Government must take steps to secure a lasting peace
Stabroek News
March 18, 2002

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Dear Editor,

It is too simplistic to only blame the police, for not turning up in time at the recent robbery at the store at Annandale. Where was the "Community Policing Group"? Is there one in Annandale? (which rates with Success, Enmore, Leonora, and Herstelling as PPP strongholds outside of Berbice).

How much (or little) has the PPP government spent to modernize the police force with new vehicles, riot and communications equipment? (They elected to "modernize" the GDF instead of the Police!) The PPP government deserves the real blame for failing to secure the nation, especially the Indian population.

But does not an unsafe and insecure Indian population guarantee the election of the PPP, because of the small Indian majority?

There can be no lasting peace and development in Guyana until: (1) The population is made secure from armed robberies.

(2) The nation can freely vote without suffering the "post-election" violence and destabilization it has suffered after the last two elections, and which will obviously become a pattern if not checked now. To achieve both of these objectives, the PPP government must restore the status quo, vis - vis firearms, as it was before Burnham acceded to power. The right of people deserving to own firearms for their protection must be guaranteed to combat the criminal nature of today's society. The PPP can achieve both these objectives if they summon the resolve to govern rather than merely occupy office. I suggest the following twelve measures:

1: The Ministry of Home Affairs should set up a special office to expeditiously process and issue firearms licenses to citizens with a legitimate need, e.g., businessmen, farmers, shopkeepers, professionals, and prominent citizens of all races.

2: Villagers (all villages) should be organized into a National Guard. Arm and train them immediately. Provide them with the mobility, communications, and weapons capability to rapidly deploy and defend their villages. Maintain a small, paid, round-the-clock guard. Implement a widespread distress signal system, e.g., flares. Ask western donor and other friendly countries for help.

3: Implement a "crash program" to recruit Indian Police/Cadet Officers. Immediately implement a special "reduced training" program to recruit and train Indian Police and Officer Cadets. Deploy them in Indian areas.

4: Thugs/terrorists must be dealt with severely and swiftly. Enact severe anti-terrorist and anti-hate- crime laws/penalties to counterattack the rise in violent crimes. "Kick- down-the-door" bandits should be treated as terrorists. Create a special Police Unit (separate from the Tactical

Unit) and Tribunal to seek out hard core criminals and prosecute.

5: Upgrade and modernize the police force. Increase their pay immediately, so they don't have to depend on corruption. Provide riot control training and equipment. Also provide sensitivity training and supply necessary equipment to vigorously combat crime. Establish a Civilian Complaints Review Board, with severe penalties for corruption. Grant amnesty (on application) for past corruption. Encourage people to make complaints and rid the force of all unsuitable personnel.

6: Dismantle all army outposts. Maintain only major barracks. Downsize the army: it is capable of confronting Suriname but unable to combat Venezuela. Transfer qualified soldiers to the Police and naval vessels to Customs and the police. Investigate soldiers files to weed out unsuitable elements. Institute strict record and control of all weapons.

7: Accelerate decentralization of government services. Berbice needs an airport, deep water port, teachers and police/customs training centers, and bridge over the Berbice River. In essence, provide Berbice and Essequibo the capacity to issue birth certificates, passports, firearms licenses, and to dispense similar services to eliminate the burden of civilians having to travel to Georgetown. Both counties have principal towns that are capable of such self-sufficiency.

8: Spread investments around the country. Investors do not invest in countries considered as security risks. Similarly, investments in Guyana should be funneled away from areas of high risks, that is, Georgetown.

9: Monitor of parolees and expatriated criminals. Unlike before, a special unit should be established between Immigrations/Customs and the Police to document release of dangerous parolees and extradited convicts. Establish or update our laws to incarcerate an extradited criminal who has not served any or all time in a foreign country and, to monitor the whereabouts and business of the aforementioned if they are, under law, deemed appropriate for normal social life. Inform the public of the arrival and possible release of such individuals. 10: Reach out to and genuinely include Afro-Guyanese. The PPP must begin to include more qualified Afro-Guyanese to posts within its administration, particularly the younger generation.

11: Deal aggressively with all attempts at violence, particularly post-elections violence meant to destabilize the country. Use the army if necessary. Should the army fail to adequately discharge its duties, seek help from Caricom and the United Nations. Indeed, all foreign bodies such as the UN should be apprised of our elections periods and of such destabilizing situations.

12: Immediately stop the reduction of the powers of the Presidency. The government must summon the resolve to govern, and protect the vital interests of the nation, rather than be content to merely occupy office and give in to the position and protestors demands.

Yours faithfully,

(name and address provided)