A huge favour Editorial
Stabroek News
April 23, 2007

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Former New York Commissioner of Police Bernard Kerik has done Guyana a huge favour by withdrawing from his contract to provide advisory services to President Jagdeo and the Ministry of Home Affairs. It effectively brings to an end any prospect that Mr Kerik will ever have a role in relation to crime fighting here. He was the wrong candidate from the outset. That his candidacy survived for such a long time is testimony to the obduracy and sheer arrogance of this administration. How Mr Kerik's name popped up on the government's radar and why it seemed impervious to reason on this matter would prove an interesting study. Whatever costs were incurred by his visits here have been a complete waste of taxpayers' money and the government has no-one but itself to blame. From the inception it was evident that Mr Kerik was unsuitable. He was coming to advise on matters related to security and the police force yet he himself had several investigations swirling around him and had already pleaded guilty to ethics violations. He now faces the prospect of an indictment on several charges after having declined a plea bargain arrangement that would have included jail time.

Unfortunately, the Kerik affair has proved to be an enormous distraction from the war on crime and progress has been painstakingly slow. The country remains beset by drug lords, crime gangs, piracy, execution-style killings and muggers. Moreover, crime and its organized entrepreneurs operate completely outside of the reach of the security services and no one can venture with any certitude to explain any number of events.

By this time last year the country had already witnessed three horrific high-publicity murders: those of Ronald Waddell, Gazz Sheermohammed and Minister Satyadeow Sawh. These personalities cut across many segments of society: the roots man/journalist/ social activist Waddell, Sheermohamed, the longstanding entrepreneur and builder of impressive edifices like the Caricom Secretariat and Sawh, a party luminary and minister of many years. Yet, in none of these cases can the police or the Minister of Home Affairs look the average member of the public straight in the eye and satisfactorily explain the motives behind these executions and defend the results of the investigations. No one has ever been charged in the murders of Waddell and Sheermohamed and a series of other cases. A year later, one person - a boy - has been charged with the murder of Minister Sawh, his siblings and a guard. There have been murmurs from law enforcement that some of the other perpetrators have perished in various confrontations. That is not the type of justice this country is looking for and needs. This country badly needs to be able to witness trials and the rule of law in motion. Sawh, his siblings and security guard were murdered in a carefully planned and professionally executed operation which needs to be properly explained. Otherwise, the country will remain on the edge of major crimes and at the mercy of hardened criminals. Last week Dave Hescott was found dead shot execution style. In November last year his brother, Shawn was gunned down. In a matter of six months, two brothers from one household have been gunned down and not a single person has been charged.

And this has been the pattern. Wherever there is a murder case that isn't domestic-related or there is no smoking gun nearby, the police toil fruitlessly. The police force presently lacks the forensic capacity, the drive and the determination to get to the bottom of these cases. It is this incapacity that continues to thrive and continues to be sidelined by issues like Kerik. When the government begins to have some impact on these failings then it can begin to speak favourably about its record. In a news item yesterday, Minister Rohee expressed confidence that the killers of Minister Sawh will be identified. Taking the long view, it was the same optimism - clearly misplaced - that had been expressed by former Police Commissioner Lewis in 1993 following the murder of Monica Reece several months after the PPP/C embarked on its continuing 15-year reign.

Women continue to be attacked wantonly and raped across the country. There is no prospect yet that DNA evidence will soon be brought into play in these cases though it is a convincing way of solving these cases and possibly deterring some of them.

On the anniversary of the Sawh murder, there must be a recommitment by the government to take clear and effective measures to combat crime in a way that law and order is seen to be working.