Improve security on East Coast by direct alliance between police and communities
- GHRA urges
Stabroek News
March 24, 2004

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The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is urging the development of an alliance between the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and East Coast communities as the most realistic strategy to improve public security in that corridor of the country.

The human rights body is also calling for the police stations on the East Coast to be made more user-friendly as a first step towards putting the community and the police in partnership in determining the best forms of public security.

And a second step, GHRA said in a press release yesterday, would be to encourage the creation of joint-committees to develop the police and community partnership.

A third measure would be to identify practical projects for immediate improvement such as strategic street lighting, and a cell-phone network of reliable police officers and community leaders.

The human rights body noted that trust produces confidence and confidence produces information which is a crucial tool in crime-fighting, but said it was glaringly absent in the last round of East Coast disturbances and as a result the GPF was neutralised.

The association also said policing with the community falls within the competence of the Commissioner of Police and does not require the involvement of the Minister of Home Affairs or other party functionaries.

According to the GHRA, ineffective political leadership on all sides at least allows the possibility of new forms of leadership to emerge. In this case, the GPF could seize the opportunity of re-asserting its operational independence from the politicians and rehabilitating its relations with the East Coast communities.

One of the recurring recommendations for the reform of the GPF has been the concept of community policing, the GHRA noted, and that is best expressed as 'policing with the community', rather than the obsolete notion of civilians doing voluntary police work.

The release said the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police had advocated this modernised model of policing and the CARICOM Regional Task Force on Crime and Security had endorsed its recommendations some time ago.

Meanwhile, in light of recent cases of violent crimes on the East Coast, the GHRA said while it is too early to conclude that these criminal attacks mark a resurgence of systematic violence, the "terrorising of the Singh family of Lusignan last Friday went much beyond anything which can be regarded as normal criminality."

"The racial dimension of the incident should not be belittled," the human rights body declared. In this incident, the family was terrorised and humiliated for close to two hours by a large gang of men.

The GHRA also charged that the "continued inability of the Guyana Police Force to act effectively on the East Coast to defend Indo-Guyanese communities rests squarely on the government ..." The GHRA then gave the following three reasons.

Firstly, government has not discussed much less acted upon any of the several recommendations for police reforms coming out of the high-profile Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) that investigated all aspects of policing in Guyana. Unfortunately, however, the opposition parties have let the government off the hook by not mobilising around the DFC recommendations either inside or outside of Parliament, the GHRA lamented.

Secondly, government's apparent determination to defend the Minister of Home Affairs at all costs from allegations of providing gun licences to contract killers has removed any credibility for decisive action on the East Coast. According to the GHRA, Afro-Guyanese and the urban community will view any such action as provocative.

The association argued also that the government's authority has been further undermined by diplomatic action to restrict the movement of ministers, and by persistent allegations that drug barons have infiltrated official agencies, including law enforcement.

And thirdly, the government has made no attempt so far to take advantage of the appointment of a new Commissioner of Police with a new team at the top of the GPF.