The world of the local media has expanded to the point where the powers that be now say that the media publisher has breached national security. Earlier this week, Kaieteur News published what appeared to be an anomaly in the public service structure. It noted that payments were being made to people who were de facto policemen and soldiers outside of the usual sources.
Generally, if people are seconded to an entity then that entity is responsible for their payment. If however, their expertise is shared by two or more entities, then the payment is made to the entity that actually employs them. Any other payment or stipend is made to the employer for inclusion in the salary.
But it has turned out that the publication is not about ordinary people. Indeed, they are substantive employees of the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force. However, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon now says that these are intelligence officers on special assignment. As intelligence officers, they are supposed to be exclusively under the ambit of Office of the President.
However, as Dr Luncheon put it, the intelligence arrangement has not yet been fully put in place. There are still aspects that have to be negotiated. Further, all the equipment is not in place; neither is the intelligence team. The result is that while the officers report for duty at their place of employment but they are in effect, employees of Office of the President.
It is here that we come to the harsh reality that Guyana has no law to prevent the disclosure of information that may be considered sensitive. People would take it upon themselves to keep quiet about certain things and would be the first to suggest that they are nationalistic and would do everything to protect the security of the country.
However, there is nothing to stop people from disclosing what they know.
There have been numerous cases of people speaking in whispers about a unit in the Guyana Police Force called the Special Branch. More recently, they began speaking about the intelligence unit in the Guyana Defence Force. To the public, this is the only intelligence unit in the army and goes by the name Military Intelligence.
But the administration has created a new unit and it is this unit that must spy on the people of this country. These must be the people who would record conversations clandestinely, listen in on telephone conversations and in general, perform surreptitious duties.
Britain has its MI5 and MI6; the United States would have its Central Intelligence Agency and its other spy networks, including its Federal Bureau of Investigation; Israel has its Mossad. Guyana now has its’ own equivalent. We are not sure that newspapers would not name people in those organizations. Indeed, there is some measure of secrecy given that these agents operate in foreign countries. The nationalism kicks in because the people recognize the agents are at risk in the foreign country.
But in the case of Guyana these are local spies who have been linked in the past to torture and other cruel acts against the people of this country. Further, they, in fact, are still policemen and soldiers who have not been incorporated into the security system being fashioned by the state.
We are amazed at the reaction to the disclosure of the names of these individuals. They are doing nothing more than what the detectives have been doing for more than a century. In fact, in our book, the detectives who must investigate murders and hunt killers are at greater risk than those who must now snoop on the wider society.
And what is there for them to snoop on. For as long as Guyana has existed people have been muttering their discontent. None has ever attempted to topple the government by force. Are the new spies going to target the drug dealers? In our book, they have been around enough to crack at least one drug ring. They have not done this.
Have they been responsible for some of the drug busts? Then they have done something and should be protected. However, the evidence does not suggest any interest in the drug dealers.
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