THE CRIME WAVE: A Phe­nom­e­non Over­shad­owed By Con­tro­ver­sies And Scan­dals

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By: Mo­habir Anil Nand­lall, MP

At­tor­ney-at-Law

Th

e daily scan­dals and con­tro­ver­sies, which have en­veloped the Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment, have dis­tracted pub­lic att en­tion away from the crime wave that con­tin­ues to wreak havoc on law abid­ing cit­i­zens of this land. Over the past three weeks alone, and if we are merely to go by re­ports in the press, the na­tion would have witnessed: a rob­bery un­der arms com­mit­ted on a Coren­tyne cou­ple; five men at­tack­ing and rob­bing per­sons at a su­per­mar­ket in Good Hope, (ECD); armed ban­dits rob­bing GPL’s branch at Mon Re­pos twice and another branch at Parika; the mur­der and rob­bery of a Chi­nese busi­ness­man at Tuschen; three armed ban­dits at­tack­ing a fa­ther of five in front of his home at Bet­ter Hope; the mur­der of a man in Ber­bice; the rob­bery of pop­u­lar café in Ge­orge­town; the bat­tered and un­con­scious body of a woman found along­side the Ogle Pub­lic Road; the armed rob­bery of the E-Net­works’ of­fice at Vreed-enHoop; a nephew de­cap­i­tat­ing his un­cle at Bet­ter Hope; a busi­ness­man shot and robbed in broad day­light at a Ge­orge­town traf­fic light; a KFC staffer who was robbed on her way home, in Queen­stown and the mur­der of a 16-year-old teen in Ber­bice…quite list for a mere three-week pe­riod!

Although this list is by no means ex­haus­tive, no one would dis­pute that it con­sti­tutes an ab­nor­mally high in­ci­dence of vi­o­lent crimes for a pop­u­la­tion of our size. The Guyana Po­lice Force (GPF) seems to have stopped issuing its tra­di­tional monthly bul­letin of crimes com­mit­ted through­out the coun­try. My in­for­ma­tion is that the last of such bul­letin was is­sued in April 2017. This is another ex­am­ple of cru­cial in­for­ma­tion be­ing kept away from the pub­lic.

Pub­lic se­cu­rity and the re­duc­tion of crime were huge plat­form prom­ises of the APNU/AFC dur­ing the 2015 elec­tions cam­paign. The pop­u­la­tion drank deeply of this cool-aid. After all, their Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date was sup­posed to be an ex­pe­ri­enced se­cu­rity ex­pert and their list of can­di­dates for those elec­tions com­prised of dozens of highly dec­o­rated sol­diers and ex-Po­lice Of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing a Po­lice Com­mis­sioner.

Most of them are now in the Gov­ern­ment, hold­ing dif­fer­ent port­fo­lios. The na­tion was met with its first shock on the in­com­pe­tence and ill-pre­pared­ness of this Gov­ern­ment on the issue of crime and se­cu­rity when just after a few months in of­fice, the Pres­i­dent in­structed the Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter and the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice to craft a crime-fight­ing plan. Only then the na­tion re­al­ized that the prom­ises made dur­ing the elec­tions cam­paign of the ex­is­tence of such a plan was a manifest false­hood.

Guyana listed amongst the 10 most dan­ger­ous coun­tries

The crime wave has con­tin­ued un­abated over the past two years. To this dev­as­tat­ing phe­nom­e­non, one must add the two worst dis­as­ters at Ge­orge­town Pris­ons ever witnessed in a prison sys­tem in the Caribbean; the Pres­i­dent’s in­sis­tence on con­tin­u­ing to par­don crim­i­nals con­victed of vi­o­lent crimes; the re­lease by Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter, Khem­raj Ram­jat­tan, of dozens of pris­on­ers con­victed of vi­o­lent crimes long be­fore the end of their sen­tences, after the last prison fire; a de­clin­ing econ­omy; no new jobs be­ing cre­ated nor any job cre­at­ing ini­tia­tive be­ing pur­sued by the Gov­ern­ment; no new in­vest­ments in two and half years; wide­spread dis­missal in the pub­lic sec­tor on al­leged dis­crim­i­na­tory grounds cou­pled with wide­spread dis­missals in the pri­vate sec­tor be­cause of con­trac­tions in the econ­omy.

Against such a back­drop, there is every like­li­hood that the crime wave will con­tinue to soar. Not sur­pris­ingly, last week, an on­line in­ter­na­tional web­site listed Guyana amongst the top 10 most dan­ger­ous coun­tries in the world. The Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter con­tin­ues to op­er­ate as though he is in a trance with no in­di­ca­tion that now, or in the near fu­ture, can he com­pe­tently tackle this can­cer of crim­i­nal­ity, rip­ping away at the fabric of our so­ci­ety. At the level of the Gov­ern­ment, the po­si­tion is no dif­fer­ent, as there does not seem to be a com­pre­hen­sive crime fight­ing strat­egy be­ing pur­sued.

