Other organisations should show support for fight against crime
Stabroek News
April 22, 2002

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Dear Editor,

If I am, then let me be the first to publicly compliment the private sector organization for openly pledging its unequivocal support of the Guyana Government in the ongoing battle to stem, if not end, the recent surge in violent crimes, largely attributed to the so-called Gang of Five. (See "Private Sector pledges support in crime fight" GC, April 19.)

This is a vital and principled first step that should be immediately emulated by every local organization; be they religious, social, professional, labour, or whatever. And for each organization that takes such a public stand, their members should be photographed meeting with the government's representatives and such pictures should be published.

It is a commonsense public relations effort that could go a long way in helping assure the wider society that responsible leaders and concerned citizens care and are willing to step up to the line to register their abhorrence of such crimes and to render their support for every legal effort to put an end to such antisocial and devious behaviour.

The protracted silence of these bodies, over the past couple of weeks, has been rather disturbing, and I can now only hope these bodies will begin to see they cannot leave everything up to the government to resolve, especially when they see government is labouring fruitlessly to find a resolution, and the people whom these organizations represent are potential targets of the criminal elements.

I remain convinced that the private sector is the most powerful independent body capable of providing the energy needed to move the economy forward, and it needs an environment that is stable and conducive for consumers to freely move around and spend their money on items local businesses have in stock.

But when there is lawlessness in any section of society, there always is that fear it could spread, creating an atmosphere in which fear of the unknown or the unexpected, followed by self-preservation are accentuated, thereby driving consumers into the safety of their homes. How can businesses be then expected to get by if consumers are forced by criminal machinations to be holed up in their houses, or to cut short their shopping trips?

Or worse, how can businesses be expected to function if owners fear that street protests can turn violent and dangerous, with their businesses being targeted for looting, burning, and destruction?

I think it is unfortunate that at the end of this week's meeting in the Office of the President, Mr. Brian James, the Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, reportedly stated that President Bharrat Jagdeo made note of the suggestions and advice given by the organization, but pointed out that "no definitive plan of action or timetable has been set regarding the recapture of the escaped prisoners."

Excuse me, Mr. President, but what are we waiting for? More mayhem? A timetable is asking too much, but a plan of action? Come on! Might I suggest that the Guyanese people be instantly informed that life is going to be a little uncomfortable over the next few weeks, as the Joint Service Task Force takes to the streets in unannounced road blocks and spot checks, in the city, on the East Bank and East Coast, for starters? Hitherto, I have not read anything to this effect.

And such random road blocks can be executed early morning, during the day, early evening, or midnight. There also should be temporary fixtures erected at major entrance and exit points into and out of the city, so that if criminals hit in the city and they wish to exit to their hideouts, they have to get by the security manned fixtures. Each fixture also should be equipped with communications devices to relay any new development in the city.

What about outlying areas, such as villages, small communities, and other areas where people also do business? Well, if it works for the city, why won't it work in the other areas, too?

The primary task of government at this time is to bring calm and assurance to society. The secondary task is to capture the Gang of Five. A few weeks ago, it would have been in the reverse, but circumstances now dictate the citizenry is confused and somewhat skeptical, both of which are preliminary signs of an internal breakdown in the making.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter advocating the need for local leaders, other than the political ones, to take a mature and responsible stand, and intervene before there is an outbreak of lawlessness in our society. Hopefully, such leaders will stop hiding in the shadows of their safe havens and collectively move to secure our people.

These same leaders also should release information after their meetings with government representatives, letting the public know what exactly they proposed and how it was received, or what government countered with. Stop generalizing the answers. It is too late for generalities. People need specifics.

Finally, as a concerned Guyanese, I still need to know what government plans to do now that the forensic tests revealed Mr. Shaka Blair did not have a gun in his hand, disputing the police's version that he did. Will the officers involved be interdicted from duty or be placed on modified assignments, pending an investigation by the DPP?

Will the relatives of Mr. Blair go through the legal channels and file a complaint to the relevant body to fast forward an investigation?

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin