Country needs action not talk festival Editorial
Stabroek News
August 26, 2002

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When it comes to crime even the obvious has to be spoken of at length just so that citizens can be sure that the government is hearing them. The brutal assassination on Saturday morning of Vibert Inniss, the deputy head of CANU is another watershed in the horrific annals of crime since February 23. Have the government and police been so immobilised by the criminals' battering ram that they fail to see that the riposte to those who have blazed a trail of violence, humiliation and murder must be sharpened dramatically?

Here are a few sobering truths. Just after February 23, the police had been on the trail of five armed and extremely dangerous escapees. Six months later, not one has been recaptured. Why do we get the feeling that very soon some senior police officer will say, as in the case of Monica Reece's killer/s, that no matter how long it takes the criminal/s will be captured? That would be no comfort at all.

The police failed miserably in tracking the gang of escapees. Those who took flight from Camp Street ran the police round and round in circles while apparently committing crimes with impunity. If that weren't bad enough, the evidence is clear now that the police are up against a multitude of gangs on both sides of the Demerara river, up and down the Atlantic coast and across the Berbice River. It is unlikely that it will end there. The numerous robberies, attacks and several murders committed over the last few days reveal clearly that there are multiple cells of well-armed, vicious gangsters who will stop at nothing in their nefarious schemes. What will our police force and the nominally involved army do?

Moreover, the onslaught by bandits on guards and the seizure of their handguns have led to the wanton arming of the criminal minded. In their strongholds along the East Coast and elsewhere, the bandits have been distributing handguns to all and sundry who will join their blood-money cause. Teenagers have now taken to sticking up hapless women vendors and filching their hard-earned money. Bicycle bandits with guns have relentlessly terrorised certain East Coast Demerara villages. Will the police ever be on the spot when these outrages occur? Dozens of handguns may now be in the hands of ruthless mercenaries just waiting to strike. If this continues very soon the Guyana Police Force will have absolutely no hope of regaining control over lawless areas in Buxton and elsewhere.

The bad news doesn't end here. Where there is a comprehensive breakdown of law and order as we have here in this land now, every petty thief, every criminal who sees an opportunity and every person with a long-standing vendetta to carry out will strike with a vengeance now that the opportunity exists. Therefore, the woes of the police are multiplying and gang wars, political crimes, the rampage of the escapees and depredations of the petty criminals will have a huge snowball effect further undermining the state of (in)security.

Amid all of this mayhem, the government convened a national consultation to which it invited several groups and political parties for what no doubt was a talk festival. Is the government serious? It doesn't appear so. When the Home Affairs Minister briefed the media on Friday on the results of the consultation the most he could say was that the police would implement the recommendations made, protect the identity of persons providing information to the police and improve their attitude to persons who they detain. In ordinary circumstances these would be commendable improvements. The trouble is we are not in ordinary circumstances. People are being gunned down left, right and centre and a virtual plague of banditry and shootings has descended on the citizens of the country. Sad to say, the police have become after-the-attack notetakers. They have failed to take on the criminals. This is what the Home Affairs Minister should be addressing the media on.

The national consultation on crime launched last Thursday threatens to be as farcical as the national dialogue the PNC engineered out of the WPA's well-meaning appeal many years ago.

The country doesn't need open-ended, nebulous, formless discourses on crime. We know what the problem is. The country has been overrun by dozens of bandits, escapees and criminals of every description sporting a frightening array of deadly weapons and wreaking mayhem and murder at will. Will the government provide the solution?

As Mr Hoyte said, the national consultation in its present form will prove useless. What is needed is a caucus of the top players in the country. The President should convene a meeting with the leaders of all political parties, the heads of the disciplined services, the private sector and other groups in society which can play a part. The options for ratcheting up the fight against the bandits - state of emergency, full of involvement of the army, external help etc - should then be laid out and there should be general agreement at which time this would be made known publicly. Devising a plan within this framework and operationalising it would then be left to the Disciplined Services. This is what is needed now.

Following a brief lull, the last few days have seen the criminals striking with even greater vengeance. This is no sensationalising, Mr President. This is the reality.