Dirty war being waged against police
-human rights body
Stabroek News
July 17, 2002

Related Links: Articles on economic concerns
Letters Menu Archival Menu

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is contending that a dirty war is being waged against the police here, citing last Thursday's gunning down of Detective Corporal Adrian London as a factor that has reinforced that conviction.

It asserts too that the killing of the six policemen this year reinforces the view that violent criminality, political disruption and the shooting of policemen may be connected in some complex manner.

"It is too much to accept," the GHRA said, "that the shooting of six police officers in the past three months is a coincidence." In a press release yesterday the GHRA suggested that a major step forward in unravelling these connections would be for both major parties (PPP/C and PNC/R) to adopt the following measures:

* Distance themselves effectively and comprehensively from all forms of criminality. This includes politically protected drug dealers, (prison) escapees, political and racial agitators and corrupt police officers.

* Ensure neither they nor their supporters undermine the political impartiality of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

* Make certain that criticisms of the GPF are fair and balanced and free from racial or party political motives.

* Finally, in the interest of protecting both the members of the GPF and the institution itself, both party leaders must strive constructively to rehabilitate the image and the institution of the GPF.

The human rights body said it hopes that the initiative set in train by the Police Commissioner last week to begin dialogue with civil society will lead to institutional mechanisms being established which will serve to support efficient and professional standards in the GPF. The GHRA also expects that this move will ensure that the force remains insulated from political interference, and well-resourced and capable of addressing complaints in a prompt and efficient manner.

The release opined that whether or not the plan behind the murders of policemen is to undermine the morale and the functioning of the GPF to the point of collapse, such a consequence is clearly possible.

In these circumstances, the release continued, all those organisations critical of the GPF need to ensure their criticisms are not benefiting, directly or indirectly, those whose goal is to undermine the force as an institution.

Pointing out that the GHRA has been among the foremost critics of brutal policing since the early 1980s, the human rights body said it believes those criticisms, based on documented facts, have been justified.

However, the release noted, in recent years calls for reform of the GPF have been taken up by other agencies, some legitimately, and others that have a racial and political rather than a bona fide agenda.

"Moreover, both the current and past administrations have undermined respect for the GPF by political interference and both have protected rogue elements. Both must therefore accept some responsibility for the current crisis in the GPF," the GHRA charged.

According to the human rights body, the government's "dogmatic and obstinate defence of members of the Target Special Squad responsible for extra-judicial killings has contaminated the image of the entire Police Force. It has also driven a rift between the GPF and the general public."

"This perverse defence of the indefensible has come at a high cost for the GPF and besmirched the government's own human rights record," the GHRA stated.

The human rights body said further that failure by the government to act on extra-judicial killings has also played into the hands of elements bent on undermining the GPF for their own racial, criminal or political reasons.

And turning to the main opposition PNC/R, the GHRA charged that while the party has denounced the shooting of policemen, it "has not convincingly disassociated itself from violent agitators and criminal elements. "Effectively disowning criminality is not only a matter of rhetoric, it extends also to ensuring the intellectual, professional, organisational and moral resources are not available to encourage it," the GHRA declared.

It also noted that vilification of the GPF by distorted and exaggerated reporting in the opposition-influenced media feeds a frenzy which serves neither justice nor peace but encourages further isolation of the police.