An incendiary device destroys a motorcycle shop on Quamina Street; a business owner is executed on Water Street; four adults and a baby are shredded by automatic fire in Cummings Lodge. These are the brutal realities of contractual arrangements involving a bomb, a handgun, and assault weapons that point to the powerful presence of sinister forces administering final solutions to private conflicts. Add the attacks (or arrangements) on the Ministry of Health’s complex, and the predawn rampage directed at schools and other public places, and there emerges the sobering picture of a society hanging by a thread and at serious risk.
First, when the mosaic of criminal activity is observed, there are undeniable elements of the conspiratorial, of unlimited resources, of logistical acumen, and of invisible, compartmentalized guiding hands. It is a confluence of the angry, the sinister, and the ruthlessly efficient; the responsible parties could be private or otherwise.
Second, when these incidents are viewed as stand-alone issues involving individuals, they form momentary blips – curiosities – on society’s jaded radar of concern. When brought together, they present a very alarming and dangerous picture of reality, and its particular significance in this divided land. It is a picture inclusive of willing hands – and associated arms – available for the implementation of immeasurable violence; of the probability of multiple groups of ready “professionals” at beck and call and ready to wreak havoc for a price. No questions asked, just show the money; or agree to future provision of benefits, including shelter. It is only business, nothing personal, and nothing racial.
Third, the nation had its first experience in recent times with this then evolving type of combat operations in the political arena. It saw the emergence of civil guardian angels’ columns, which turned out to be anything but. They held the bridges in the manner of Horatio, and defended the passes. Citizens should not have forgotten the volume of bullets and bodies – or mysteries and continuing fallout. The truth is that the politics of confrontation has become more professionalized and militarized through the use of underground proxies. Now, there is the awesome and overwhelming potential – given demonstrated firepower and displayed arsenal – for widespread injury.
Next, and with the foregoing as contexts, consider that if a coordinated series of assaults all occurred at the same time, how besieged – if not ineffectual – the responsible and answering agencies would be. Further, given the narrow confines of the administrative cum commercial cum residential centre, this can be an unprecedented disaster, particularly with the profusion of enemies and the concentration of objectives. Add the vulnerabilities of the countryside, along with the foot-dragging alacrity of public defenders, and the grimness grows.
So when the Minister of Home Affairs says that crime does not rise to the level of a national security concern, this can be received in several ways. He is publicly optimistic for the records, possesses a misplaced bravado, or has supreme confidence in the defensive and deterrence capabilities of the phantasmagorical. The minister’s confidence that the security forces “are all up to speed to deal with any threat to the stability of the state” lacks validity when the landscape is reviewed. His confidence must be taken with lots of salt – mainly, the Epsom variety. For when executions, drug crimes, high profile arson, gang activity, and weapons count are reconciled with standing official security expertise, resolve, and results, the ground on which he treads crumbles. With the outsourcing of intimidation and violence well entrenched, and the willingness in all quarters to utilize, this nation stares at a bleak future.
The raw fact is that any business can be taken care of at any time, and in any manner on behalf of any sponsors. The police will surely investigate. Just as surely, they will continue to investigate. In a flood of activity, they could be inundated and reduced to further impotence. This is a naked actuality not lost on anyone, especially the planning and calculating, be they obscured field marshals or visible field generals.
Additionally, it is now a world of Improvised Explosive Devices locally known as ‘channa bombs,’ tinted AT 192s, and AK-47s. There is little that guarantees order and sanity; the examples cited support this. There are no hallowed democratic traditions, only a hoped for restraint, understanding, patience, and goodwill forming flimsy tendrils that hold society. There is also the suspect confidence of a comforting politician either out of his depth, or out of sorts.
Sixth, the outsourcing of operations has made certain postures possible. There is the comfort and insulation of safe official distance. It is sometimes also called plausible deniability, as in no fingerprints, no bloody hands, and that worn-out local political favourite: produce the evidence. But no matter how much safe, non-incriminating distance is created, what now lies dormant threatens to inflict all with unseen viciousness; the portents, means, and motivations are all there. Robert E. Lee once said that it is good that war is so terrible, if not man would grow to love it. Guyanese may not yet love it, but Lusignan and Bartica and Lindo Creek and Agricola-mini-wars by themselves – show that some of them are developing the stomach for it.
In the interim, the mercenaries are themselves watching. More accurately, the masters are; monitoring their own interests, political smoke signals, and any climate changes. For now, they are content to play the role of powers behind the throne, and subscribe to beliefs that the dog wags the tail. But they know different for they have the wherewithal to enforce their wishes, and influence outcomes.
Last, as alignments ebb and flow, as power beckons and evades a fateful clash might loom. It is one complete with tools, resources, characters, and circumstances at the ready; and too many guns, too many soldiers, and too much camouflage. It menaces an already withered society. It promises national insecurity.