Emergency action - now Viewpoint by Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
June 2, 2002

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(In place of our editorial, we publish today the perspective of regional journalist, Rickey Singh on the crime situation in Guyana, with specific reference to the attack on the Alberttown Police Station and the killing of yet another Policeman)

WHATEVER may be the reason or reasons for what is perceived in some critical quarters as a lack of effective action to deal with the rampaging criminals - some of them operating with very sophisticated weapons and killing policemen in a rising murder toll - the Guyana Government can justifiably be accused of weakness, or ill-suited responses.

Emergency situations require emergency counter measures. The criminal bandits who are heavily armed, operating with hit lists, including policemen and business people, and evidently with a network of collaborators - among them opposition political elements - must be made to feel the full force of the security forces.

Why is it that the government has not yet done what other governments, such as in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, had found necessary to do at critical periods of threats to law and order: such as declarations of limited states of emergency and/or curfews and have the army and police in joint, systematic operations to clean up identified areas and communities from illegal guns and wanted criminals?

Imagine the day after a young police constable was riddled with bullets and killed right in the compound of the Alberttown Police Station in the heart of the nation's capital, President Bharrat Jagdeo was holding a special cabinet session that seemed to have discussed a range of important issues, including the threat posed by the criminals.

But, according to reports monitored in the local/regional media, no decision was apparently taken to grant a limited amnesty before launching a full-scale operation for illegal guns and wanted criminals, all within the framework of the law of the land. This land that criminals have now thrown into a virtual state of siege and generating widespread fears - irrespective of race.

The 'Guyana Chronicle', in reporting yesterday on the killing the previous day of constable Andy Atwell, the fourth murdered cop, said that Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj has been "tasked (by cabinet) with tighter security at police stations".

Big deal! What is really innovative, creative about that? As far as I am concerned from my distance, and monitoring the activities of other CARICOM cabinet ministers responsible for the police and national security, Mr. Gajraj, should either offer his resignation or be assigned another portfolio for which he may probably be more suited.

I do not expect either the President or his Home Affairs Minister to agree with me. For one thing, I do not have a vote. Hence, I am expressing my personal point of view in this column normally allocated for Editorials, that represent the opinion of the newspaper.

The President and/or his People's Progressive Party must explain why they are yet to consider it essential to have a blanket sweep, by the army and police, across the country for guns and wanted criminals. This could follow a specified period of amnesty for the handing over of illegal arms and other weapons, as well as the police and army uniforms and other gears being illegally held by the criminally prone.

I readily concur with the sentiment reflected in last Friday's report in the 'Stabroek News' on the murder of constable Atwell, when it stated:

"If there had been any doubt that the police were being targetted by criminals in recent weeks, that was dispelled by last night's (Thursday) attack which was one of the most outrageous and heinous since the eruption of the crime wave... The attack on the station was a virtual throwing of the gauntlet to the police by the criminals..."

This is, therefore, not the time to quibble, to engage in polemics and offer specious excuses. Or even for the authorities to be worried about responses of elements and forces of those suspected of being among the quiet and sinister collaborators of the rampaging criminals, including the five dangerous escaped prisoners.

This is the moment for relevant and tough anti-crime busting. Instead of innocuous press releases, Commissioner of Police, Floyd McDonald, must have an active plan, a strategy to unleash now against those who have "thrown down the gauntlet" to his Force.

Let the anti-police accusers carry on with their own game plan. The chickens will soon come home to roost.

The Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Michael Atherly, also has an obligation to explain why the GDF is not being perceived in a high profile role in joint operations with the police to help clean up this nation from the scourge of the armed bandits.

Why is it that the police are yet to make progress to make even a single arrest among those behind the production and broadcasting of the infamous Andrew Douglas videotape, with all of its criminal implications? Or, for that matter, why no one has yet been apprehended for distributing that illegal pamphlet that offered comfort to the dangerous five fugitives from justice during Blair's funeral?

The Guyanese public wants ACTION that produces RESULTS. Not words of assurances or excuses - whether they come from government ministers or officials of the police and army.