Justifying banditry and murder? Frankly Speaking...
By A.A Fenty
Stabroek News
June 14, 2002

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I don't want to believe - or accept - that it's happening. That the unthinkable is actually being justified, not only by the most impressionable, easily-led, but by those who know better, realise the consequences but perhaps, need to excuse or rationalise, sometimes to "intellectualise", the worst behaviour current in this beleagured society.

What am I going on about? One of the faculties of my University of the Street offered me a discussion last Saturday, with two fairly well-known journalists. Reluctantly, I engaged the fellows and a businessman about the crime situation now extant. I had my firm views to offer as did they. I essayed to describe what I think are the post-1992 achievements of the PPP/Civic governments, as against what they really found in October 1992, and against all the odds and obstacles placed before them, expertly, in 98,99 and 2001. I was shouted down good-naturedly and could have handled that - "knowingly".

But then one element of the discussion was to concern and disturb me. And it still does. You see, my all-wise under-45 friend expounded views to the effect that: (1) both outsiders and politically savvy Guyanese "should have seen the present state of affairs coming". What state of affairs and why? Well, he explained or implied, the situation warned about by the volatile opposition over a period of time as they complained of both the real and perceived Government practices of discrimination and marginalisation of their supporters; the consequences of alleged malpractices of particular Ministers, to the exclusion of real opportunities for the opposition segment of the populace. It was imputed that today's Buxtonians and other striker/protesters represented the "people's" reaction to oppression. The authorities were supposed to take heed.

Also, that (2) sustained "incompetence" at governance and/or the inability to build on the goodwill granted during the early Cheddi Jagan 1992-1993 tenure has compromised "the people's" willingness to work with this regime. Now, it was soon evident that "the people" being referred to were "black people", more specifically Afro Guyanese supporters of the major opposition party and unattached, unemployed African-descended youth looking for a niche and a stake. But my alarm was triggered by my friend's insistence that - and acceptance of - the politicisation of crime (for destabilisation) was inevitable and predictable.

As I have pointed out at the beginning, my great worry is that this typical still-young "black professional" is now comfortable with what he has seen to be "inevitable" - the PPP and government's mishandling of governance and the alleged consequence of justifiable criminal upsurge, even as it is obviously patronised by opposition elements. Well I still shudder at that concept and acceptance. This is justifying anarchy, crime, murder and mayhem in the name of "political struggle" and "freedom fighting". This is no Jamaica or Colombia. We battered Guyanese do not need "to come of age" as one group attempts to seize power because the ballots will be beyond them for some time to come.

Consorting with criminals, using their loot from murdered victims to influence your own under-privileged and to organise and mobilise your faithful (and misguided), would hardly redound to your benefit in the long-term. Your haste to capture and "re-walk" the corridors of power - then to keep it for a sustained period still will not uplift "your own". The culture and syndrome of criminal-based power-grabbing will instead produce a force you will have to be constantly afraid of.

Chillingly - for me - my friend advised that "the escapees have a story to tell" - like `Blackie' London had. So are they to be heroes? Why must I - or who must - believe their versions, I asked. Let the police investigate to verify, was the retort, after I had submitted that even Gregory Smith - accused of assassinating Walter Rodney - could return and concoct whatever he wants. It is even being inferred that because these bandits, allegedly, have exposes to make, their crime spree and its murderous sometimes racially-selective agenda, are acceptable. (It had to happen!) (The "Black Clothes" created them...)

Stimulating through the mini debate could be, I am disturbed at this trend: perceptibly, the more intelligent, as well as the more devious, who could both be extremely and cleverly credible, are justifying criminality as part of their campaign to disturb or replace the elected.

The innocent, the evil, the impressionable, the ambitious are all too eager to believe and accept crime as either a norm or the way out. When "leaders" meet, greet and plan with criminal, fugitive murderers, anyone should find that scary and reprehensible. Remember my gospel - if nothing else at all, opposition: the monsters you create, turn upon you. Sometime. Spare Guyana. Pressure the government in old-fashioned, acceptable ways.

Judging our peers

On a completely different, hopefully "lighter" issue, let me share with you what I discovered recently about juries and jury selection in our land.

Since our brand of justice demands that, for most matters of litigation, the accused in criminal trials must be judged by a jury of his or her "peers" - presumably those of the same status, nationality, class and circumstance (??) as the accused - there should be a reservoir or pool of these so-called "peers" to choose from.

These peers, I have learnt, are chosen from society's workplaces. But based on old antiquated conditions like these.

The employer or Village Chairman must - under the provisions of the Criminal Law (Procedure) Ordinance, Chapter 11 - supply the names of all persons under their supervision, meaning actually in their employ, to the Registrar. Among the criteria determining whether one Guyanese can be a juror to help judges to consider guilt or innocence are the person's ownership of "property, age, health, record, nationality or domicile". Naturally, one must be able "to read, write and speak English" to serve as Jurors or Special Jurors.

Strictly speaking, the basic qualifications to become a juror, by compulsion of law, are that the prospective juror be between the ages of 21 and 60 and have the ability to speak English. (I know many jurors who can be disqualified in the latter regard.) Oh, and any person who could vote, under the old B.G. (Constitution) Order-in-Council of 1928 and who is in receipt of $720.00 annual salary could make it to the jurors' enclosure.

I won't go into what disqualifies a citizen from judging the (un) lawful behaviour of his or her peers, but I can reveal that if the employer fails to submit his/her list of jurors, that employer could, "on summary conviction" be made to pay a fine "not exceeding one hundred dollars!"

Oh well, as if there are not concerns about the offices of the courts and the entire judiciary; should we explore now the composition, the "quality" of our respected juries?


1. As has been going around since the jailbreak (especially), my friend "revealed" to me the alleged relationship between the so- called black clothes and the escapees! (I'm too prudent to test my editor here.)

2. I understand why there shouldn't be any other way, but I witness how the strict preservation and practice of all of our "human rights" chip away at the very democracy that makes them possible.

3. As I write this - very, very earlier in this week, I have won a wager on heavyweight Lennox Lewis, but have not seen the fight as yet. However, Mr. Steward and Mr. Foreman, don't you all speak of Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali in the same breath!!

'Til next week!