Government committed to reforming Police Force
- Home Affairs Minister

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
June 28, 2001

THE commitment by the Government to the reformation of the Police Force is evidenced in a UK study done during October/November last year, Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj has said.

In a presentation Tuesday on the 2001 Budget debate, he said a similar undertaking has already been embarked on by sister countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Gajraj spoke too of the completion of construction of the Police training school on the Essequibo Coast, Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) and the intended commencement of training in September.

Opposition People's National Congress (PNC) front bencher, Ms. Deborah Backer made a plug for the setting up of a broad-based commission to examine all aspects of the Police Force, indicating that her party was willing to be part of any such initiative.

According to her, the PNC/R stands ready, willing and able to be part of such a commission, and called on the Government to accept the proposal to set up a Disciplined Services commission to examine the Police Force in the broadest possible way.

Referring to Finance Minister, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar's Budget speech in which he said "We have to work with the political Opposition and other groups in the society to create a lasting environment of peace, trust and enduring stability", Backer said the PNC/R has recognised that there is a direct link between national security and national development.

There is too a link between little or no economic development and the increase in crime, Backer added and stressed that only when there is equitable distribution in social services, opportunities and wealth will there be lasting peace in the country.

She said the role of the Police is to maintain law and order as is spelt out in the Mission Statement which she repeated, and questioned whether the Force is faithful to its objective.

Alluding to Minister Gajraj's presentation during the debate on the 2000 National Budget, the PNC/R parliamentarian said the same cannot be said of the situation for 2001, which according to her is spiralling downwards.

Backer who described both the crime and traffic situations as frightening, said there is much concern over the large numbers of unsolved crimes and condemned what she called "unlawful extra-judicial killings".

Returning to the happenings on today's road, Backer said there is now a level of disrespect, not forgetting the high level of corruption which is evident in the number of persons who have been issued with driver's licences although they cannot read and write.

The situation, she added, is well known by all who practise in the courts and have friends and relatives practicising there.

"We are in a crisis when it comes to the Police...We want a Police Force that is citizen friendly, where the emoluments are at a level that will reduce bribes and top-up, and as result of training has the capacity to solve difficult crimes, and too lead with the re-education of all road users, accountable to Guyana.

"We want a Police Force that will truly carry out the motto `Service and Protection', Baker remarked.

Gajraj congratulated Baker on her open disclosure of the awareness by the Government of the deficiencies and its efforts to have them corrected.

To this end about 45 ranks of the Force have been placed before the courts on allegations of wrongdoing, he noted.

Responding to Backer's charges about Police brutality, Gajraj noted that there seems to be no concern about the Police who are killed in the execution of duty; innocent persons gunned down in the dead of night and in the sanctuary of their homes, all in pursuit of their legitimate business.

The Government, he said, does not condone Police brutality nor support `extra- judicial killing', save and except those which can be considered "justifiable homicide".

The Government was, however, concerned about the many families that have disintegrated because of criminal activities and what is bothersome is that some criminals seem to have the perception that they are being sheltered by some politicians, he said.

He noted too that some politicians even provoke ethnicity on the part of the Police, especially in their line of duty.

The Home Affairs Minister referred to the hurling of missiles on Policemen as well as the protest actions which are seen as a platform for committing crimes.