A threat to the state
Stabroek News
November 24, 2002

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The silence of the authorities on the current direction of the crime wave is a source of puzzlement to the citizenry. The average law-abiding inhabitant of this land does not know the nitty-gritty of developments, but certain things are obvious to even the most incurious and unobservant eye. There have, it is true, been mutterings from officials at this or that press briefing about drug-gang wars or whatever, but there has been no statement which really gives some acknowledgement of the reality which is unfolding around us.

No one is in any doubt that what we are witnessing is connected to the narcotics trade. And while there can be few in this Co-operative Republic of ours who were not aware in some vague sense that drugs had penetrated the society to a level which was distinctly unsafe, could anyone have imagined eight months ago that we would be witnesses to shadowy groups with their private armies prosecuting their private wars in the heart of the city and on the lower East Coast? This is the stuff that gangster movies are made of; it does not belong in sleepy old GT.

But the reality of life here that we all thought we knew, turns out to be unreal after all. The true reality is that we have a kind of criminal state within a state. There are powerful people out there who command financial resources which are definitely not kosher, but are of an order which would make the Minister of Finance reel. There are powerful people out there who are pouring illegal money into the legitimate economy. There are powerful people out there who can hire professional hit men to eliminate their competitors. There are powerful people out there who have easy access to heavy-calibre weaponry. There are powerful people out there who have the means to corrupt officials, and undoubtedly have corrupted officials. There are powerful people out there who have access to information which is not, it seems, available to the authorities.

And what has the state been doing while these drug network battles have been going on? For the most part, standing by watching the drama unfold in the same way as everyone else - although a question mark still hangs over the events of October 28 and whether there was any level of collaboration between elements in the police force and the gunmen. However, even if that turned out to be the case - and if so its implications would be sinister - it does not invalidate the general point that the authorities are impotent in the current circumstances. It is as if the official state has become like the helpless human host in the film Alien, and the drug monster, having grown to term, is now tearing through the abdomen of the body politic.

It appears as if we are being integrated more completely into the regional drug networks than ever before. Paradoxically, the state may unwittingly even be bent on facilitating the process, by rushing ahead with the Brazil road and deep-water harbour project. The road will certainly make it easier for narcotics to enter this country, but the real problem will come with the harbour. A large container facility serving Brazil will provide just the poorly monitored exit point to North America which the drug overlords in Colombia (and possibly elsewhere) would drool over.

Our borders are not just porous, but open, and our interior is lawless. As stated above, the authorities have shown no capacity to address the multitude of problems arising from our new status on the narcotics map, and since the drugs warlords are in the process of dispensing with our frontiers and integrating our hinterland with the coast in a way that no government has ever succeeded in doing, it is time that the administration address its attention to the lack of an interior and borders policy, to the dangers of its piecemeal decision-making in relation to the hinterland, and to the misdirection of the army's resources to internal rather than external security.

Make no mistake, the crime beast which is now revealing itself is threatening the framework of the state. All of which is not to say that we don't have a political problem which is undermining the framework of the state as well, and that in areas like Buxton there may be a measure of convergence between politics and crime. However, if the politicians had the will (which to date they have not demonstrated) a diminution in the political frictions which impinge on all our lives would be possible.

If only our politicians - all of them - would cease their hollow rhetoric and focus their minds on the insidious threat of drugs, which not only have ruined the lives of so many individual Guyanese, but which also represent a threat to the nation's security, economy and bureaucracy.

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