PNC/R calls for new Home Affairs Minister, police commissioner
Stabroek News
June 7, 2002

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The PNC/R is calling for a number of measures to be introduced to address the crime wave sweeping the country.

These include the appointment of a new Minister of Home Affairs and a new commissioner of police.

"The incompetence of the incumbent Minister of Home Affairs (Ronald Gajraj) has been totally and publicly exposed for all but the blind to see," PNC/R central executive member, Stanley Ming, said yesterday. "How much longer do Guyanese taxpayers have to suffer his continued presence as a cabinet minister?"

Speaking to reporters at a press conference at Congress Place, Ming reiterated the PNC/R's call for a commission of enquiry into the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to ascertain why it was failing to fulfil its mandate and to determine what measures were needed for it to do so.

He called for emphasis to be placed on intelligence gathering and improving the relationship between the GPF and all communities in Guyana. He suggested the formation of a disciplined and properly equipped unit possibly under the command of a Guyana Defence Force officer, seconded to the GPF, after the disbandment of the Target Special Squad (TSS).

The call was made for adequate resources to enable the new commissioner of police to restore the operational effectiveness of the GPF.

"Above all else, however, there must be a genuine commitment on the part of the PPP/C to good governance, a respect for the inalienable rights of our suffering citizens, and a willingness to undertake a sustained fight against the crimes not only of the poor and disadvantaged but against the rich drug lords, corrupt ministers and other Freedom House cronies who are barefacedly fleecing our national coffers," Ming stated.

Ming said it seemed that the PPP/C was unaware that there was a need for well-planned and structured approach to prevent the crime wave from overwhelming the nation.

The party said the people of Guyana were fed up with what they perceived as empty placatory promises by President Bharrat Jagdeo and others in government who made remarks such as: "suspects being lined up"; "no effort will be spared"; "security is being tightened"; and "the necessary resources are being provided to fight crime".

Ming recounted the recent incident where a police patrol was attacked by armed bandits resulting in the death of a constable and injuries to three others.

He recalled, too, the brazen armed assault on the Alberttown Police Station when another constable was killed.

This was rounded off by the daring daylight armed robbery on a Regent Street cambio last Saturday where an employee was killed and the owner seriously wounded. All of this happened in less than two weeks.

Over the last few months there has been an upsurge in violent crimes, some of them resulting in fatalities. "Is it the government or the criminals who are now fully in charge of Guyana?" Ming asked.

Ming blamed the state of affairs in the GPF on the policies implemented by the PPP/C. He said there had been a departure of experienced officers from the force after they became frustrated. He said there were few promotions and the conditions of service remained intolerable.

The GPF was starved of resources and was given just enough support to keep it going, but which was insufficient to provide the strength to effectively discharge the force's mandate, he said.

He charged that the misuse of the TSS ensured that the wider GPF became alienated from the very communities they should rely on and serve. Ming said that as the country approached mid-year 2002, the state of the nation has never been worse.

He said attempts to shift the blame to the PNC/R and to demonise the party's supporters as terrorists did not make for the healthy environment necessary to rescue the nation.

PNC/R's central executive committee member, Jerome Khan, told reporters the party had always condemned all forms of criminal activity including extra-judicial killings.

He noted that one of the concerns raised by the PPP/C was that the PNC/R did not swiftly condemn criminal activity. He pointed out that PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte visited the victims of Saturday's Regent Street robbery to offer his party's support and sympathy.

Speaking both as a businessman and politician, Khan said it was difficult for businesses to operate under the constant threat of being robbed. He supported Ming's statement that the persons who charged that elements of the PNC/R were linked to the criminal activity were just trying to shift the blame.

He declared that if President Jagdeo had the evidence that members of the PNC/R's leadership are involved then the President should name them and provide the evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the necessary action to be taken.

He noted the President had singled out Ronald Waddell, who was on the PNC/R's election slate in 2001, as being linked to the criminals. He pointed out that Waddell was still free and no attempts had been made to arrest him but the statements that he was linked to the criminals continued.

Khan criticised the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) for not coming out with any concrete proposals to combat the crime wave. He noted that the GCCI represented a large percentage of the commercial zone, which was being targeted by the bandits, and should show more initiative instead of "repeating Freedom House statements."

The party expressed its sympathy to the members of the force and the families and friends of the policemen and other citizens who were murdered in the crime wave.