Tough, emergency measures Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
May 19, 2002

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AMID the deep fears and anxieties created by the wave of killings, robberies and other criminal acts in the country, came two rather encouraging news items within the past 48 hours, as the law enforcing agencies remain under understandable pressures for more combined and productive anti-crime actions.

There was the report of a parent, evidently sickened by the murders and criminal violence, who courageously handed over to the police one of three suspects in the shooting death of 42-year-old security guard, Chetram Etwaroo on Thursday when bandits robbed the store of businessman Francis Jairam of G$600,000.

There have been a few commendable examples in the USA and, to a lesser extent, in Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, where parents/guardians have cooperated with the law enforcing agencies in the arrest of family members engaged in drug trafficking and gun violence.

But it is very rare, if not unique, until last week, that a parent, unnamed by the police, showed up with an alleged suspect in the murder and robbery incident as occurred on Saffon Street last Thursday. Since the police say they have the names and addresses of the two other suspects, we expect criminal charges to be speedily instituted.

The other encouraging development, though not surprising or dramatic, was the report that a contingent from the Guyana Defence Force was being deployed to Buxton to repair the damage, once again done by lawless elements, to the railway embankment road.

Over the years, the army has been involved, as it explained in a statement, in "providing humanitarian service to communities in all parts of the country", this latest act at Buxton being done on the directions given by the Commander-in-Chief, President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Such involvement in community services is nothing new for armies worldwide, and certainly occur in other CARICOM states.

Highly Undesirable
What is, however, certainly highly undesirable is for the GDF to have to spend valuable time, manpower and other resources to repair damage to public property that are the deliberate and consistent acts associated with politically-motivated anti-police or anti-government activities. This has nothing to do with preservation of national security and the territorial integrity of Guyana.

Perhaps the time has come for those who, often with forked tongues, claim to be opposed to such lawlessness, in any of our communities, to back their words with relevant action.

They should involve themselves and/or their supporters in repairing damage done to state property resulting from political disturbances. If the survivors of victims of murder, or victims of criminal violence should also participate in such goodwill gestures, it could help in shaming those who either commit or encourage crime in villages and communities across Guyana.

Such criminal, anti-national acts, for example, as happen too frequently in Buxton, and much to the inconvenience and fear not only of the great majority of law-abiding citizens of that village, but the public in general, irrespective of ethnic origin or political affiliation.

If Buxton has, within recent times, acquired a controversial reputation as a haven for criminal elements, some with political connections, let it be clearly understood that there are other villages, communities and regions in this country with criminal elements where neither race nor politics make a difference to their foul, illegal acts.

One very effective way to deal with the criminals for whom there seems to be no shortage of guns and other dangerous weapons, as well as collaborators, in and out of Georgetown, is to resort to drastic but legitimate actions as other CARICOM states have often had to do.

These actions include partial, but systematic declaration of states of emergency with the army and police involved in consistent joint anti-crime operations in the hunt for illegal guns, ammunition, grenades and other dangerous weapons, as well as fugitives from justice and stolen properties.

There needs to be a blanket operation across villages and communities by the police and army in the search for illegal guns and other weapons after a specified period of amnesty, say a fortnight at the most for the handing over to the police of all unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

A critical review must also be made of the issuing of licensed firearms to remove any suspicion of malpractices - at whatever level.

If the business community, the labour movement, human rights and other civic organisations, as well as the political parties are really concerned, as they say, about arresting the frightening crime wave with the proliferation of armed criminals murdering, maiming and robbing, then they should be anxious to support a systematic combined operation by the army and police to cleanse the society of illegal guns and the criminals.