The criminal as hero

Frankly Speaking...
by A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
October 1, 1999

Or as role-model! Naturally, in the absence of appropriate and desirable role-models, the youth will turn to dubious characters for their heroes. The successful "businessman", the skilful con-man, the violent robber, even the cop-killer is being quietly idolised by too many of our youth, I warn. Disregarding their own parents and guardians, a large proportion of our working-class youngsters is admiring and holding up "successful" criminals as examples to emulate.

The above might seem harsh but if you stand or dwell among students or certain young adults you'll hear the admiration being uttered for what the cocaine money buys for example. You'll hear the praise for the convicted person who "got off" - and the attorney who facilitated the acquittal. Alas, you'll realise that what politics spawned and a long-time lack of by-gone values nurtured, will now manifest itself in young Guyana being both tainted and impressed with the unlawful, the wrong-doing.

The lines between right and wrong became so blurred over the past two decades or so, that the youth have decided to rewrite even the well-loved adages their parents held dear; held as maxims to inform and influence clean and upright living and life-styles. Two of those are "honesty is the best policy" and "crime does not pay". As immorality and corruption took hold amongst the parents of today's teenagers and twenty-plus young people, many - too many - seem to have decided that honesty is for losers and crime can pay!

OK, I know that there are still a few thousands of our youth out there who are good Christians, Muslims, Hindus. They still try to cling to the wholesome values responsible parents endeavour to impart. But I wonder at the percentage.

Too often I witness the youth at the Stabroek car parks or at the Dance Hall, cheer the "robbers" and not the "cops", pay tribute to the prisoner, the bandit, the Convict. Crime is perceived as the avenue to the quick dollar, as against the "slow cent" of the hard-working public-servant, teacher or policeman. How do we change attitudes and preferences? Parents, teachers, community leaders, sociologists, all can supply various answers. My problem is this: How many (of us) lead truly exemplary lives?

As the youth sees the "success" that the "cartel-man" money buys; as he or she sees how this wealth influences teacher, police and politician, the young Guyanese also experiences the great legal battles to keep murderers alive and the outsmarting of the joint forces by vicious criminals. The society, with all its rule of law and western civilisation, lurches "forward" - in favour of the criminal.

The attorney as hero Societies such as ours, I understand, with constitutions however flawed, and "democratic institutions" and based on "the rule of law", can never do without those who can interpret the laws, apply them in the interest of justice for all, and have them tested by others who are similarly trained and who are qualified to be legal representatives and advocates. Time was, when we, the older folk, admired the grasp, the fundamental understanding of law and the resultant prosecutorial, defence and oratorical skills of certain attorneys. We held them in the highest regard, an esteem that made these legal eagles tower above mere Ministers of government, successful industrialists or priests. Only certain sportsmen or medical doctors were held in similar awe.

Nowadays, alas, though the acclaim is still evident, the younger generation admire lawyers for a slightly different reason. Whilst the older folks regard the magistrate who knows his or her law well enough to judge the merits of both prosecution and defence, the youth will tell you that their new "heroes" are those attorneys who can make rings round the prosecution as the forces of law and order try to convict the perpetrators of the more popular categories of crime in Guyana today.

Sit up and listen! Sense the mood, the rooting for the representatives of the accused. Note how the litigation assumes a sort of contest-like dimension in which the admirers of known wrongdoers sit back to see how well-known attorneys will "devour" or "eat raw" the not-as-good prosecutors. Every technicality the police legal adviser or the prosecutor loses is applauded as every accused "gets off" - guilty or not. When it comes to proving it in court, when the victims' rights are being subsumed by the defendants' rights, it's a case of "the better lawyer" - the hero of the court and the crooked crowd.

Incidentally, can't the police ever pay to get the smartest, most experienced, slickest attorney to prosecute, as well? And why are "the boys" betting that the two convicted murderers will escape the Camp Street gallows? (This writer will be the most disillusioned citizen if those two cheat the hangman.) But this is where we are. Or seem to be.

Several pot-shots! 1) What mercy? What Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy? Don't we read what these criminals do when they enter people's homes? After conviction, why the dickens mercy!?

2) I agree that the police shouldn't use terror tactics on the innocent; even suspects. I agree too that you can't send "Sunday-School" cops searching for seasoned convicts.

3) Congrats Magistrate Parvatan in Berbice! You ordered Jail and Strokes!

4) Shouldn't "the church" be activist these days? Speaking out against cocaine earnings - and seasoned criminals? What do Muslims think?

5) The Prime Minister is right: don't regard privatisation with foreign help as "defeat" or "selling-out" or "loss". We need (honest) investors who can stand losses. And we migrate in thousands to work for those folks in their own countries!

6) Check the classifieds in this `paper, you can be assisted to acquire a whole new boyfriend or girlfriend!

7) Coming next week: Let Budget Director Winston Jordan explain the Bitter-Sweet Award.

8) Coming next week: Inside the TUC! Face it, the TUC is an old boy's club!

9) I call on FIFA's Jack Warner and Minister Teixeira! Let the old BGCC, now the GSC at Thomas Lands, become the home of the new football stadium! Let's see what those goodly gentlemen/procrastinators can do! The stadium won't be theirs but football's new home can turn that disgrace into achievement and pride! So let the cry be: "The Stadium for GSC!"

10) Win a trip to Caracas on this morning's Guyana Cook-up show.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples