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OPINION: In the matter of Gary Best, the president has no choice, but to act

by GHK Lall

One man is dead, and another stands before Guyana in a spot on which none would wish for even sworn enemies. From the media reports and official reports involving former Chief of Staff Gary Best, I detect that matters, as alleged, careened out of control, leading to the death of a young man. There is loss of life, there is individual public degradation, and now there is my own watching and questioning, as to where matters lead in this convergence of tragedies.

Following the accident, police senior(s) immediately promised balanced and scrupulously professional handling of the matter. From what has been reported, I laud the actions taken so far: breathalyzer tests, media openness, unambiguous media content. It is damning in implications, for one man is dead in felonious circumstances, and another faces music that only he would hear henceforth. Society and the law demand a price for the former, regardless of who is involved, and it is the sad, sharp refrains that are expected to fill the ear in the future.

I say this because the former head of the national army ought to have known better, conducted himself more appropriately. But that is now moot, and he should be made to stand before the bar of truth and justice in a spirit of equity and fairness, and also what in no way hints at influence or different standards or any of the regular skillful (sleazy) maneuvering by his people and the corresponding responding by those sitting as tribunes of the people. What applies to the regular citizen must prevail here. There should be no talk, when the time comes of either plea bargaining or counseling or suspended sentence or lesser charges or out of court settlement, should guilt be proven. A man is dead in circumstances that were avoidable; there should not be the now standing norm of any private settlement, given what we know today. That is my position for what is going to be a test case.

What is just as relevant to me is how the political culture, political climate, and political leadership responds at this hour of untimely loss of life, on the one hand, and undesired loss of face and publicity for one of its own, on the other. I say this, because I understand that this officer and gentleman is identified in the list of candidates for the APNU/AFC group in the looming elections. At the appropriate time, and it is not too distant from now, the coalition brass has to make a hard decision. Come to think of it, it is not so difficult, but rather straightforward, and it goes all the way to the president himself, who will be the final decision-maker.

It is my position that former Chief of Staff Gary Best has to be struck from the list of candidates. I bear neither ill-will nor anger against the man, whom I do not know, and with whom I have never had any interaction. But I do bear both, and to an almost unmanageable degree, for the outrageous and barbarous and ruinous behaviors of comrades across the dismal local political spectrum that have been allowed to go unaddressed, through one egregious injustice after another. In aggregate, it has been what was (and still is) condoned, covered up, and crowded out of the honest contention of the courts by political leadership for the benefit of the errant and guilty to the detriment and loss of the citizenry.

If the president is serious about, and genuinely committed to, providing the Guyanese people with the kind of leadership and kind of people to pave a clean way forward, then he has to act and expeditiously. I do not expect the kind of response and action that I am asking of the president for one of his own, from the other political folks, given similar situations. It is why I support him. Like I said before, this is the test. And as before, it is where I stand. The alleged drunk driver must be removed from the list and soon. For if not now, then when? If not by the President, then who? And still, if not at this time, then what could be expected later? Other than the usual, the usually devastating, the devastatingly diminishing? I go further.

In the event that matters do not build up some more through law enforcement developments, and fail to hold up in the judicial system, if it gets that far, then I humbly submit that it is still necessary and proper that the coalition leader act by doing what the circumstances compel, and along the lines recommended here. I do believe in second and third chances, but let there be no forgetting that a citizen is dead. The man responsible must be made to answer for this serious and lethal lapse in judgment. We need and yearn and crave (I do) for a certain kind of legislator and minister and servant. We have had too few of them. Nothing of the positive would be added to the ranks of those honorable few by keeping this comrade.

How can otherwise be done? If it ends to be so, then we have lost again, before we have even started.

Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.