I n t he f ace of such i ntran­si­gence and i nac­tion, the crim­i­nals are be­com­ing bolder and more brazen. The Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity has sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tled a vi­brant net­work of com­mu­nity polic­ing with no sub­sti­tute to fill that void. Res­i­dents in com­mu­ni­ties, who com­mu­nally rise up and cap­ture and beat an oc­ca­sional ban­dit, are them­selves treated like ban­dits and charged by the Po­lice. This is as a re­sult of the Pres­i­dent’s con­dem­na­tion of such re­ac­tion by the cit­i­zens. While the Pres­i­dent may be correct in prin­ci­ple, the res­i­dents have been quick t o com­plain that they do not see the same swift con­dem­na­tion from the Pres­i­dent when the crim­i­nals rob and plun­der them.

SOCU, SARA & Pol­i­tics

In a so­ci­ety so in­fested with crim­i­nal­ity, one would expect that the Gov­ern­ment of the day would be throw­ing all its weight and as much sup­port and re­sources as pos­si­ble to its premiere crime fight­ing in­sti­tu­tion, in this case the Guyana Po­lice Force (GPF).

Not so with the Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment.

There is, ar­guably, a sys­tem­atic or­ches­trated strat­egy t o de­mor­al­ize the up­per ech­e­lons of the GPF. This be­came vis­i­ble sev­eral months ago when one sensed the un­nec­es­sary strife cre­ated be­tween the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice and the next in line. The pic­ture be­came clearer when a wholly un­neces- sary Com­mis­sion of In­quiry (COI) was es­tab­lished to i nquire i nto whether an al­leged plot to as­sas­si­nate the Pres­i­dent was prop­erly in­ves­ti­gated by the GPF.

A close as­so­ciate of the Gov­ern­ment was ap­pointed as the sin­gle Com­mis­sioner. From the in­cep­tion of t he i nquiry, his bias be­came both ap­par­ent and for­mi­da­ble. The COI was clearly in­tended to pub­licly em­bar­rass a few iden­ti­fied top rank­ing of­fi­cers of the Force. Through­out t he i nquiry, t hey were pit­ted against each other for the pub­lic’s con­sump­tion. In the end, the Force was even­tu­ally em­bar­rassed, its pro­fes­sional i mage fur­ther t ar­nished and the tar­geted of­fi­cers hu­mil­i­ated. This must have re­sulted in a hem­or­rhag­ing of pub­lic con­fi­dence in the Force and a loss of morale for its mem­bers.

The mat­ter i s com­pounded by the Pres­i­dent issuing un­con­sti­tu­tional di­rec­tives t o t he Po­lice Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (PSC) re­strain­ing them from pro­ceed­ing to deal with pro­mo­tions in the Force. The at­tempt by the Min­is­ter of State, a lawyer, to jus­tify the Pres­i­dent’s ero­sion of the in­de­pen­dence with which the Con­sti­tu­tion clothes the PSC, was sim­ply clumsy. The mat­ter is now en­gag­ing t he High Court.

It does not ap­pear that the Gov­ern­ment views the rate of crim­i­nal­ity in this land as a se­ri­ous pri­or­ity. In my view, it ac­cords a greater pri­or­ity to sub­ject­ing its po­lit­i­cal ri­vals to crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. So the Special Or­gan­ised Crime Unit (SOCU), rather than us­ing its re­sources, time and per­son­nel to in­ves­ti­gate gen­uine cases of money laun­der­ing and drugs traf­fick­ing, is un­leashed, on an al­most full time- ba­sis, upon Op­po­si­tion Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and sup­port­ers of the Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party (PPP). In the same vein, the Gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished the du­bi­ous State As­sets Re­cov­ery Agency (SARA) and rammed through the Na­tional As­sem­bly, a con­tro­ver­sial Bill, to gov­ern its op­er­a­tions. Ex­pect­edly, this Bill is now the sub­ject of a le­gal chal­lenge in the High Court, on the grounds of un­con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity. Again, the Gov­ern­ment’s fo­cus with SARA seems to be t he i nves­ti­ga­tion of t he past Gov­ern­ment. $ 113 mil­lion was just re­leased by the Na­tional As­sem­bly for the op­er­a­tions of SARA.

SARA ap­pears to have no other man­date. The Di­rec­tor of SARA is be­ing paid $1.3 mil­lion and the Le­gal Ad­vi­sor $ 1.4 mil­lion. Both of these salaries are higher than that of the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice. The salary of the re­cep­tion­ist is $120,000. This is higher than the salary of a Sergeant in the Guyana Po­lice Force. These re­al­i­ties graph­i­cally il­lus­trate the pri­or­i­ties of this Gov­ern­ment.

At the end of the day, there­fore, while the crim­i­nals con­tinue to plun­der t he or­di­nary Guyanese, t he Gov­ern­ment t urns a Nel­son’s eye but as­sid­u­ously pur­sues an agenda of uti­liz­ing scarce crime fight­ing re­sources to per­se­cute its po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

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