Crime and politics

Guyana Chronicle
January 19, 2003

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IF THERE is one issue of urgent regional importance that must be treated as a top priority at next month's Inter-Sessional Meeting of Caribbean Community Heads of Government in Port-of-Spain, it is the scourge of crime. The politicians must be seen to have the upper hand in confronting the criminals.

Armed with their sophisticated weapons and communications technology, the criminals are creating havoc in too many CARICOM states for the Community leaders to think they can treat the crime problem with less priority, than, for instance, arrangements to operationalise the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and its related institution, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

From the various meetings of the Community's Commissioners of Police, Attorneys General and Ministers for Home Affairs/National Security, and the Regional Task Force on Crime, there should be sufficient information around to move the Heads of Government to a concerted action plan to combat crime in the region in a manner never before witnessed.

Cross-border crime is now very much linked with narco-trafficking and gun-running and spawning its own breed of mercenaries or hired guns in some jurisdictions, including this country.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, went on record at last year's CARICOM Summit in Guyana with his advocacy of the creation of a Caribbean Rapid Response Anti-Crime Force, or some such mechanism to counter the rising level of criminality with signs of urban guerilla warfare to destabilise Caribbean societies.

When they gather in Port-of-Spain for their February 14-15 meeting, the CARICOM leaders would be expected to come up with some reassuring statement to the region's public about what precise action they plan to pursue, on a collective basis, to combat the frightening levels of crime with its manifestations of killings, kidnappings and armed robberies in some countries, including Guyana.

Tough measures required

Here in Guyana, where criminals have found a comfortable sanctuary in the village of Buxton and are now engaged in criminal activities that could ignite communal conflicts with all their horrendous consequences, there have been repeated calls for a state of emergency and imposition of limited curfews to help the security forces in the search for illegal guns and other weapons and to apprehend wanted criminals.

Both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have been compelled to introduce some tough new measures and mobilise their police and army in joint anti-crime operations.

Guyana has had less involvement in joint police/army patrols and the government is yet to attempt the Jamaica example of restricted curfews in certain areas to better enhance the operations of the security forces.

Last Friday's attack by armed gangs from Buxton on residents of nearby Annandale seem to be the latest example of why the security forces need to be engaged in round-the-clock operations in a state of emergency climate to go after these brazen gun-toting bandits.

There comes a time when official statements and assurances do not match action on the ground; and while we remain fully supportive of the work of the police and army, the current crime situation cries out for new and radical measures and national cooperation.

We have noted that, finally, the PNC/R has met with the acting Police Commissioner and also seems anxious for the appointment of the new Police Commissioner. This is quite in contrast to the constant attacks on the police. Perhaps, in the new mood of things, there could now be fresh efforts for all parties to sign the joint anti-crime communique offered by the social partners group and which the PNC/R had avoided signing after two months of talks.

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