The use of force by the police on the opposition Members of Parliament during a Parliamentary session and the attempt by the police to forcefully remove the elected Member of Parliament for the opposition, Bishop Edghill, because he refused to comply with the Speaker’s order to leave the chamber of Parliament as he was merely seeking more time to question the government’s budget estimates will forever be remembered as a day of disgrace on our democracy and yet another example of authoritarianism by the APNU-AFC government.
As a former Member of Parliament, I condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the police who followed blindly orders to use such force. I am yet to see such excessive force ordered on Members of Parliament for the government whose behaviour on occasions have been far worse.
I take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is merely a continuation of what happened shortly after the APNU-AFC took office when two years ago GDF officers attempted to unlawfully detain my wife and her brother and then chased them in a high-speed car chase which resulted in three persons dead and none other than the President Granger is quoted immediately thereafter as saying “it was a legitimate state operation” and “there was no need for a probe”. Almost exactly two years have passed and the government has swept the event under the rug of their diabolical secrets.
Finally, permit me also to take this opportunity to explain to all Guyanese the magnitude of these events through the use of the history: In a democracy, the use of the armed forces by an authoritarian government against opposition Parliamentarians is where the police state and civilian repression begin.
History has shown that authoritarian governments from all around the world loathe dissent, scrutiny, and voiced opposition. In a democracy, the vehicle of dissent, scrutiny, and voice opposition takes the form of the Members of Parliament in the opposition in Parliament. Once authoritarian governments succeed in silencing those Members of Parliament from the opposition by whatever means (political prosecution, electing and directing a partisan Speaker of Parliament, stacking the courts with compliant Judges, the use of force, the use of tax authorities, assassinations, etc.) the authoritarian government turns its intolerable attention to any form of dissent, scrutiny, or voiced opposition which then comes from civilians.
So, today it may be Bishop Edghill or other opposition MP’s but tomorrow or next week it may be ordinary Guyanese and/or their families. Unless we stand against such state action then all civilian freedoms and protections will be eroded away bit by bit and such action almost always is purported to be justified in the name of “the protection of the state”.
A clear example of this already occurring is the acknowledgment by Granger of the violation of the Constitution when an unlawful directive was sent to the Police Service Commission by his minister of the Presidency to cease promotions of the police but explained it was necessary to protect the state based on the information they obtained.
All Guyanese who want better for Guyana must take a stand now against an authoritarian government or sit subjugated and repressed for a very long time.
Charles S. Ramson
Former Member of Parliament