Democracy must not be taken for granted
Kaieteur News – Now that the dust appears to be settling in Washington following the American Bastille storm, and, as Americans prepare for the inauguration of their 46th president, questions still lurk over the security cuts at the Capitol.
Sometime in the late 1980s while the PPP was in opposition, I had the opportunity through the USAID exchange program to visit America for the first time.
Our program included a tour of the Capitol. The security procedures to move around the building were extremely tight to the point of being confused at that time. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the security arrangements.
The second occasion was 1990 when I joined Dr. Jagan to lobby some congressmen and parliamentarians to support free and fair elections in Guyana. The striking security arrangements appeared to be the same, although appointments had been made well in advance for the Leader of the Opposition and the General Secretary of the PPP.
During my time as Foreign Minister, I had the opportunity to enter the UK House of Commons, the European Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, as well as the South African and Indian Parliaments. The sacred chambers of those buildings are not easily accessible. Security coverage is at its highest 24/7. Cameras and scanners are up.
Security protocols that provide for visits to the Capitol by individuals and groups are one thing, but security to counter an attack by thousands of violent terrorists carrying out an attack on the building is another.
Even the 2,000 strong members of the Capitol Police were not sufficient to defeat the massive breach of security of the building by a riotous crowd.
There seems to be a blatant overestimation not only of the strength of the Capitol Police but of their ability to embody what was symbolically declared an ‘attack on democracy’. The guns in the police holster and long guns at their disposal were useless in scenes of chaos.
What seemed strange to me was that a place like the Federally owned Capitol was protected by what is now proven to be a poorly trained police force that is incapable of denial attacks of the kind we have just seen. The quarterly bags on Saturday morning are now busy asking a host of questions and the call has been made for an independent investigation to be carried out.
The coverage of the ‘unprecedented attack on democracy’ by millions of Americans, let alone millions worldwide, including world leaders, is a reflection of the interest and impact that an attack of the scale and this size has it on the whole world.
Witnessing the Capitol’s unprecedented security breach in a country like America is unbelievable but it happened. At the same time, it showed that what seems unimaginable could still be penetrated and that domestic terrorism is just as deadly as international terrorism.
And an overestimation as well as an underestimation of the ability and capacity of law enforcement to tackle an attack in any shape or form can lead to unspecified physical, psychological and collateral damage that only time could heal.
Security experts around the world will have a field day considering and discussing this issue. And no doubt many books will be written about the event. Indeed, it is a classic case that requires deep and critical analysis and study by national security practitioners and those interested in such issues.
Moreover, governments around the world are likely to call on their law enforcement bodies and intelligence communities for another look at the security arrangements for their parliamentary, congressional or Capitol buildings, reckoning that extremist elements could their respective jurisdictions engaged in copy acts. pursuing their anti-democratic objectives.
That aside, as far as the attack on the US Capitol is concerned, questions were asked whether an analysis in the pre-coordination arrangements between the Federal, DC Metro Police and DC National Guard intentionally allowed Police Capitol do you become overwhelmed and unable to defend the building thereby bringing Capitol Police into disrepute? Who would want this to happen and who would benefit?
Or, was there a real and actual breakdown in information sharing, communication, and coordination among the long line of independent security equipment in Washington DC?
Why was the metro police called in an hour so late and why was the National Guard activated when the rampage was almost over?
The jurisdictional and bureaucratic red tape about who defends Federal buildings versus who defends municipal buildings facilitated the rapid abandonment of law enforcement to protect people and property and succumbed to a massive security failure.
It is almost inconceivable to accept that neither law enforcement nor the intelligence community in Washington DC paid attention to the ongoing social media posts warning of the intentions of the extremist, extremist groups, and their main target of the day that particular.
And if indeed it was widely known and widely accepted that ‘this is bound to happen’ why weren’t the necessary steps taken to prevent it happening?
Clearly, there are lessons to be learned from this attack not only from law enforcement bodies and the intelligence communities in the US but from those around the world as well.
We in Guyana, through our own experiences, know full well that democracy is fragile. And as I wrote in a previous letter ‘gold is not all that shines’.
Democracy must not be taken for granted. Forces are always at work to undermine and push him into the hallway.
The concerns of a dissatisfied, dissatisfied and frustrated population must be addressed one way or another. At the same time, in order to protect our own democracy, eternal vigilance must be our motto, regardless of our social position, political affiliation, religious beliefs or where we live.
Clement J. Rohee