Round up the criminal bands

Guyana Chronicle
June 18, 1999

NOW that the leaders of the public sector pay strike have made it clear that the criminal bands that have been beating and robbing people in the streets of Georgetown are not associated with their street protests in the city, the Police cannot be accused of attacking strikers if they move determinedly to round up and put away these `elements'.

The criminals have clearly been using the platform or cover of the street protests associated with the strike for their own ends and there is mounting outrage at the ease with which they seem to be able to operate and escape.

Many people contend that the Police have not been as effective as they can in rounding up these elements and putting them away.

But they seem to forget that the strike has crippled the courts in Georgetown with protesters preventing employees from going to work and that the Police cannot try and jail suspected criminals without putting them before the courts.

Charges of brutality against the Police have become almost common place and are bound to emerge in any fresh Police crackdown on known criminal elements in the city in a bid to reduce the attacks that have emerged on the streets of Georgetown this week.

What would help, we feel, is if the unions that have called the strike work determinedly with the Police to ensure that their protests are in line with the law - observing basics like applying for permission beforehand for marches, staying within acceptable guidelines for demonstrations and employing special tactics to spot and promptly hand over to the Police criminal elements trying to use their peaceful activities as a cover for theirs.

It would be better all round if a halt is called to all street demonstrations while the mediation efforts continue as this would give the Police a clear hand to better monitor the small bands intent on wreaking terror in the city.

The courts will also have to be functioning if those bent on terrorising other people in Georgetown are to be dealt with swiftly and firmly to send a strong message that society will not tolerate this kind of behaviour.

The cover and platform for these actions have to be removed and all sections of the society will have to be behind the Police if the situation is to be brought under control.

The civil society team mediating in the strike impasse between the Government and the unions has asked all those involved in the dispute to "exercise restraint over the next few days".

It has specifically asked the security forces to "exercise restraint in their dealings with striking employees" and the strikers to show restraint in their "picketing exercises".

We believe all sides support the right of strikers to stage peaceful picketing and similar peaceful exercises but few would tolerate the excesses, including assaults on those who want to work, that have been associated with the current strike.

The security forces should have no problem heeding the call for restraint in dealing with strikers but there can be no let up in demonstrating that criminal bands cannot be allowed to openly wage daylight terror on citizens in the streets of the capital of the country.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples