The Antigua “Terror” Video
Ambassador Curtis Ward
(09 December 2016) — My first view of a video produced, posted on a website, originating in Antigua, and circulating on social media left me saddened to see that politics anywhere in the Caribbean, or elsewhere in the world where democracy is the norm, could be reduced to this low and dangerous level. Nowhere in any form of political discourse or competition in a democratic society should such a message to commit violent acts be condoned. Members of the Government of Antigua targeted in the images of the video, produced and disseminated by an Antigua politician, cannot feel safe.
I will try to describe the video as best I can. This video is set in military style with military images (uniformed and armed military personnel), some in seemingly active conflict situation discharging weapons that are designed to kill (images probably taken from video games); it contains photographs of members of Government with bullseye targets on their heads; there is the sound of weapons being discharged immediately following each image.
Even if this video does not rise to the level of promoting terrorism, as I cannot determine at this time that the elements of terrorism are present, it is beyond any reasonable doubt this video incites acts of violence. Its targets are political opponents and government officials. As stated by Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne in Parliament, the video “brings terrorism and incitement to commit murder directly into [Antigua] and at the very heart of government.” Speaking in the Antigua Parliament on a motion condemning the video, Prime Minister Browne described the video as having “all the overtones of similar videos produced by ISIS….” This may be an exaggeration but not necessarily unfounded. He further stated that the video “has brought into our (Antigua’s) peaceful and tranquil land, an element of terror that threatens the very fabric of our (Antigua’s) society.”
In my view the video should be condemned by all Antiguans and all members of Caribbean societies who have seen it. While I do not believe the video is intended as inciting acts of terrorism, it certainly crosses the threshold from being an aggressive political statement to that of inciting violence. The individuals targeted in the video, along with their family members, can’t help but feel unsafe. What surprises, indeed disappointed me, is that Mr. Baldwin Spencer, Opposition Leader in the Antiguan Parliament, instead of immediately condemning the message depicted by the video, abstained on the parliamentary resolution condemning the video. This is after the video was shown in the Parliament.
Mr. George Whener, a member of Mr. Spencer’s political party, the United Progressive Party (UPP), is said to have produced and disseminated this video. His photograph appearing at the end of the video shows him dressed in military uniform (he is a former member of the Antiguan military) declaring his candidacy for a seat in Parliament and telling his supporters to “Keep your heads down in the trenches, and your eyes on the target.”
I cannot say what motivated Mr. Whener. But, it doesn’t matter how much Mr. Whener may claim that no violence was intended by this video the damage is done as there can be no other interpretation given. He claims to have not intended any violence and he was only making a political statement. It is either he is very foolish or he thinks people watching this video are. I believe it is more the former. When messages which can only be interpreted as promoting violence are placed in the public domain there could be, and there often are, individuals who take it upon themselves to carry out the acts depicted by the message.
It was reported in an Antigua newspaper The Daily Observer (December 07, 2016) “Whener is person of interest in terror probe” that Mr. Whener is the subject of investigation of “an alleged terror plot to assassinate government officials.” The Daily Observer reported that the Antiguan Police Commissioner has stated that Mr. Wehner is “a person of interest” in the investigation.
The UPP of which Mr. Whener seems to be a candidate for a seat in the Parliament appears to be silent on this sordid affair. Mr. Wehner’s behavior cannot be the standard of behavior one should expect of any politician in Antigua, or elsewhere in the Caribbean. I would like to treat this type of behavior as an anomaly in Caribbean politics, and I expect Caribbean political leaders and well-thinking members of society to condemn such behavior for what is a disgusting display of anarchic behavior, intended or otherwise, that is not welcome in Caribbean society and politics. One’s political party affiliation should, and must not be a factor in condemning this type of behavior.
Mr. Whener appears to be apologizing for what he deems to be misinterpretation by others of the message conveyed by his video. Being contrite, admitting that his action was a mistake, apoligizing to the nation, and withdrawing from politics seems to be a course of action Mr. Whener should embrace without delay.
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward, B.A., J.D., LL.M., is an attorney and international consultant, and Adjunct Professor in the Homeland Security Graduate Program at the University of the District of Columbia. As former Ambassador of Jamaica to the United Nations he served two years on the U.N. Security Council. He was Expert Adviser to the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee for three years. He specializes in terrorism/counterterrorism legal and policy frameworks; anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); sanctions implementation; crime and security; human rights, rule of law and governance.