Tarnishing Guyana’s image

Guyanese were astonished after learning that the APNU/AFC Government used taxpayers’ money and the hallowed halls of the National Assembly to posthumously honour one of their former Members of Parliament (MP), Abdul Kadir, who was convicted for terrorism. Kadir, who was charged for plotting to bomb the John K Kennedy International Airport in New York, died while serving a life sentence in a United States penitentiary.
To merely state that the charges against Kadir were serious would be a gross understatement, especially in the context of the bombing of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, also in New York. That event, which resulted in the deaths of close to three thousand persons, arguably has the most global impact since the Second World War. For sure, it drastically changed international travel requirements and airport security across the planet.
That puts a better perspective to the seriousness of Kadir’s charges and ultimate conviction. Had he been successful in what he was convicted for, more lives would have been lost on US soil. For the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government to therefore use a sitting of the highest decision-making forum in the country to shower praise on a criminal, especially given what he was convicted for, reeks of utter disrespect for both Guyanese and Americans including those who perished at the hands of terrorists.
As expected, it was condemned by Guyanese and the United States Government. For many, especially young people, the Government’s action to honour Kadir may seem bizarre and even unbelievable in the context of rationality. Following the forthright condemnation by the US, the Government sought to explain that its action was in keeping with parliamentary tradition to honour the services of MPs. It also noted its regret over the US’ interpretation.
While honouring MPs is a noble gesture, the Government may have conveniently forgotten that Kadir was convicted for a criminal offence which may have rendered him expelled by default. Many are now questioning how such a motion was tabled given Government’s legal expertise not the least, the Attorney General. That aside, the Kadir parliamentary motion was not the first instance that the People’s National Congress (PNC) would have embraced criminal elements.
Its relationship with Rabbi Edward Washington while in Government prior to 1992, readily comes to mind. Washington was the Leader of the House of Israel here; an organisation described as a cult. Reportedly, before coming to Guyana, Washington, or David Hill as he was known, was found guilty for blackmail and sentenced to serve a 4-25-year term in Cleveland, Ohio. In another trial, a Chicago grand jury found him guilty of grand theft felony charges.
Here, he found a comfortable place seemingly through the courtesy of the PNC. During that oppressive regime, many Guyanese who opposed and fought for freedom and democracy had thugs unleased upon them, believably by Washington reportedly at the PNC’s bidding. Many were brutally assaulted and in the case of Father Bernard Darke, a photographer for the Catholic Standard, he was stabbed and killed on Brickdam while covering a protest again the PNC Government.
Despite the cries, what many victims related and the belief of Guyanese then, Washington appeared untouchable under the Forbes Burnham Government. Many remain convinced that the suspected relationship between a convicted US felon, Washington, and the PNC, which is now the dominant party in the current coalition Government, led to many other acts of violence unleashed on Guyanese. Those familiar with that aspect of our history may therefore not be so surprised at the honouring of Kadir.
While Washington may not have been honoured in Parliament like Kadir, he was allowed to be his own king even with a weekly programme on the national radio station. He was eventually charged and convicted under the Desmond Hoyte Administration following Burnham’s death. That, however, cannot erase the horror inflicted on the memories and minds of the victims during that dark period. But such association between the PNC and criminals didn’t end with Washington’s incarceration.
In Opposition, it’s then leader, Hoyte, attended the funeral of the feared criminal Linden “Blackie” London, whose coffin was draped with the Guyana flag during the ceremony at the Square of the Revolution; a place synonymous with PNC gatherings. “Blackie”, who was wanted by the authorities, was killed during an extended heavy exchange of gunfire between him and law enforcement in 2000. Just two years after on Mashramani Day, five bandits escaped from the Camp Street Prison.
A reign of terror ensued instilling fear across the land through robberies, some of which led to the deaths of victims. They took an East Coast village to ransom and set chilling examples by killing suspected informants and burnt homes in their rampage. They brandished heavy weapons in videos reportedly captured by a few believably associated with the PNC. They were even given the title of “freedom fighters” by some defenders of that party.
While such relationships seemingly flourished over time and for which some from the younger generation may be oblivious, it was at the expense of the ordinary citizens. Similar for the Kadir motion as taxpayers’ monies were spent and the country’s international image tarnished with possible repercussions. What this latest incident shows is the PNC’s seeming ongoing penchant to embrace criminal elements. Would Kadir be the last?