Helping hands to combat kidnappers
Guyana Chronicle
April 20, 2003

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THE published photos of poor residents along East Coast Demerara being forced by criminals to disrupt their lives by having to move from one village to another, must serve to underscore, once again, the urgent necessity for the authorities to get under effective control the crime wave plaguing this nation.

Should the security forces fail to effectively respond to the challenges being posed to their capabilities, they may very well endanger more than their own institutional integrity. They would be jeopardising the future of present and future generations.

It was encouraging to learn, as disclosed by Dr. Roger Luncheon last week, that members of the Guyana Police Force are likely to benefit from the expertise of the FBI team now in the country to probe the daring abduction by gunmen of the US Embassy official, Stephen Lesniak.

Further, that help may also be on the way from neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago to deal with the kidnappers.

Guyana can surely do with all the anti-crime help available, whatever the source, at this very troubling, agonising period.

Right now, the criminal network appears to be openly mocking the security forces to make a reality the so-called "safe corridor" between the East Coast villages being rocked by the armed bandits.

The criminals operating out of Buxton village, in particular, seem to enjoy a strange immunity from arrest by the security forces who too often arrive after the crime, whether robbery or murder. Or, they simply fail to engage in hot pursuit.

Indeed, compared to the alacrity with which the security forces, police and army, responded, helicopter and all, to the kidnapping of the US diplomatic official - and we are happy that no harm came to him - the failure to do likewise in relation to kidnapped Guyanese nationals is most bewildering.

There is another point that needs to be made at this time when the government is about to initiate debate in the National Assembly on the Kidnapping Bill 2002 that was originally tabled on December 5 last year.

Both the government and the parliamentary opposition should follow closely the current debate in Trinidad and Tobago about its own proposed kidnapping legislation, to ensure that it is relevant and effective in attaining the outlined objectives.

It would seem that there has been heavy borrowing by the Trinidadian authorities from Singapore in the drafting of their Kidnapping Bill, with one Senator, who is also a respected law lecturer of the UWI, pointing to flaws that almost suggest the need for substantial revision.

Guyana has the opportunity, therefore, indeed the moral obligation, to make a critical review of its own proposed legislation. For one thing, the need to widen the categories of kidnappings, beyond that for ransom, and to ensure that realistic punishment is provided for collaborators with kidnappers as well as those making ransom payments without any involvement of the security forces.

In relation to the expected assistance from the USA in dealing with kidnapping offences, it is to be hoped that the government will also speedily move to secure help from the United Kingdom and Canada. Their resident diplomatic envoys would be aware of the gravity of such assistance.

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