Call for state of emergency Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 29, 2002

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WHATEVER the reservations of the government's opponents about the package of anti-crime legislation passed in the National Assembly last week, they would, nevertheless, be viewed by others as necessary legislative measures to enable more effective responses to the crime crisis and race-hate tactics afflicting this nation.

We have said before, and it bears repetition, that those who were elected by the people have a moral obligation to participate in the proceedings of Parliament. Also, seek to become actively involved in the consultation and dialogue processes, instead of behaving as if they belong to a parallel government.

What message is being signalled to the criminals murdering, robbing and terrorising people across this country, by a calculated decision to boycott Parliament, avoid dialogue at the highest level, and often rushing to blame the government and law enforcing agencies for actions designed to maintain law and order and combat criminality?

But there is another disturbing side to the current crisis of shocking crimes being unleashed by well-armed criminals, seemingly fortified by a network of collaborators that the security forces have, disturbingly, so far failed to crack - SEVEN months after five prisoners shot their way out of the Georgetown Prison.

That other side has to do with the surprising failure by the government to move beyond the strengthening of legislation to deal more effectively with convicted criminals by introducing a state of emergency and imposing limited curfews as considered appropriate.

Such a development should enable the police and army to be better placed in crime prevention, hunting down of criminals and taking possession of the unknown quantities of arms and ammunition, including AK rifles and submachine guns, and the explosives that are part of the armoury of the bandits at large.

In the absence of a curfew in some towns and villages, it is difficult to imagine how the security forces can effectively move, in any systematic manner, to rake in the guns and other dangerous weapons being used by the network of criminals.

Political Agenda

Some of these criminals and terrorists seem to be operating within the framework of a political agenda designed to foment racial strife and aided by a few elements in the electronic media whose political affiliations are no secret.

If the government is convinced of its confidence and capacity to mobilise the police and army in a concerted battle to combat the criminals - and there is no known reason to the contrary - then it must explain its reluctance to declare a state of national emergency and the selective enforcement of curfews.

The government should move in that direction, as quickly as possible, in consultation with the parliamentary opposition parties, if it so chooses. But it certainly does not have to await for multi-party agreement in order to do what seems urgent in the national interest. Lives and the national fabric are at stake.

People across the political divide, of varying ethnicity and political persuasion, are increasingly revealing their deep anxieties for some radical, innovative responses from the government to beat back the criminals and stop the slide into anarchy.

Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have had to resort to emergency measures to deal with emergency anti-crime situations. True, those CARICOM partners continue to face very serious problems in combating murder, criminal violence and gun-running.

This, however, should not be an excuse for inaction by Guyana. The pluses in emergency measures in both of those states, including the guns, explosives and criminal elements captured, should not be ignored.

In any case, it is hardly an argument against the introduction of a national state of emergency with selective curfews here in Guyana. If there is a better way, then it should speedily take shape.