.
But even more alarming is the regime’s groundless fear of a plot, based on some conspiracy theory that, implicit in the call to “chase them out” was intent to cause physical harm.
Consequently, the summoning of law enforcement to ‘investigate’ this ‘intent’ must be viewed as a reflection of a paranoia that obtains in the highest echelons of government.
It comes as no surprise that those in power who thrive on conspiracy theories, would interpret the “ Chase them out” call as mischief being hatched by the political opposition.
As far as they are concerned, the No Confidence Motion was a conspiracy to bring down the government, the current principled stand adopted by opposition Commissioners at GECOM is a conspiracy to frustrate the work of the Commission, exposing mounting scandals in government circles is a conspiracy to embarrass the government, while the demand for free and fair elections is a conspiracy to cast doubt on the electoral process.
In the circumstances, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that actions of the political opposition is viewed through a prism of paranoia by the APNU+AFC coalition administration.
The response by the Granger-led administration to the “chase them out” call was an embarrassing overreaction on their part manifested in bungling political theatrics.
By calling on the Criminal Investigation Department of the Guyana Police Force to investigate a bee in somebody’s bonnet is to embrace the dark fantasies inherent in plots inspired by conspiracy theories.
Clement J. Rohee
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs