Recent developments need careful analysis
The recent developments, which have disturbed the relatively peaceful political atmosphere the country experienced over the past few months need careful analysis.
What are the political under currents that are propelling the present situation? I am of the opinion that the following two considerations are at the centre of what is taking place:
The first has to do with what I believe is a decision made by President Bharrat Jagdeo i.e. his political future is more certain in a situation of open political hostility, rather than political peace; and second; the regime seems to sense that internal and external forces may be plotting against it, and is striking back using its control of the local security forces to repress elements of the political opposition.
Are there other factors driving the regime’s actions?
There very well may be, but before I attempt an answer to this question let me quickly review what has occurred to date.
Guyana is witnessing a series of three-man peaceful protests outside of a number of public buildings, which highlight allege crimes of the regime.
This activity was taking place for some time without much public notice and with no attempt by the Guyana Police Force to stop it. Suddenly, there was a change in the response by the police and the government which saw the ‘Three Musketeers’ as they were dubbed by the Commissioner of Police being arrested and incarcerated in the Brickdam lockups.
Inevitably, this single act by the police resulted in a transformation of people’s awareness of the protests. Persons, who were unaware that something was happening, suddenly discovered that they were wrong.
Those who knew about the existence of the activity and wanted to ignore it became aware that the trio was in fact doing something right to warrant the kind of action that was meted out to them by the police. The detention of the ‘Musketeers’ led to their supporters and concerned citizens assembling outside of the Police Headquarters in a vigil, demanding their freedom.
Subsequent to the arrest of the three the Ministry of Health building on Brickdam went up in flames early one morning.
As is usually the case in these kinds of matters government officials began hinting that the fire was a deliberate act and not an accident. The first clear attempt to link the protests, protesters and the political opposition to the fire was made as the building was being gutted by Minister Leslie Ramsammy. This position was repeated in a statement put out by the General Sectary of the ruling party (PPP/C) which left no doubt what the rulers intent were. Before the investigations began the President announced a $25 million reward for information on the persons responsible for the destruction of the building. Frenzied action followed his announcement of the reward.
Troy Small was abducted and tortured, and a number of citizens, notably, two prominent members of ACDA, Heston Bostwick and Archie Poole were arrested. To date three persons have appeared in court charged with the responsibility of setting the fire and destroying the building.
More recently the police arrested former Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Juliet Holder Allen, for questioning in relation to the fire. In spite of the above the three-man protest action continues unabated. This is a synopsis of the events. In the short span of a few days Guyana’s climate has been transformed from one of peace, to one characterized by repression, torture, and the imposition of fictitious charges of arson on some of its citizens.
In responding to the question I posed – “Are there other factors driving the regime actions?” It is my judgment that the President, to use a popular Guyanese saying, is also trying to kill two birds with one stone. He is trying to force his comrades in the ruling party to concede to his aspirations for a third term, something they seem reluctant to grant at this time. Is his strategy to court a resumption of armed action by repressing elements in the community?
If so, and he succeeds in creating a climate of violence in the country he will rely on the fear factor in the community and the party to garner the necessary support for his ambition for a third presidential tern. Does he believe that in an atmosphere of violence his supporters in the party will hold sway over his rivals and detractors?
Jagdeo’s faction will argue that the situation in the country requires them to select a Presidential Candidate with the experience and fearlessness to act in a crisis and that he, unlike the other contenders for the party’s nomination for the position, has the required qualifications, having proven himself in the past. If my reading of the situation is correct and I am sure it is, Ramotar, Rohee, Ramkarran and the other PPP president hopefuls are skillfully being manoeuvered out of the Presidential race by the superior tactician – Jadgeo .
The combined political experience of the old guard is proving inadequate to the task of containing the run away not so young President.
My other hypotheses is that Jagdeo has convinced himself that the daily protests by the civic activists may be the beginning of a wider assault on the regime, which is timed to coincide with developments relating to the trial of Roger Khan’s lawyer, Robert Simels, and Khan’s pending sentencing in the USA.
The repressive activities of the security forces seem to suggest that the President has decided that his best line of defence is attack; his objective is to create the impression that he has unearthed a plot against the government or, has disrupted the plans of the “plotters”.
On this score he has been able to convince the reluctant Minister of Home Affairs, the Honorable Clement Rohee about the correctness of his line of action. It is widely known that Rohee had questioned the wisdom of the Police Commissioner’s decision to arrest the peaceful picketers.
He felt that the police action had made them into heroes and brought public support to their cause at the expense of the government and ruling party.
After the self inflicted destruction of the Health Ministry, Rohee was “White” mailed into abandoning his sound political judgment and fall in line with Jagdeo’s plans. The political risk to do otherwise seems to be too high.
The joint press conference held by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police on Monday 27, July was instructive. There, Rohee made it clear that the government’s position on the destruction of the Health Ministry was that it was an orchestrated political action. He also spoke of the passive and active players, and the intellectual authors.
This is one of the few occasions when I agree with Minister Rohee. I share his view that the destruction of the Ministry of Health was politically motivated – but unlike him I believe it was self inflicted.