Parties agreed on replacing Target Special Squad
But crime communiqué still elusive

Stabroek News
December 14, 2002

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Despite agreeing to replace the controversial police Target Special Squad and inquire into the functions of the force, political parties are yet to conclude the communiqué on crime and the Social Partners yesterday called for an urgent agreement.

Lack of consensus on the measures to be monitored by the proposed Security Advisory Committee is hampering the finalisation of the Joint Communiqué on Crime. The Social Partners initiated the discussion on the communiqué as part of its “Shared Governance” initiative and in a press release yesterday they are asking the parties to urgently continue their search for ways of resolving their differences on these issues.

Crime is one of the issues listed for priority treatment in the Social Partners’ paper on Shared Governance discussed at the September 11 Joint Consultation.

Representatives of the parliamentary parties as well President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte in their constitutional capacities will sign the joint communiqué.

In November and earlier this month, the parties met with the Social Partners for discussions on the communiqué and the measures being proposed for implementation at the Supreme Court Library but were unable to reach consensus on the proposals which were recommended by retired Major Generals Joe Singh and Norman McLean, former Chiefs of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and retired Commissioner of Police, Laurie Lewis.

In the release they issued yesterday, the Social Partners say that among the unresolved issues are measures to provide for safe movement on highways and roads without endangering the life and property of citizens; the strengthening of the Joint Security forces to deal with organized crime, the drug trade, and kidnappings; police excesses and redress for innocent citizens affected by these excesses.

The Social Partners say, “Several of these latter concerns fell outside of the envisaged monitoring by the Social Partners’ panel of experts. It was foreseen that this panel would provide an independent review of the progress of implementation of any agreed Joint Communiqué on Crime within thirty days following signature”.

In the release yesterday the Social Partners also listed some of the confidence building measures on which the parties agreed. These are, without prejudice to any ongoing reform process, the expeditious implementation of a public inquiry into the functions of the Guyana Police Force to ensure it fulfils its mandate as specified in Article 197A (4) of the Constitution as amended by Act No. 7 of 2001, and the undertaking of all constitutional, administrative and other procedures for the appointment of the designated Commissioner of Police and the confirmation of outstanding promotions of officers of the Police Force.

The parties also agreed to the continuation of efforts to address conditions of service of the Police Force; the replacement of the Target Special Squad by the urgent establishment of a fully trained, equipped and operational special Emergency Response Unit led by professional officers with clear operational guidelines, the holding of discussions between representatives of the Government, the Opposition and the Social Partners for the purpose of discussing reservations to certain aspects of The Prevention of Crimes (Amendment) Act; The Criminal Law (Offences) (Amendment) Act; as well as The Racial Hostility (Amendment) Act, with a view to considering what, if any, amendments may be introduced in Parliament to address those reservations.

They also agreed to a review and strengthening of the operational arrangements regarding the functioning of Community Policing Groups to ensure effective networking with the Police Divisions and private security firms with clear operational guidelines.

The agreement on the replacement of the Target Special Squad - better known as the black clothes police - and an inquiry into the functions of the force are being seen as concessions by the government as it had hitherto refused to budge on these issues.

These measures, among others, had been urged by the PNCR and other groups in society in the wake of perceived extra-judicial killings by members of the police force.

While the parties are looking for ways to resolve their differences, the Social Partners say they are “searching for a mutually convenient date to continue the Joint Consultation process within the framework of Article 13 of the amended Constitution of Guyana”.

The last consultation was on September 11, at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.

The Social Partners say that they “believe strongly that the Joint Consultation process on Shared Governance should move forward as soon as possible without any pre-conditions and (they) remain fully committed to provide whatever support and assistance is required to maintain the momentum of the Joint Consultation process”.

On November 8, the Social Partners circulated a background paper, which expanded their proposal for “a structured, ongoing and permanent consultative mechanism” and to provide more details on the broad outlines contained in the paper on “Shared Governance.”

The paper requested that the parties consider presenting their general positions on the concept of shared governance in the context of the Social Partners formulation so as to “establish practical and realistic parameters for a framework for this consultative effort”. The PNC/R has responded with a paper on its position on shared governance that includes power sharing at the cabinet level while the PPP/C has responded with comments on the content of the social partners’ background paper.

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