Ten weeks after he was “temporarily withdrawn” from his post, there still is no word from or about Governor Anwar Choudhury.
The last official utterance on the matter was an Aug. 2 demurral from Lord Ahmad, the minister for the British Overseas Territories, who wrote that it would be “inappropriate” for him to comment on an ongoing investigation. When asked by a Compass reporter last week, Head of the Governor’s Office Matthew Forbes said he had “nothing further” to add. Adding “nothing further” to “nothing at all” doesn’t add up to any relevant comment whatsoever.
But the passage of time has not slowed the rumor mill which is as busy as ever, churning out theories about what might have happened, what is preventing the conclusion of the investigation and what the ultimate outcome will be.
The longer this issue remains unresolved, the greater the reputational damage that continues to accrue – certainly to Governor Choudhury but also to the UK and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).
One scenario, suggested to us by a correspondent, is that FCO officials may feel “cornered” by strong public sentiment for (and against) reinstating the governor, and they may seek a “painless” solution to their dilemma by offering Mr. Choudhury an early retirement with full benefits (he’s currently 59 years old). That sounds reasonable – but only if Governor Choudhury were to accept the deal.
Frankly, we would not.
Unless the UK is in possession of “smoking-gun evidence” that would convince a judge, jury or whatever the proper tribunal might be, Governor Choudhury may have a better hand to play by pursuing a defamation or libel action, rather than passively accepting an early-retirement deal.
Certainly his reputation has been sullied by the very fact of his removal, presumably precipitated by a number of unexplained “complaints” by anonymous “complainants.”
Anyone who regularly reads this newspaper knows that we have been railing for years against anonymity, which we believe is the handmaiden of irresponsibility, unaccountability and too often cowardice. If there are, in fact, formal complaints against Governor Choudhury, then the identities of those who made them need to be revealed, and the complaints themselves need to be put into the public domain or repackaged into formal charges.
Even in instances so incendiary as the Harvey Weinstein Hollywood sex scandals or the Stormy Daniels accusations against President Trump, the accusers are named and their accusations are known.
Silence on the part of public officials is too often a tool – not to protect the “privacy” of the accused, as Lord Ahmad suggested in his early-August remarks – but as a mechanism to protect the accusers themselves.
As the monthly pages of the calendar continue to turn without a meaningful word from local and UK officials regarding the unceremonious removal of Governor Choudhury, the complaints or charges against him, the timeline of the so-called “investigation” or his whereabouts and fate, the more we are reminded of the ignominious affair known as Operation Tempura in which the UK cavalierly – shamefully in our view – proceeded to issue sanctimonious statements while it simultaneously was attempting to destroy the reputations and, by proxy, the lives of innocent participants, most notably former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan.
(Fortunately, Mr. Kernohan had the grit, the anger – and a committed team of lawyers – to ensure that a modicum of justice would eventually prevail.)
It is not unreasonable to contemplate whether the same arrogant mindset that engendered and enabled Operation Tempura is again taking hold in the Choudhury matter.
We are reminded of the slogan of The Washington Post, which is printed daily on its masthead. It reads: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”