The killing of Superintendent Fraser creates an opportunity to change course and develop a professional police force
Stabroek News
April 7, 2002

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Dear Editor,

The demise of Superintendent of Police Mr. Leon Fraser was only a matter of time and not unexpected. The killer cop died from a single shot to the head as he and elements of the notorious black squad moved in for the kill, in pursuit of the five prison escapees who were apparently hiding out in the bushes off the Soesdyke Linden Highway. To paraphrase a famous Guyanese saying that appropriately described Mr. Fraser - "so you live so shall you die."

What are the lessons to be learnt from the demise of Fraser? There are several which I will attempt to address later in this letter.

But first, I wish to use this opportunity to point out to President Jagdeo that if he wants to retain the respect of all of the people in this country he must be more prudent and objective in some of his utterances. He cannot continue, simply because of political expediency, to make statements that are clearly intended to mobilise the public power to the defense of his regime. A case in point is his address to officers at the opening ceremony of the recently held conference of the Guyana Police Force when he defended the criminal and unlawful actions of the renegade elements in the police force. His position on the well - documented extra judicial killings (police murders) was not surprising. The President was speaking after the escape of the five prisoners from the Camp street prison.

In his address to the police officers the President made it very clear that both he and his government have given the mandate to the notorious Black Clothes Squad to bring in the five escapees dead, rather than alive.

This is not surprising to me and is consistent with Mr. Jagdeo's response subsequent to the death of Linden London aka Blackie.

It will be recalled that Blackie was murdered after he agreed during negotiations with an officially sanctioned emissary, to surrender to officers of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) at the time of the siege by the police at Toucan Suites. He died in a hail of gunfire from the guns of members of the black clothes squad with his hands held high in the air in what has been accepted internationally, as a formal surrender posture.

It will also be recalled that following Blackie's murder one of the first acts of President Jagdeo was to publicly applaud the police's criminal action in spite of the fact that the entire country and the world was able to see the circumstances of that murder. There have also been a host of other barbaric actions by Fraser and his goons that have won the praise and support of President Jagdeo.

What is most astonishing in this and several other incidents involving the police is the fact that they seem to have very valuable information at their disposal that they never seem inclined to want to pursue or have not pursued with the same zeal that they have demonstrated they are capable of when they beat and kick women, including pregnant women. This latest fiasco is no different. Yet those at the helm wish us to believe that they are in control of the situation. In control of what?

On several occasions since the Mash day jailbreak, senior officials of the government and the police administration have indicated that the five escapees are part of the deceased Linden London's (Blackie's) gang. They have also made the point that the escapees have linked up with local elements. However, since they are in a position to know, it will be presumptuous for any member of the public to attempt to dispute their infinite wisdom. The connection with Blackie seemed to be supported by Andrew Douglas's admission that he was a member of Blackie's gang.

It is rumoured that Andrew Douglas and his gang escaped with the intention of not returning to criminal life but instead to avenge the death of their fallen comrade Blackie. If this is true it represents a serious development in the society. According to the rumour the escapees are committed to fight to the bitter end and will not surrender. They are convinced that if they do they will be killed the same way that Blackie and others were killed by the police. On this score the majority of Guyanese will agree that Douglas and company are correct. If the President's address to the police officers conference achieved nothing else it certainly helped to solidify this view. What then are the lessons to be learnt?

(1) Mr. Fraser died because the political directorate and the leadership of the Guyana Police Force have little respect for the rule of law and civilised practice on police misconduct. Police Officer Fraser was charged with a criminal offence in the Mark Benschop beating that took place at the Brickdam Police Station after Benschop's lawyer had filed private charges against the offending officers. Respect for the rule of law and proper procedure would have led to Superintendent Fraser being, at the least, suspended from active duty pending the outcome of the court case and of any internal investigation of his behaviour. This, however, is Guyana. The rulers needed the killer cop on the job. They demonstrated that it was only they who could have determined the extent of Mr. Fraser's role in the system. Was this in the best interest of the officer, the police force or the nation?

(2) Sections of the press and the public have expressed amazement that the other members of Fraser's squad who were present at the time did not pursue his killers in the bush. But why are we surprised that the squad ran for cover and made a cowardly retreat under fire. The black clothes squad was, and is not a professional unit. It is a group of psychos in police uniform led by vicious elements, characterized by Fraser, whose lust for blood knows no boundaries. They operate on the maxim of kill and not be killed and are successful for as long as they are unopposed. Once their air of invincibility is pierced, once it can be proved that they bleed and are as vulnerable as those they brutalise, it is another ball game altogether. The message that is now being sent to the goons by their new opponents is that when you come against us you must be prepared to die.

(3) It is folly to think as the PPP/C leadership does that the killing of Mr. Fraser is a bad thing and a great loss to the Guyana Police Force and the nation. On the contrary, his demise is likely to save the lives of other officers and pull the nation back from the brink of anarchy. The unchecked and sanctioned killings of citizens by the black clothes police were slowly but surely taking the nation down the road to self-destruction.

(4) In the coming months we will know whether the rulers and the leadership of the police force have learned from the demise of Mr. Fraser. The government has two options open to it, either to change course and develop a professional police force or to continue their present policy and reap a harvest of death and destruction.

Do we dare to hope that both political directorate and the leadership of the police are capable of understanding that the response of the broad masses of people to this latest development, the feelings of exhilaration and of liberation from tyranny are indications of the widening gulf between the rulers, their acolytes and the people they seek to oppress?

Don't they understand that when criminal types are seen and accepted as liberators by people in a society it is a serious indictment of the policies that they the rulers have instituted?

And if they fail to make this connection are we not right to believe that their view of the world is myopic and purely self-serving?

Yours faithfully,

Tacuma Ogunseye