Police dedicate monument to slain lawmen By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
February 1, 2002

`If we truly regret the deaths of those servicemen, the victims of robbery and bandits, as well as those who have lost their lives at the hands of the Police, then we must work to reduce the resentment in our society and the circumstances that may give rise to excuses for a life of crime' - Prime Minister Sam Hinds

THE Guyana Police Force, in a solemn ceremony at its Eve Leary, Georgetown base, on Wednesday afternoon dedicated a monument to 24 policemen who were killed while conducting their duties.

The policemen who ranked from corporal to superintendent served the Force between the years 1913 to 2001.

The event was marked by a large military parade and was attended by heads of the Disciplined Services, Government officials, relatives and friends of the deceased. Chancellor of the Judiciary, Ms. Desiree Bernard and former Police Commissioner, Mr. Laurie Lewis were among prominent citizens who attended the ceremony.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds, followed by Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj and Commissioner of Police, Floyd McDonald laid the first three wreaths at the monument. Relatives of the deceased then laid theirs.

The event brought to the surface memories of those slain in the course of ensuring the maintenance of law and order, evident by the sombre expressions of those present.

The monument located in front of the Officers Mess is engraved with the names of the policemen and the time they served the Force. They include Corporal #4683 Edgar Benn and Constable #4733 Henry Chester who were shot and killed in 1959 by notorious criminal 'Cuffy' at Naamryck, East Bank Essequibo.

The names of Inspector #4412 Whittington Braithwaite; Sergeant #4590 James Anderson; Constables #5611, James McKenzie; 5691 William Norton and # 7178 Kendall Michael are also there. Those men were attacked and killed at the Lethem Police Station during the Rupununi uprising in 1969.

McDonald said many of the deceased to whom the Force was paying homage were in the "prime of their lives" and have made a sacrifice for law enforcement in Guyana. He noted that their lives were snuffed out by criminals and persons who had little or no respect for law and order.

"This must have brought untold sufferings to the dependants and close relatives of those men who died under these circumstances. It is indeed a solemn occasion for the Guyana Police Force, an organisation that has served this country for over 162 years under difficult circumstances," he said.

The Commissioner said it was only fitting that a monument be built as a constant reminder to all of the dangers and sacrifices that policemen and women have to endure in ensuring that law and order is preserved.

In his remarks to the relatives of the slain officers, McDonald said that the erection of the structure could assist in alleviating their troubles, acknowledging that their contributions have not gone without recognition.

Policing in Guyana and in many other countries has become very complex and challenging, he said, noting that the demands of such a job are very stringent.

"We are expected to carry out our duties in such a manner so that the rights of citizens are respected and protected, but at the same time we are expected to be very firm in dealing with infringements of the law," he pointed out.

McDonald said expectations of the Force by society are great and taking that and the mandate of the Police Force into account, considerable efforts have been made in improving the quality of policing to the public, using a number of strategies, some of which are very innovative.

He cited the Force's engagement in community policing as just one example, but said efforts are being made to continue looking at enhancing the delivery of services.

Prime Minister Hinds, who also addressed the parade, said it is fitting that a memorial be established and dedicated to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty, while being true to the motto, 'Extending service and protection to law abiding citizens'.

He said for the relatives of those policemen, those deaths were personal. Although many years have passed by, they may still feel the pangs of loss and grief, he said.

"We should see their sacrifice as a challenge to us, questioning how much we are putting into our jobs in a response to the call to service".

Mr. Hinds noted that the death of each officer occurred in a particular situation whether the danger was sensed or not. In view of this occurrence, previous deaths must be in the minds of serving officers as they respond to calls from victims of robbery and banditry and are challenged by demands to put an end to such criminal activity. Here, it is required of policemen to maintain a level, balanced head, he stated.

The Eve Leary compound is the fitting area for the monument, and the war graves should be considered sacred ground to the memories of various wars of the colonial past, Mr. Hinds noted.

"We are told that war between nations is a continuation of diplomacy, when diplomatic efforts fail. I think that the monument could also serve as a reminder of failures. Failure in resolving tensions within society," he said.

Mr. Hinds added that the policemen in the course of their everyday duties encounter many people who would not hesitate to end their lives. They have a right to be fearful and to act pre-emptively.

"If we truly regret the deaths of those servicemen, the victims of robbery and bandits, as well as those who have lost their lives at the hands of the Police, then we must work to reduce the resentment in our society and the circumstances that may give rise to excuses for a life of crime", the Prime Minister said.

He said society must make a concerted effort in ensuring such situations are taken into hand, so that in the future there would be fewer than another 24 names to be added to the list of policemen being killed at the hands of criminals.

In opening remarks, Commissioner McDonald said the monument was overdue for a number of months but because of the uniqueness of the idea to the Police Force, it took considerable effort to bring the project to finality.

He said over that time, the Force engaged in serious deliberation at the senior management level before the type of structure was decided upon.

The project was spearheaded by Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Michael Sommersaul.