FIGHTING CRIME - A T0P PRIORITY
December 28, 2003
IT WOULD be very encouraging indeed if the good news that came before Christmas of Guyana's success in securing additional debt relief of approximately US$334 million over 20 years, could be followed by some significant successes in the New Year in the battle against crime.
Welcome as official assurances are from the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police high command about what's being done to curb the incidence of murder, armed robberies and criminal violence, what really matters is the success achieved in capturing the criminals, bringing them to justice and recovering the stolen millions in money, jewellery and other articles.
There is no comfort in comparing the very bad situations in CARICOM states like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica with what prevails in Guyana.
The reality is that while the killings and robberies in 2003 were not of the scale of the criminal rampage in 2004 - with unprecedented rates of murder, armed robberies, kidnappings and hijackings of vehicles - it was, for the many families and relatives of the victims, one ugly, horrible year.
Some of the criminal acts would have been drugs and gang-related. But not the vicious armed attacks on homes and small business places, resulting in deaths, injuries and robberies. Whatever the nature of the crime, Guyanese people, across ethnic and political boundaries, are just fed up, and want an end.
It is evident that there are too many illegal guns out there in the possession of criminal elements who use them to rob and terrorise people in villages and communities that continue to live in fear amid the assurances that come from the security forces.
We have said before that the strategy being pursued to fight crime should now include a component for limited curfews to facilitate systematic and comprehensive searches for illegal weapons and ammunition.
The opposition parties, and the PNC/R in particular, should appreciate their own moral responsibility to cooperate – meaningfully - with the government and security forces in a new, intensified anti-crime offensive to restore that level of confidence required for normal life in our towns, villages and communities and, of course, the capital city itself.
The people of this country must not be left to experience another year like 2002 or 2003 when the criminals seized the offensive.
Making the fight against crime a top priority in 2004 is, of course, a challenge for more than the security forces. The political parties, with their respective network of groups across the land, and civil society organisations, should be active partners in the process, with community policing structured and supervised to function more effectively.
Therefore, the resolution for all concerned must be a bold new, broad-based initiative to beat back the criminals. Not more of the same in 2004.