The balance of violence Frankly Speaking...
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
February 6, 2004

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This brief piece you're beginning to read is the type of contribution that could very well lump me with those types of sensation-seeking, irresponsible writers who seem to abound in our society today.

I treat a very sensitive issue, I must concede, in the manner I observe in other "popular" tabloids. So why am I offering this now, knowing I could lose many readers' respect and understanding? Well, it's because I wish to share some rather "mildly extremist" views on a sensitive national matter. And yes, it is related to the Phantom Squad-violence-killer-gang syndrome.

However illogical, irrational or racially-extreme you find my conclusion just accept it has been a frank opinion held by me since the mystery killing surfaced. I'm being bold enough to publish a view many might share - but oh so secretly and silently. Often they constitute the silent non-demonstrative majority!

So first, the briefest of backgrounds to my strange, perhaps controversial view. It is obviously a well-reasoned, rational view that illegal Death Squads - whether in Brazil, of the Old American-Italian Mafia, Haiti's Ton-Ton Macoute Enforcers or the late Mr. Burnham's cultist goons - are never good for a society seeking to sustain law and order as part of democratic traditions.

Put simply, Death Squads, no matter how "professional" or patronised, tend to be partisan, uncontrollable, above the law when they don't need to be and soon become bounty-hunters for sale to alternative higher bidders. They are illegal anyway. These squads can undermine officialdom and stimulate rival killer outfits. Often, the authorised legal police forces have too much on their hands, as their work becomes compromised in deadly fashion.

In Guyana, I've been attracted to some of the arguments long preferred by the erudite ambitious analyst-politician Ravi Dev. He has traced the use of Killer Squads - he has even referred to Professor Ken Danns work - since the Forbes Burnham era - when there was no comparable organised jailbreak and selective murders as part of fund-raising banditry. Dev has even linked Guyana's sixties Death Squads to both leading political parties - the PNC and PPP - in the pre- and post-Independence periods. There is also the assertion that elements of "the Security Forces, more or less, became arms of the PNC. Did a soldier assassinateWalter Rodney?

I agree with Dev that, even if in an unspoken manner, Indian ethnic insecurities were based partly on a lack of confidence in the Police and Defence Forces. Of course, Dev's Roar organisation has its own formulae for cleansing and upgrading the ethnically- unbalanced forces.

That's not the point herein today. Just fast-forward to the post Republic Day 2002 Jailbreak. If you don't really believe that there were political and media connections to the murderous banditry which followed, that's your "democratic" right, I suppose.

Now, Opposition groupings, particular media operatives and certain local intellectuals would tell you that more African-descended persons died during the crime spree. Statistically correct. But check, objectively the backgrounds of the Afro-deceased and the circumstances of their deaths. Then recall the murder, mayhem and long-lasting trauma endured by law-abiding people. Remember the linkages discovered between the bandits, some media activists, elements of the police and business-people with tele-communications expertise. Finally admit the fear, dislocation and "insecurities" of one ethnic group.

Against whatever you find, here is my view and conclusion. However temporary, the alleged phantom gang activities offered a real threat and challenge to the career criminals and jailbreak offspring. The Phantom gang presented a balance of violence that other criminals and lawbreakers, their sponsors and political advisers didn't and don't like at all! Yes, I know how wrong, illegal, and threatening to lawful society death squads are. But my view remains firm: Certain criminals and politicians are upset with the work - I nearly wrote "success" - of this ghost gang. Especially, as the phantoms allegedly lean, at present, towards moneyed Indo-Guyanese interests! Agree with me or not. Just quietly - or openly - contemplate my frank views

Alternatives... Only on Wednesday, one writer using the name Raj Williams in Stabroek News wrote in part, "The evolution of the Phantom, subsequently labeled Death Squad, is a phenomenon derived out of a situation in which villages were invaded, homes and businesses plundered, men, women and children maimed or murdered, policemen and security officials assassinated, with little or no protection by the State and its security apparatus.

Added to the above atrocities are kidnappings committed against innocent civilians, which subsequently escalated to the kidnapping of a US security official.

Hence the 'Phantom' - 'Dogs of War' ready and willing to do the biddings of a weak and fearful nation. For the majority of Guyanese, the killing and elimination of criminals who had created fear and havoc in their lives is a welcome development, regardless of the fact that the killing of these criminals was done outside the law"

So what's the alternative? Obviously, the criminals must be eliminated - or punished - within the law. Next week, let's discuss Minister Gajraj's long-promised police SWAT team and all the crime-fighting strategies President Jagdeo proposed. And what is the position of those developed countries which promised relevant help? Hope all that is not being lost. Which government do the embassies wish to assist? Not the government of the day?


1) Last week I asked you to name one reform member who routinely "limes" with alleged ghost gang fellows. Now name any attorney (s) you know who used to drink with certain escapees.

2) Great joke from Sixty Minutes Andy Rooney: The democrats would love President Bush to succeed with his mars and moon probes. The democrats want the President on the moon!

3) Don't miss Stella, D'ivan and Canary - on the Guyana Cook-Up show this week-end

'Til next week!