IN A WEEK in which the nation looked back on the harrowing ordeal of 1990, the importance of the State’s national security apparatus could not be more apparent.
Yet, recent events have betrayed a lax approach on the part of politicians when it comes to observing the standards of circumspection required in matters of security.
In fact, some officeholders have no qualms in reinforcing a perception that politics plays a role in law enforcement.
The Prime Minister has suggested if voters choose his opponents, key police probes will stop. Worse, Minister of National Security Stuart Young has implicated opposition officials in human trafficking and Hyatt meetings with criminals.
“I have never stated anything in public office, and especially in the portfolio of minister of national security, that I don’t have things to back it up,” he said.
Meanwhile, opposition politicians like Dr Roodal Moonilal have been crying foul, claiming political pressure in relation to police probes. Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, himself a former politician, has been driven to declare, “Politics and policing don’t mix.”
And yet when it comes to anti-terrorism measures, it seems such a mixture is harder to deny, based on the approach taken by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Mr Al-Rawi this week responded to a PNM defector by invoking her family ties, entreaties by the FBI and CIA, and her alleged sympathy for terrorists – matters which she dismissed as distortions and lies.
Both individuals have rights, political and otherwise, but there is a particular onus on the Cabinet’s chief legal adviser to be above the fray. Is it not the case that on a matter as grave as anti-terrorism, caution is of greater benefit to the public interest in the long run?
Those familiar with the history of state power all over the world might recognise how national security can be twisted to serve ulterior motives, no matter the devastating consequences.
As long as there have been governments, the critics of such governments have been labelled dissidents become traitors; political opponents terrorists; journalists spies; and independent voices agitators and conspirators.
In sharp contrast to the outpouring of highly sensitive intelligence, the State has been tight-lipped on anodyne matters.
A request for the criteria used to grant border exemptions was initially blanked by the Ministry of National Security. When eventually released after legal action it was clear why. The policy is so wide as to border on the embarrassingly ad-hoc.
We have learned little, it seems, from the days when Patrick Manning, no less, stood accused of using state resources to spy on political opponents.
If only for the sake of the law enforcement officers who quietly serve this country daily at great peril, our leaders – incumbents and hopefuls – need to do better.