Rule of Law
by Ravi Dev

The litany of shame for this Government continues. What can you say about an official report now fingering another high Government official involved in the forging of signatures, to grant dozens of individuals duty-free concessions on vehicles? Well there is a word for it - venal – which my dictionary tells me, means “originating in, characterised by or associated with, corrupt bribery.” This is a government whose regime has been characterised by the most extreme depths of venality – from the very highest to the very lowest official.


A British politician of a different era gave us the maxim, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” However, this PPP Government, these soi disant iconoclasts, have turned the maxim on its head “Corruption is now power, and absolute corruption is absolute power.” How low have we allowed our country to fall?

Have we forgotten the Laws of Guyana scandal ( yes, irony of ironies, the “laws of Guyana”!) when cronies of the President  received  a contract to publish the laws of Guyana  at an astronomical price, in violation of all governmental procedures, and a party loyalist had to take the fall? (Not much of a “fall”, when the official was soon elevated to a higher position in the Government.) Have we forgotten the Ministry of Housing official who attempted to bulldoze down the house of a female on the East Coast when she refused him sexual favours? The “little ones” do as how they see the “big ones” doing.  This is how it has always been. And didn’t the President fire the fellow on the spot, in an apparent fit of righteous indignation? I don’t recollect the President demanding that signed statements be lodged with the Police before he could act. There are obviously different strokes for different folks. And that’s the heart of our disquietude.


One great political theorist pointed out that, “If men were angels no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed: and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” And this is what the “Rule of Law” is all about: that we shall establish laws by which we, as a people, ought to be governed, but just as importantly, that those who we put to govern us are also bound by those laws. The Government is obliged “to control itself” so that we shall be governed by laws and not by men: that the same law would be applied to all, so that we do not have to live or die at the whims, fancies and caprices of those in power.

Today all Guyanese must look deep within their own selves and ask whether this PPP Government, which we have “enabled to control us”, has done its part and controlled itself? This is not a matter of deciding according to which party you belong to. We will all be devoured if we allow for the arbitrary application of the law. We have seen that even those within the bosom of the PPP will not be spared – witness the affaire Ramjattan. One law for those who toe the PPP’s line and another for those who dare to speak their truth.


Recently we attended a meeting where the TUC proposed that citizens be mobilised for a march to rally for the return of the Rule of Law to Guyana. Trade unionists spoke about the Government violating the Rule of Law to trample over workers’ rights protected by ILO conventions that the Government has acceded to. Others spoke about allegations that high Government officials are involved in running “death squads” that have executed dozens of citizens without trials, which they are guaranteed under the Rule of Law.

ROAR’s intervention accepted vigorously that the “Rule of Law” must most definitely be applied to the Government or we risk the destruction of the State that is meant to protect us all. But, we pointed out; the Rule of Law applies to the people as well, who have to accept that their actions must be “governed” by the law. The racially and criminally motivated depredations against entire villages on the East Coast were also violations against their Human Rights and a subversion of the Rule of Law and must also be condemned. I must accept that it was with some surprise that I observed every representative present, including the PNC, not only agreeing with the proposition but strengthening its formulation and insisting that it be one of the cornerstones that the proposed March for the Rule of Law would adopt.


ROAR further pointed out that there was a tremendous amount of scepticism in the Indian community about the motives of, especially, the PNC in defending the Rule of Law. It was pointed out there will always be questions on motives, especially when politics is involved but that actions will have to be judged by its effects – akin to the notion of “intent” in law.

And we believe that Guyana has reached a point in its downward slide, contributed in part by the PNC during its watch, where all Guyanese have to stand up and say “no more”! We have to do the right thing. The Rule of Law is the line between civilization and the jungle – and there is no higher “right thing” to protect than this line. As we said at the meeting, Indians having been excluded from the state during most of the colonial and PNC regimes, may not appreciate enough, the need to ensure that we have a state that operates by the Rule of Law so that all of us may be sheltered under its protection.

We direct our call especially to Indians to judge and be judged by the effects of the actions on this issue. ROAR is not naive enough to believe that some of the organisers of the March do not have their own axes to grind – men, after all, are not angels. We have to establish stronger controls so that our State is not hijacked once again by renegades. But if we do not take a stand against the corruption and violations against the Rule of Law that is presently becoming the norm with this Government, then we will have no moral authority to complain when it the walls come tumbling down.

[Editor's Note: Printed in the Kaieteur News, 3-14-04.]


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