Ruling party to initiate public anti-crime campaign
Stabroek News
May 18, 2002

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As the crime wave in the country continues unabated, the ruling PPP/Civic yesterday called on all Guyanese for a genuine national response to crime fighting. The party also announced its plan to initiate a public anti-crime campaign throughout the country, which would allow citizens to take a stand against crime.

"[It] will provide a platform for all concerned to make a firm and unequivocal statement against crime. We invite community leaders, religious leaders, political representatives and decent-minded citizens to let their voices be heard," General Secretary Donald Ramotar said at a press briefing, held at Freedom House yesterday.

He said that among the activities planned are public meetings, marches, vigils and cycle rides. The ruling party is urging everyone to "show the criminals that they have no place in our society and to demonstrate that law-abiding Guyanese are united against crime and lawlessness."

According to Ramotar, the PPP is deeply concerned about the impact of the current upsurge in violent crimes on the economic development and social harmony of the country. He said the targeting of innocent Guyanese by criminals is causing much unease and wariness.

"The entire country is affected when criminals go on a rampage, as they seem to be doing currently. There is no justification for hardworking and law-abiding Guyanese to live under the fear that they might be the next victim(s) of the murderous and marauding bandits who stalk our communities.

There needs to be a genuine national and united response," Ramotar stated.

Commending the efforts of the law enforcement agencies, the general secretary also urged the main opposition PNC/R to support the anti-crime fight as it did back in November 1985 when the party's leader, Desmond Hoyte was president. "The PNC ought to go back to the position it took in 1985 when Hoyte, responding to a press statement issued by the [Guyana] Human Rights Association, reiterated his `unqualified support for the commissioner of police and his men in their anti-crime campaign'," Ramotar stated, quoting from the November 4, 1985 issue of the Guyana Chronicle.

According to the article, the Guyana Human Rights Association had issued a statement criticising the police for the way they dealt with armed bandits and suggesting that the police were wantonly shooting unarmed and innocent people. A section of the Guyana Chronicle article states: "President Hoyte took the opportunity to congratulate the commissioner and his men on their recent successes in combating crime and apprehending dangerous criminals. He deemed the attack on the integrity of the Police Force as being not only irresponsible, but also dangerous.

The President added that from the letters he has been receiving and the conversations he has had with citizens, the Guyanese people were fully behind the force in their current anti-crime campaign."

Ramotar said that if Hoyte took this stand once more, it would be a positive move. The general secretary pointed out that the current situation in the country could hamper both foreign and domestic investment, as well as damage the country's image.

"An upsurge in crime is usually followed by a slowdown in economic activities [and] no one should want such a situation to prevail in Guyana."

He added that there should not be any equivocation by any individual or party. It is the PPP's view that if people are serious about putting Guyana first, they should help the law enforcement agencies end the prevailing campaign of terror.

Alluding to the recent spate of robberies and murders, Ramotar said there was a "strange brazenness. We see daylight and even early evening attacks by unmasked bandits who make their getaway, on foot, with much ease."

He feels, too, that the political environment created by the PNC/R leadership's decision to put the dialogue process on pause and that party's "extra-parliamentary situation. "We still believe that there was no justification for putting the dialogue on pause and the PNC/R walking out of parliament. Criminals thrive in an environment of unease, fear and tension," Ramotar stressed.

Since five men escaped from the Camp Street penitentiary on February 23, last, there has been an escalation in criminal activities throughout the country. To date, there have been more than 18 reported robberies, and during the past week, three persons, including a couple of Annandale, East Coast Demerara, have been shot dead. This period also saw the murders of two policemen and the shooting deaths of several civilians by both unknown gunmen and the police.

Police Commissioner (ag) Floyd McDonald, stated earlier this month that reports of armed robberies at the end of March, this year, amount to 220, one less than the corresponding period last year.