Crime and criminality Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
April 26, 2004

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THE celebration of the 40th birth anniversary and tenth year of marriage of retired prison officer Roxanne Whinfield will no doubt fuel the on-going debate on crime and criminality. This, particularly after yesterday's thanksgiving service at Police Officers' Sports Club conjured up grim memories of the shooting of Mrs. Whinfield in her head by one of the five inmates who escaped from the Camp Street Prison on February 23, 2002.

Mrs. Whinfield had to be flown to Trinidad and Tobago for emergency surgery and speech therapy and today, two years and two months later, she is still recovering.

Agonizing as the memory of Mrs. Whinfield's story is, another prison officer, Troy Williams, isn't around to share his story of the saga. The 21-year-old Williams was stabbed to death by one or more of the so-called Jailbreak Five - Dale Moore, Shawn Brown, Mark Fraser, Andrew Douglas and Troy Dick - whom, ironically, Black interest representatives afterwards began referring to as "freedom fighters!"

By the time all but one of the "freedom fighters" and their recruits had either surrendered or been killed, more than two dozen policemen had been murdered and scores of civilians killed, maimed, robbed, raped, kidnapped and/or torched. Guyana appeared to be teetering on the brink of societal upheaval and the international community had named Guyana as a crime-invested nation that foreigners were warned not to come to.

It took an extended 'cordon-and-search' operation in Buxton by a combined force of police and army ranks to bust the criminal network that had holed out in the East Coast Demerara community for more than a year-and-a-half after the jailbreak and finally give Guyanese a welcome respite from the wave of violent crime.

The debate currently raging involves the alleged killing of many of the criminals by a phantom force and the PNC/R calling the force a "death squad" that it claims was sanctioned by the State and directly linked to Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj.

Minister Gajraj vehemently refuted the PNC/R claims in a speech in Parliament during the 2004 budget debate, which the PNC/R boycotted, and George Bacchus, the man who originally made the phantom squad allegation after his brother, Shafeek, was gunned down on January 5, has refused to follow up his allegations with a formal report to the Police.

Having once referred to the Jailbreak Five as "freedom fighters," draped a criminal's casket with the Guyana flag at a Square of the Revolution funeral service, declared that there were no criminals in Buxton, and been accused by the Government of demonizing the police in the height of their battle against the criminals, the PNC/R, some say, is surprising anybody with its anti-Gajraj campaign.

But others say they are disappointed that the Government has taken the principled position of awaiting the submission of a formal report to the police by those who claim to have information supportive of the allegations against Minister Gajraj, before launching an independent inquiry it said it is in favour of commissioning.

The trauma experienced by Mrs. Whinfield, Troy Williams' family and the scores of other victims and the survivors of those who died at the hands of the "freedom fighters" and their accomplices has to be an integral of the debate on crime and criminality and the "rule of law" campaign being waged by the PNC/R.

What they went through and are still going through are the result of the subversion of the rule of law by the criminals whose goal was to turn haven into hell in the place we call home.