Making their voices heard Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
May 14, 2002

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UNITED States Ambassador, Mr. Ronald Godard's comments on Saturday on the current crime wave are timely and deserve closer consideration.

Few could argue with his point that one reason why Guyanese are so frightened by the current crime wave in the country is that the problem is being debated in a particularly acrimonious political environment.

Criminal violence is normally roundly condemned by all sectors of society, but in this environment, according to the Ambassador, it has been treated almost like "a legitimate subject for debate".

And even almost as he spoke, the criminals, as if to reinforce their rampage, struck with telling brutality at Annandale, East Coast Demerara on Saturday night, killing a businessman and his wife execution-style.

The murder of the couple again sharply brought to the centre the fears abroad in the society since the February 23 escape from the Georgetown Prison of the five men linked to most of the daring robbery attacks and hijackings in and around Georgetown and on specific areas of the East Coast Demerara.

"There is no justification for criminal violence in a democratic society, just as there is no justification for political violence in a democracy," Mr. Godard correctly stressed.

We commend the U.S. Ambassador for taking time out to express his views on the situation here and urge local civil society and others to speak out against the crime spree and to work with the authorities to help recapture the gang of escapees.

Not too many people have been coming forward to condemn the atrocities and offer suggestions on getting the situation under control.

While it is the Government and the law enforcement agencies that have the foremost responsibility to deal with the criminals and to ensure the safety of citizens, there are other factors that have complicated the issue - mainly the political environment - and that's why all stakeholders need to make their voices heard.

The fact is that law-abiding people have been scared since the gang of five fled from jail and this fear is growing with each criminal outrage.

Ordinary citizens are scared to travel by vehicles at night for fear of being hijacked and business people cannot help but feel that they are being specially targetted by the criminals, who clearly are heavily armed and backed by some kind of well-organised network.

This situation calls for some tough measures and maybe it is time for community policing groups to again begin close patrols of villages and wards of the city the criminals have been targetting.

A letter writer today suggests imposing curfews in some areas and throwing up surprise roadblocks regularly, among other steps to fight back at the gang and their accomplices.

Guyana cannot be seen to be buckling under the strikes by criminals and the Police and the Army would have to work closely with community policing groups, the private sector and others willing to help in the fight-back.

Mr. Godard noted that citizens of Guyana have recently had some rude shocks that may have shaken business confidence.

He said the U.S. and other friends of Guyana in the international community are willing to help in the fight against crime and this is an offer that the Guyana Government should follow up with urgency.

Guyanese cannot afford to be held hostage by a gang of criminals any longer - people want to feel safe in their homes and as they move about their legitimate everyday business, and they have every right to demand firm action in this regard.