The Security Factor
January 16, 2004
PERHAPS not unexpectedly at an end of year review of the law enforcement sector, a leading spokesman of the political directorate expressed optimism as to the future in Guyana of "improved Police-Community relations."
The events of and since the Monday January 5, 2004 Lodge slaying of cattle farmer, Shafeek Bacchus, by themselves tend to confirm to a pattern some would describe as familiar.
Reacting to the official Guyana Police Force (GPF) stance on this very crucial matter, Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj has categorically refuted any involvement with any irregular, clandestine or phantom squad.
Guyanese should recall that at the height of the Joint Disciplinary Forces campaign against the murderous/terrorist/racist atrocities that ensued after the Mash Day 2002 Jailbreak (and even prior to that event), the Minister took the public step of declaring at numerous press conferences "that anyone can come to see or talk to me... my officers also are open to all citizens irrespective of who they are" (June 6, 2003).
Whether or not this negation of exclusivity carried with it unforeseen risks could be an interesting legal and debatable point in the context of what is currently playing itself out in Brickdam, Georgetown, outside the Home Affairs Ministry.
The facts cannot be denied. Mr. George Bacchus claims he survived an execution attempt by persons including individuals he "has known for years." The man killed, he said, was the wrong person.
Secondly, at a time when the United States Department of State would be in the decisive process of completing its Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Guyana for 2003, and probably acting both in some fear and on legal advice, George Bacchus has chosen to directly involve U.S. Embassy Staff Officers (if not at some later stage Ambassador Bullen as well) in a matter that involves leading Guyana government officials.
Guyana, despite what some opponents of the Administration would prefer, remains a sovereign state. The GPF as well as the Community Policing Executive (CPE), the supreme body of the Community Policing Groups, has clearly spelt out roles and functions for law enforcement at the national level.
The Guyanese media do not have to wrestle with policy over the Judiciary. However, there are sections of the local media that either refuse or are unwilling to understand the realities and the asymmetry of operational networks and of investigative procedures based on legal codes. This is not surprising.
While no one should underestimate the strategic significance of joint anti-crime collaboration with U.S. Government 'agencies' in the fight against organized corruption, narcotic trafficking and related homicides, the bottom line is that the Guyana Government must assume its constitutional responsibilities.
Gauging and addressing the responsibility of the media in this situation are both a cultural challenge and a political issue.
With all the problems small developing states such as Guyana have to address, the circumstances, the environment for some kind of indigenous "Homeland Security" do not exist here.
Effective crime fighting must involve the Private Sector. In fact, the more qualitative inputs since the end of 1991 that have materialized in terms of the GPF have been from the business people. But it is precisely here that the present situation must be scrutinized. Businessmen must make money to survive. Law enforcement on the other hand achieves much of its worth from protecting money; especially the assets that belong to the people.
Shouting and calling for Minister Gajraj to resign will solve nothing whatsoever. The Government should in the interests of justice and law and order invoke the consultative process. All ranks, both uniformed and geared civilian, should be provided with that degree of confidence that is so essential to the society's survival and cohesion.