Corbin seeks review of East Coast operations
Writes President, Top Cop
January 13, 2003
Acting Leader of the PNCR Robert Corbin has written President Bharrat Jagdeo saying that a volatile confrontation is looming in Buxton which could escalate into a national crisis and urging a review of the present army/police operation in the East Coast communities.
Corbin has also written separately to Acting Com-missioner of Police, Floyd McDonald seeking an urgent meeting with him to discuss the situation in Buxton.
In a letter to the President dated January 10 and released to the media on Saturday, Corbin said that in an effort to deal with crime the security forces had aggravated the situation and "succeeded in further alienating the law abiding majority in the Buxton community". Corbin was referring to an exercise conducted in the village on Wednesday following which residents said police threatened them, broke up stalls and used indecent language.
The PNCR leader noted that he had visited the village on Thursday and had determined that a violent confrontation was looming. He said that while the PNCR was anxious for the security forces to successfully tackle crime there could be no benefit derived from "provocative and irresponsible" actions by the police and army.
He urged the President in his capacity as Head of Government and Comman-der-in-Chief of the armed forces to "ensure that the work of the police and the army is done sensibly and with restraint and that there be an immediate review of the present operation in the East Coast communities".
The police and army launched an intensified campaign on Wednesday dubbed Operation Saline Solution 11 to rein in crime on the East Coast. On the first day of the operation, a policeman was shot to death in Buxton and on Friday, police and army units withdrew from the village at the start of an exercise when gunmen fired shots into the air.
In his letter to the President, Corbin noted that national confidence in the work of the security forces requires that "all blatant law breakers should be equally brought to justice".
Contacted yesterday, Press Liaison to the President, Robert Persaud told Stabroek News that Corbin's letter had been received and an "appropriate response" will be issued. He said that the government is fully committed to a national consensus on crime which it has been trying to achieve through the Social Partners' initiative and added that the government is also committed to working with the various groups in confronting the safety and security issues in Buxton.
In his letter, Corbin told McDonald that during his visit to Buxton on Thursday, he spoke with many responsible persons in the community. "They all testified that, on arrival in the village the previous day ... the police began firing indiscriminately in the air thus creating a serious situation of panic and fear", Corbin said. He added that shortly thereafter vendors were ordered away from their stalls in shocking language and then police began breaking down doors. Corbin said that after the police and army withdrew residents and stallholders discovered their premises ransacked, items destroyed and other damage to property.
"The reaction to the above exercise was one of anger and frustration by the residents. My assessment is that the security forces have done much to alienate the community and create a hostile and volatile environment which would require skilful and professional handling if things are to return to normal", he asserted.
At a press conference on Thursday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Henry Greene had been asked about complaints by villagers about the police's operations on Wednesday. He said "nobody has come to us to lodge any complaints. There is the Office of Professional Responsibility which can deal with any internal situation where our ranks are concerned where they commit indiscretions.
"I had checked personally and there is no report onto now, made at any police station , of any indiscretion during that exercise. We ask the persons concerned if they can come forward and make the reports".
The PNCR leader said that a national and coordinated strategy needs to be devised to deal with the crime and security situation and it was in this context that a meeting was being requested with McDonald.
Police officials could not be contacted yesterday for a response to the PNCR request for a meeting.
The parliamentary parties have been discussing a national anti-crime strategy with the Social Partners but this has bogged down.