WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING
Within two weeks, the people of Guyana would have forgotten about the Islamic cleric who was arrested in Guyana and who was released without any charges being laid. There will be from time to time occasional reminders about this arrest, but the people of Guyana would within fourteen days no longer have this issue as a talking point in their daily conversations.
And yet we should be speaking about the arrest of this cleric because it represents a serious threat to human rights. That someone could have been arrested without seemingly any just cause, that that person could have been detained overnight, is a cause enough for deep concern as to the direction in which the Guyana Police Force is heading.
It will take some convincing for the Guyanese people within the next two weeks to accept that this arrest was not politically motivated. And the shifting positions being given by the authorities as to why the cleric was arrested are not going to make their versions any more believable.
Greater currency will be lent to the view that the arrest of this man had more to do with the fears that his actions could mobilize sections of the population in an election year, than will that story about the arrest being based on conversations being overheard.
The authorities will need to come better, to provide more information for anyone to accept that this arrest was based on what they claim it was based on.
The cleric himself needs no convincing. He has stated clearly that his arrest may have been based on political considerations, but he did not specify what those considerations are.
At first there were reports circulating that the arrest of the cleric was due to intelligence received from foreign agencies. It was even at the time hinted that the Americans may have been involved. The cleric relayed that when he was being arrested he was told that information had been provided by the Central Intelligence Agency. The Americans have however disowned any involvement with the matter related to the cleric and indicated that no information was provided by them to the local authorities.
In light of the fact that no charges were ever laid against the cleric, does suggest that the police had little or perhaps nothing at all to go on, and this demands an investigation as to the basis for the arrest.
The government should be pressed to initiate such an investigation, not because of the fact that a foreigner is involved, but because if there was no basis for the arrest and it was still made, it means that Guyana is now on the verge of becoming a police state, where the rights of its citizens can be violated with impunity and at the whims and fancies of the authorities.
If someone as prominent as a cleric, said to be an aide to the head of the all-powerful Nation of Islam, could have been subjected to what now seems to be an arbitrary arrest, then imagine what could be done to some ordinary citizen of Guyana without any status or connections with any international organization.
It is a frightening situation, and raises serious questions about the independence of the police from political manipulation. The Guyana Police Force is now on the stand and they must take the necessary action to assure the entire country and the international community that they are not politically partial in their actions and could be counted on for high levels of professionalism.
The Nation of Islam is not a fly-by-night organization. It has been around for a long time and was instrumental a few years ago in organizing a million man march in Washington. It is not an unknown quantity in Guyana. In fact, for sometime now, television shows featuring addresses by the head of the Nation of Islam have been aired on a local television channel. However, the Nation of Islam is not known to have a large following in Guyana and therefore does not represent any threat to any other religious organization in Guyana.
What is however extremely disturbing is that to date, not one organization, apart from the main opposition, has expressed its dissatisfaction about what took place. What did someone say about what happens when good men do nothing?