Police Force needs political, other support to fight crime - President

Guyana Chronicle
May 11, 2003

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Georgetown, GINA, May 10, 2003 “THE Guyana Police Force needs the political support and space to operate. No one should treat these criminals as freedom fighters, because initially we had that. About a year ago some of the most notorious criminals were portrayed as freedom fighters.”

These sentiments were expressed by President Bharrat Jagdeo during a special interview held at State House last Friday with Dwayne Fowler from GTV-11.

President Jagdeo said some people and even villages were guarding and protecting criminals.

“The public pronouncement of the Opposition political party, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) will take away the veil that they used to cover themselves. The veil of being freedom fighters for some cause and expose them for what they really are, that is, simple criminals regardless of their race and religion. So it gives much more room for the Police to operate and I think it sets a tone,” the President said.

He added that everyone should condemn crime, not only the political parties.

Guyana has experienced an upsurge in crime since February 2002 following a jailbreak at the Camp Street Prison. Five notorious criminals escaped after killing a Prison Officer and wounding others. Two members of the gang are still at large. The other three were killed in separate incidents.

Government invested $100 million in crime fighting in Guyana since February 2002 to upgrade weaponry, intelligence and more vehicles. A large quantity of protective gear was also purchased.

More than 20 police officers were killed during the crime upsurge in Guyana, while several persons were kidnapped and robbed.

“While crime has to be fought by the Police and the Army, they need support from other communities and other people. When we issued the two statements on crime in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting last year, we recognised these issues and we agreed that we should try to develop a national anti-crime action plan, which we have been working on. We have developed something like that through wide consultations then we have national commissions which involve every interest group,” President Jagdeo said.

He added that the issue has to be tackled in a profound way from all sides. Church leaders and religious people are required to work with young people to steer them away from crime, he said and pointed out that every group in society has a role to play.

The Head of State said: “I am very concerned about making a link between condemning crime and talking about performance of sections of the Police Force. I think we all have to condemn crime wherever it occurs under whatever circumstances. Crime harms innocent people, so we should not link it to an inquiry into the Police Force.”

It was noted that a report that was done by an official from the United Kingdom was tabled in Parliament recently. The President said the official did a review of the Police Force and the recommendations were comprehensive.

“There was a lot of public outcry by the Opposition about the Target Special Squad. We said the Target Squad will be disbanded when we have, with UK help, a larger group that is trained, a SWAT team that is functional because we still need a unit like that. In every country (there are) units like those, so we said there will be a larger team trained and when they are operational then the Target Squad will be disbanded,” said President Jagdeo.

He pointed out that steps are being taken to address the problems but Government did not want to make it a political issue.

“This country has to recognise the difficulties that policemen face when they go out every night and put their lives on the line. So in the middle of fighting crime, you do not want to demoralise the whole Police Force for the transgression of maybe a few people,” said President Jagdeo.

The Head of State added that Government is prepared to deal with the transgression of a few people but not to demoralise the whole Police Force.

He added, “I do not want to put Policemen on trial because they are the good guys; they are not the bad ones.”

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