Absence of the rule of law is causing social breakdown

Dear Editor,
It does not have to be this way. But who cares? Obviously not the powers that be. The promise of a new independent country has been swallowed up by a radical ideology of triumph and cronyism. The constant pouring of gore has spilled over in the city and on the East Coast, and has now trickled to the West Coast with the potential of spreading further. The ease with which murder is plotted and executed, even over a simple thing such as a wristwatch, is an indication of the weakness of law and order and the ineffectiveness of the judicial system. An out-of-court justice now prevails, delivering only one sentence – death. All this against an extremely high but chilling backdrop – get rich quick.

The promise and excitement of ’92 has evolved into cries of pain and dark despair. Free and fair elections generated the euphoria of, ‘We gon run things now,’ but sadly overlooked one basic tenet – a strong democracy is based on the foundation of the rule of law, the absence of corruption enforced by the army and police and an execution of justice by the courts – no ifs and buts, no exception and definitely no party cards.

Although I am not sympathetic to the ideology of our leaders, it is not the ideology that is causing the problem of societal breakdown. Instead, it is the lack of the rule of law. Having said that I know there are many who will argue that this ideology and societal breakdown go hand in hand.

Most will agree that during the previous administration we had an excellent army and a reasonable police force, but those who were affiliated to the ‘card’ or knew someone in high places were untouchable in terms of the execution of justice. So how did the ordinary man in the street react? They stole from government, ripping off the coffers, ripping off the banks, destroying from within, upsetting development.

People noticed what was happening. While the ordinary person was shuffling in lines for gas and basic food items, others in high places were adding their names to brands of liquor and travelling first class with large entourages. So, ordinary constables, facilitated by shady go-betweens, were making lucrative deals at airports with those who took the first planes out.

Customs officers took advantage of die-hard business people and began erecting massive homes, while driving vehicles beyond the reach of their humble salaries. Tax evaders, swindlers and con artists became heroes in the eyes of the man in the street, while everyone waited patiently for their turn, their day in the sun.

Many saw great promise in ’92, but no one paid any attention to the destructive pattern that existed, or else there was just an anxiety to join in the fun. What else can I say? The ‘party card’ got so many knocks that there seems now to be a ‘wink wink.’ The equation did not change but got more complicated. When a confessed drug dealer can drive around freely in tinted SUVs with loads of cash in his pocket, wielding enough power to save a government, how does that alter the mindset of young Roger in school?

Talking about the equation getting more complicated. Where did the shift begin? Now we have soldiers robbing and killing people and the police siphoning off loot. Well I remember ’97. The army and police voted early and the revelation was hard to swallow. Someone missed that even in the prevailing circumstances the army and police were still operating professionally, so, like the big mistake made to disband the Iraq army a major mistake was also made here, although not physically but mentally.

The strategy seems to be, control the head and you can manage the tail. Weaken the unit and decrease the threat. Therefore by the time the CGX fiasco came along all we had were a group of windbags in uniform. And, as we play musical chairs with the top brass of the security forces, others, maybe the same ones claiming to be saving the government, were scheming to inflict greater damage.

Let’s not forget that over 20 policemen were executed during the period of the seeming strategy to break morale and destroy efficiency, thus increasing the chances of those whose ulterior motive was to create lawlessness.

The diehards, though many ran away a long time ago, keep shouting, “Guyana is progressing, look at the mansions going up,” while neglecting the fact that the biggest business in Guyana is generated by a culture in which the rule of law cannot apply. In the new complicated equation, how does the ordinary person in the street react?

Well, you are reading daily about the murders, women with stab wounds on life support, men dead or badly wounded by bullets. It goes on and on. People doing what they want to do, expecting no retribution from the law.

I am amazed when people ask, “Where is the army? What are the police doing?” We have neither army nor police force. But, it does not have to be this way. What is government going to do about this? What are the people going to do about this?

Yours faithfully,
Forbes Skinner

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