Authorities doing `everything possible’ to recapture escapees
- Luncheon By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
May 30, 2002

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“The Government would always be faced with the contention that enough is not being done. That is a reality that (it) will have to confront every hour of every day as long as the escapees remain at large and their outrages continue” - Dr. Roger Luncheon
By Mark Ramotar
HEAD of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon yesterday addressed a growing public perception that the Government and Police were not doing enough to stem the crime wave gripping the country, assuring “everything possible” is being done to do so and recapture the five heavily armed prisoners who escaped three months ago.

He said the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) administration, the joint services - Police and Army - are doing “everything possible” to recapture the criminals who escaped from the Georgetown Prison on February 23.

The Cabinet Secretary, however, told his regular post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown that until the escapees have been recaptured, “the Government would always be faced with the contention that enough is not being done”.

According to him, “that is a reality that the Government will have to confront every hour of every day as long as the escapees remain at large and their outrages continue”.

“I would want Guyanese to believe that in response to well-defined developments with the appropriate intelligence and the employment and utilisation of resources, that the administration has been working zealously to bring an end to this (manhunt) in the shortest possible timeframe,” he told reporters.

“It has not been successful so far, and to the extent that that is so, I believe that the administration would have to tolerate the indictment of indignant Guyanese at this development. But I appreciate that as you try to differentiate the nexus between criminal behaviour, outright terrorism and various levels of support by political forces and the media, you would understand that this is a situation of some novelty and of some complexity…,” Luncheon stated.

According to him, “it’s not merely going out there to capture some bandits or a few escapees.”

“What we are confronted with is a bit more than the run-of-the-mill bandits and criminal escapees; we are dealing with a qualitatively different phenomenon…and indeed this is a qualitatively different circumstance within which the law enforcement agencies are playing a role,” he said.

However, Luncheon pointed out that not only the administration and law enforcement agencies have roles to play in capturing the criminals, but everyone - Guyanese communities, the administration, civic bodies and religious groups.

“What is really meant by enough is not being done has more to do with the failure to achieve results and not necessarily with what is actually being done,” Luncheon asserted.

He noted that the civilian law enforcement agency (the Police) has the legislative responsibility to maintain law and order.

However, Luncheon said, “customs and practices and certainly in the context of our laws, the President as the Commander-in-Chief can, on the basis of recommendation and appeal from the Commissioner of Police, engage the military in civilian law enforcement activity”.

“It is not a step that is taken in otherwise unnecessary circumstances, and when such an invitation is made, generally it is done in the context of specific conditions that exist and I believe that over the last weeks, the evidence of the progressive involvement of the military…in responding to this crime situation reflects the administration’s resolve and…commitment towards addressing this issue,” Luncheon said.

“I think what we have seen and…will see (is) greater and greater cooperation in the joint services to jointly confront what is facing the Guyanese population today, in the sense that all the commitments…so far have failed to recapture the escapees and bring an end to their outrages,” he added.

Luncheon also blamed the incitement and the anti-police rhetoric of the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) and some sections of the media for contributing to the current climate in the country, and for the escalation of violence, terror and fear in the minds of some Guyanese.

“As had been identified at previous news briefings, the opposition PNC/R media hype continues; the leader of the opposition and members of the (PNC/R) leadership continue to trumpet wild allegations and charges against the PPP/Civic administration; veiled and unveiled threats flow like the proverbial river from their offices and at their regular public functions,” Luncheon said.

He added, “were one to believe the nonsense that comes from the PNC/R, one would hardly expect to find anything civil in this society, any level of governance by this administration and then of course, one might be asked to explain the utter silence of all but the PNC/R on such matters.”

“However, it is not the level of their absurdity that matters. More importantly, directly or indirectly, intentionally or otherwise, their verbal excesses have led many young and not so young,…impressionable and some confused souls to attempt to fulfill the inescapable conclusions that flow from the PNC/R excesses - the resort to terror, do as you please, fight the Government, confront law enforcement agencies, make Guyana ungovernable,” Luncheon said.

“Whether one jumps high or low, the PNC/R stands condemned in the eyes of Guyanese for this development (and) the PNC/R stands discredited as a political party with a national character,” he added.

“Worse, we suspect, is to come in the fight and the struggle for political succession within the PNC (since) rivals will of course be tempted to outdo each other, employing various levels of brinkmanship,” Luncheon asserted.

According to him, Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj has revealed, and the Government has established, “firm linkages of the PNC/R with the gang of criminal suspects”.

“The outrage over their murder of law enforcement officers and ranks, including the latest policeman (Sherwin Alleyne),…reverberates in our small society and will forever be to the shame, embarrassment and to the detriment of the opposition PNC/R,” Luncheon told reporters.

Luncheon was also asked to clarify his prediction that “worse is still to come” - whether it is an indication that the Government is ‘throwing up its hands’ and sort of admitting that it is unable to effectively handle the crime wave and recapture the escapees.

He said, “the contention that worse is to come should not be seen as…some `throw-up your hands’ reflection of impotence, (but) situates the resort and the principle resort to extremism by the opposition PNC/R.”

“I believe, and I think my view would be shared by a large number of Guyanese, that it would be increasingly difficult for the opposition PNC/R to extricate themselves from this position that they have created - the positions that they have taken (publicly and the vesting of) quite a bit of their political authority...

“…one does not throw such aside and walk away. To my mind, it is with great difficulty for the PNC/R to engage in what might be seen then as a retreat from the positions that they have been advancing, and when that is complexed by political succession and the urge of the aspirants to outdo each other to gain the prize so to speak, I think it would be fair and…reasonable to believe that we can expect more brinkmanship from the…PNC/R (and) we can expect some continuation of their vile utterances at their press briefings and conferences and rallies and public meetings,” Luncheon said.

Luncheon, however, pointed out that this does not mean that the PPP/C administration will continue to respond to such excesses.

“I have identified in my previous press briefings, the increasing abandonment of the rules of engagement by the opposition PNC/R and an increasing resolve of the administration to pursue its mandate as the duly elected Government…

“and to provide for, at the level of Parliament, the Constitutional provisions to be addressed and to implement it, (and) in the preservation of law and order, to do all that is necessary to ensure public safety,” he said.

“So `worse is to come’ was in reference to what they - the opposition PNC/R - does (and it) by no means suggests or is intended to suggest that worse is to come in so far as responses of the PPP/Civic administration,” Luncheon explained.