Trades union congress flays govt over crime wave
Stabroek News
April 18, 2002

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The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has criticised the government for what it says is the administration's inaction in bringing under control the prevailing insecurity.

"The government is there to govern. If the government is saying the Opposition is responsible (for the lawlessness), then produce the evidence and lock them up," GTUC's straight-talking general secretary Lincoln Lewis told a press conference on Tuesday at GTUC's headquarters.

He said it is time for action and there must be no excuses.

"To continuously tell us that the PNC/R and other groups are responsible for the economic decline and the upsurge in criminal activities is to fool the Guyanese people," Lewis stated.

He said governments have a responsibility to all of its citizens to ensure grievances were properly addressed towards the preservation of a stable, safe and secure environment.

"Mr Bharrat Jagdeo as President with executive powers has a responsibility to make this country safe and economically sound for all the citizens," Lewis declared.

He said the GTUC was alarmed at the posturing of government on the excesses of the police when dealing with citizens in certain communities.

He noted that the killings in society are increasing and that several voices seek to use the opportunity to pit one race against the other.

"From observation it seems that there is a concentrated attempt by some powers in society to make us hate each other," he said.

Lewis called on Guyanese to collectively work to rid the society of the leaders who practise and preach race hate.

It was his view that the response of the police at Buxton on Monday during the funeral of Shaka Blair was an attempt to return the country to the dark days of the 1960s.

Lewis said he got caught in the crossfire that afternoon and was on hand "to witness the unwarranted and cruel use of force by the police." The police said they took measures to restore order after they were fired upon and missiles thrown at them by the mourners. Several persons were injured by pellets and live rounds fired by the police. The Chairman of the Joint Services Coordinating Council, Guyana Defence Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier Michael Atherly has since lauded the police for the manner in which they brought the crowd under control.

Lewis told of mourners at the Blair funeral fleeing for cover; nurses, teachers, public servants, and sugar workers having to abandon their transportation at one point as they passed a police barricade, "some of them having to suffer the indignity of holding their hands above their heads."

"Is Guyana now becoming a police state--a dictatorship?" he asked.

He said it has now become accepted that whenever the police wound or kill persons, government and party functionaries, state and party organs immediately activate the process of defending the police, even at the expense of their own credibility.