Nip it early Editorial
Kaieteur News
June 30, 2004

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WHEN the new Commissioner of Police was sworn into office, there were high expectations that he would take “ the bull by the horn” and address the many shortcomings of his institution. Quite understandably, real and meaningful changes cannot take place overnight. What, however, is expected is for a demonstration that the Commissioner can be held to his word about being accountable for the actions of the Guyana Police Force.

Over the past few years and especially in times of social strife, the capability of the Guyana Police Force has been sorely tested. There are so many examples when in times of social strife, the police have been found wanting. In many cases, members of the public suffered tremendous indignities because of the failure of the police to provide protection from hooliganism.

Agents of public disturbance also provide the Guyana Police Force with another test: their ability to respond professionally and not be swayed by political or partisan concerns. The Guyana Police Force is expected to maintain law and order and to ensure that those who are bent on promoting public terror or social strife, whatever their political persuasion, are brought to book.

To say that the police force faces a delicate situation is to make excuses and avoid reversing the negative trends associated with public disturbances in the past. The police were expected to have learnt from these experiences, one of which is that ugly situations need to be nipped early in the bud before they get out of control.

The examples of the police exercising extreme tolerance in order to avoid an escalation of tensions are many. But this approach has failed us in the past and has led to a situation where policemen became targets of execution by criminals. This approach redounded to the detriment of the force.

We know that during the crime wave of a few years ago, the police lost many ranks, many of whom were senior officers with considerable experience. This loss would have affected the morale of the force. So the constraints of seasoned and experienced personnel in this new period are understandable.

Nothing, however, can excuse the failure of the Guyana Police Force to take action against those persons who went down Regent Street, last Friday, shutting down stores, intimidating citizens and openly threatening the police officers to take away their guns and use it against them.

Given what has happened in the past, this particular development must be taken seriously and deserves an appropriate response such as the filing of charges.

All citizens have a right to protest but protest must respect the rights of others and more importantly stay within the confines of the law. The action of the small group of protestors crossed the limits of legality, last Friday, and sadly this was done within eyesight of members of the Guyana Police Force who preferred to exercise caution rather than make arrests.

The lessons of the past should by now be crystal clear to the new administration within the Guyana Police Force. Appeasing those bent on causing public disturbance only invites further unlawful action. The terrible situation in Buxton not so long ago, we should recall, was a direct result of political protests gone asunder.

There is no need for formal reports about what happened last Friday. The fact is that the police were there and saw what happened. They would never have been there in the first place had there not been reports of unlawful conduct or a threat to the peace.

We urge the Guyana Police Force to obtain the video footage of what transpired and make the necessary arrests to bring those involved in that ugly situation, to book. The perpetrators can be easily identified and in some cases are well known.

The events of last Friday on Regent Street cannot and should not go unpunished. For that to happen would be to court further problems in our country. And this is not what we want.