PNC/R willing to seek joint solutions to police killings, road deaths
Stabroek News
January 23, 2002

Dear Editor,

Recent incidents of police shootings, and road fatalities have sparked a strange reaction by the Government, and its apologists, which seems only to suggest that they are embarrassed. Instead of openly admitting that on both counts they are not in control, and have no plan as to how they will begin to be, they prefer to ridicule, and attack in the only way they know how.

When it was a few weeks ago I read a press statement on extra judicial killings, and other matters on behalf of the PNC/R, I was labeled as devious for misquoting the President. Then not content, they now say that I am "inexperienced" for having introduced the subject of race. On both counts, I plead innocent to the charges. In the case of the former accusation, I wish to say that the English language like all languages has its peculiarities. One such peculiarity has given rise to its reputation for precision. Therefore, its users should be careful when using its words. In law we say that words are to be given their clear and natural meaning unless there is manifest ambiguity. A statement that police killings are "political" could only have been interpreted one way. In fairness to the President and the office he holds, I did in the press statement say that an explanation was needed. This was subsequently done. Is a President of Guyana beyond reproach, and insulated against adverse commentary? The moral of this story is that one must be careful when one uses certain words as they can, and will be used against them. In his response, the President has said that he meant to say that the killings are normal, and only political parties are making them into something. Bravo! I wish I could do as good a job in explaining that to the children, and relatives left behind in bewilderment, and devastation.

On the second count of being "inexperienced" in making references to race, I commence my defence by recalling the words of the celebrated Trinidadian artist Machel Montano: "They say I too young to soca!" The young performer shortly after went on to dominate the Calypso scene of Trinidad! Age and experience have nothing to do with tackling the issues of crime and punishment. As a practising lawyer of eleven years, I believe that I am entitled to speak on the issues, and to draw references as I see fit. It is no secret that the business community, and persons of East Indian descent believe that they are being targeted for vicious crimes, and it is no secret that almost 90% of persons shot by the police are African Guyanese. One commentator recently went so far as to say that it is African police who are killing African suspects why then blame the Government? While I applaud that person's frankness, this view however shows how sick a society we have become. Why is all this happening? How can it be prevented? These are questions that need answering rather than defending the killings, and attacking those who speak out. I believe that it is an act of extreme cowardice to pretend not to recognize these facts, and the perceptions, which arise therefrom.

If there is serious crime, there must be a lawful approach to dealing with it. For the time being, it appears to be by way of summary execution. On behalf of my party, I am prepared to seek answers as to why East Indians appear to be the victims in the majority of cases, and I am also interested in answers as to why there is a sense of pervasive lawlessness in Guyana. Is it only East Indians being robbed, and murdered in Guyana, and is every robber, or murderer an African? I am prepared to ask these and other questions including why the method of approach of the police appears to be to execute rather than arrest and prosecute persons suspected of committing crimes. What I am not prepared to do is to pretend that all of this is not taking place around us. It would appear that to be "experienced", one must be pretensive, and not discuss certain matters. On the other hand, to be "inexperienced", one must call a spade a spade. What brilliant logic! This is the ridiculous reasoning that needs to be uprooted, and cut away if we are to make any progress in arriving at logical solutions to our difficult problems.

On the matter of the continued carnage on our roads. Once again, death appears to have awakened the Government from deep slumber. In the past, we were given so many promises as to proposals, papers and penalties to come. Efforts to have a bi partisan approach to dealing with the issue in the National Assembly were spurned. If the Government is prepared to settle the matter on its own, then it must be able to do better than raise the legal age for persons to drive. What about addressing the attitudes of mini bus drivers, and habitual drunkards who drive? No meaningful settlement of this issue can be brought about unless, and until, there is widespread consultation, and participation. Relatives of victims, insurance companies, legislators, the police, service organizations, and educators to name a few, all must be brought on board.

The People's National Congress/Reform has repeatedly pledged its support for meaningful initiatives, which can identify, and settle, the issues that affect us all. Meetings have been held; Motions introduced in the National Assembly; pledges of support given, and calls for a review and overhaul of policing, and the general administration of justice. All to no avail. Nothing gets done. If the suggestion comes from the PNC/R then it is like poison to be avoided. In the meantime, people continue to die and suffer. No one is winning in this infantile game. As a responsible Opposition we will continue to put or best foot forward, by representing the interests of all Guyanese whether attempts are made to shut us out or not.

Yours faithfully,

Raphael Trotman