December 20, 2006
Colonel Anthony Anderson's visit last week to assess Guyana's security readiness for next year's International Cricket Council's Cricket World Cup (CWC), like Don Lockerbie's last month, seems to have left more questions than answers.
Damning with faint praise, Colonel Anderson of the Jamaica Defence Force - the Regional Operations Commander of the CARICOM Operations, Planning and Coordinating Staff (COPACS) - delicately described Guyana's security preparations as being "in an advanced state" and, vaguely, "on par" with what obtains throughout the region, rather than being 'ready.'
Mr Lance Selman - Director of the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the organisation mandated by CARICOM Heads to lead the strategic planning for the security of the event at the regional level - pointed out that Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have already carried out their security exercises to ensure that visitors to the games will be guaranteed a safe, secure and crime-free environment.
Dr. Peter Phillips - Jamaica's National Security Minister who is head of the CARICOM Sub-committee on Resource Mobilisation for Crime and Security - together with a team from the International Security Assistance Group (ISAG), is approaching the international community to seek assets and assistance, Colonel Anderson disclosed.
Amidst all of this, there is some uncertainty about the composition and competence of the Guyana security committee. Little has been heard from Deputy Commissioner of Police Edward Wills who was once described as chairman of the CWC local security committee. With less than 80 days to go, it is Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe who seems to be performing the duties of part-time coordinator of the local security arrangements while still functioning as full-time commander of the busy police 'A' Division which includes Georgetown and the troublesome East Coast and East Bank Demerara.
Mr Slowe admitted that Guyana is only now seeking help in counter-terrorism training and confirmed that specialist assistance to detect hazardous materials such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents is also needed. Again, Slowe acknowledged that, although over 300 security personnel from both the police and private security services will be stationed at the stadium during the games, consideration has yet to be given to the safety of visitors who choose not to attend cricket matches but wander off to see sights, to go shopping, or seek out the night spots.
Given its long and loosely monitored borders, it is felt that Guyana, more than others, might need help from Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname. Participating countries have agreed to create a 'single space' for the games and each country would depend on the others to secure their borders.
It is rather late in the day to discover these deficiencies!
Several teams and visitors will be coming from countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where terrorism is endemic. The world remembers how vulnerable international sport is to international terrorism when, in the midst of the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, in September 1972 a group of Palestinian members of the Black September organisation entered the Olympic village and killed several Israeli athletes. Guyanese will not have forgotten the bloody massacres by gangs of gunmen in Agricola in February and Eccles in August, both merely three kilometres from the national stadium at Providence.
The local organising committee needs to understand this. It must: appoint a security commander (not coordinator) who is both competent and unencumbered by other employment; establish a strong local security task force (not committee) with intelligence, immigration, maritime, customs and other specialists; provide the resources (not commitments) actually needed; and conduct tests, all to ensure the safety that is so essential for the success of the games.
As Colonel Anderson warned: "What they [the Government] are dealing with is not just the tournament itself, but creating an environment that is really encouraging to persons who want to come to enjoy what the Caribbean has to offer but, at the same time, is hostile to persons with criminal intent."