Major parties must commit to solving crime situation
Guyana Chronicle
June 24, 2002

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GUYANA Human Rights Association (GHRA) has called for “an unequivocal commitment” by both major political parties to “stop taking advantage, directly or indirectly, of the sickening wave of violent crime gripping the country”.

GHRA said such a commitment, a clear division between the criminals and the political parties, is an essential pre-condition for the emergence of any form of political solution in which the country can have confidence.

“Unambiguous steps by the parties to disassociate themselves from all forms of criminal violence may not, in themselves, stop the violence. They could, however, contribute to a clear separation of criminality and politics”.

“Ideally, both parties should jointly propose a series of measures to address criminal violence. This would then allow the security forces to move more decisively against drugs, gun-running, violent robbery and whatever else contributes to the complex criminality engulfing the society,” GHRA said in a statement.

The organisation said the People’s National Congress (PNC) must disassociate itself, decisively and publicly, from “the extreme elements, which continue to take advantage of its public marches and of the situation on the East Coast”.

“Civil society organisations, most notably the media, must avoid ambiguity about violence,” GHRA also said in a statement.

GHRA said television stations, which glorified criminal violence by playing the Andrew Douglas tape under a specious claim of promoting freedom of expression, displayed “callous contempt for the victims of violence and professional responsibility”.

“Every aspect of the incident was illegal, allowing a person whose civil rights are legally curtailed by virtue of his being a prisoner to express views calculated to incite racial violence, while holding an illegal weapon.”

“As such, civil society organisations need to ensure they are not drawn into the same moral quagmire as the political parties.

And, until they are seen to be rejecting all forms of criminality with equal vigour, any claims they make as mediators in the political crisis will not be credible,” GHRA said.

It declared that “the blustering refusal of the Media Advisory Committee to take a position on the airing of the Douglas tape illustrates this point very clearly.

“The Committee's credibility has probably been dented beyond repair. A perfect opportunity to lay down markers on the issue of incitement in the media was lost”.

GHRA said civil society organisations should avoid rationalising criminal violence in a partisan manner.

“What is not acceptable, is whether party ambivalence on criminal violence means protecting the Target Special Squad (TSS), reluctance to move against drug lords, or legitimising criminal violence as some form of freedom fighting, or allowing extreme elements to take advantage of party protests.

“Also, tolerance of some form and rejection of others appear to be influenced by the extent to which they impact on the ethnic bases of the parties, rather than rejected absolutely,” GHRA said.

Commenting on revelations from the trial of convicted ex-American diplomat Thomas Carroll, GHRA said they demonstrate the extent to which the TSS (called ‘Black Clothes’ Police) has been criminalised, removing any possible rationale for the Guyana Government to continue protecting it.

GHRA said, while creating a new ‘SWAT’ team is a sensible measure, it is not a substitute for confronting the lawlessness in the TSS, as allegations of criminal enforcement also give added urgency to demands for expeditiously conducted inquests, so as to determine which of the deaths the TSS caused were defensible and which were not.

GHRA said the Shaka Blair inquest should be given priority because such inquiries are a pre-condition for restoring community confidence in the Police Force as a whole.

The statement warned that failure to move decisively will remove from the ruling party any moral authority for demanding the opposition distance itself absolutely from criminal violence.

It added that legitimate protests over extra-judicial executions have been contaminated to the point where the response to the issue is more violent than the problem itself.

“As a result, PNC criticisms of the ineffectiveness of the Police Force smack of hypocrisy.”

“If the beneficiaries of moral ambivalence are the criminal cohorts and racial extremists, the losers are very clearly the ordinary citizens at large, including the many decent people of all races who live on the East Coast,” GHRA said.