Death of a 17-year-old, death of a cop
The death of any 17-year-old is difficult to fathom much more one at the hands of the police in what was clearly reckless behaviour. The police have had a notorious reputation of barging into neighbourhoods where there is a hint of trouble and overreacting with great brutality and violence. Such was the case in June 2010 in which 16-year-old Patentia schoolboy Kelvin Fraser was shot dead by a policeman.
In the case of Shaquille Grant on Tuesday last, there is so far no convincing explanation that the police faced a significant enough threat to warrant a confrontation let alone live rounds. Yet Shaquille Grant’s body bears testament to three bullets fired at him; two of them in areas that indicate an intention to kill rather than to subdue. There will be an investigation, the police say. It is good to know except that the public has so little confidence in the police that nothing that emanates from Eve Leary will assuage the aggrieved. It is one of the reasons that the Wolfe Commission has been empanelled to investigate the July 18 unrest in Linden during which the police shot dead three protesters.
One can hardly now set up a new Commission into this latest Agricola killing except to suggest that since the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Justice Cecil Kennard, to whom the Grant case will go is also a member of the Wolfe Commission, that he seek to tap the investigative resources that might be available to the Linden unrest to aid him in an independent and impartial inquiry into this matter. This is the bare minimum that the public might be prepared to accept.
It is the photo of Shaquille receiving a certificate from Home Affairs Minister, Mr Clement Rohee in the context of the IDB’s much vaunted citizen security programme that should cause serious soul-searching in the government. How does a boy who showed civic mindedness end up being shot thrice by his protectors and the lawmen that he was to be the community interface with? Something is seriously wrong and has been so for a very long time with PPP/C governments. IDB loan or no loan, the Guyana Police Force as operated, politicized and deprofessionalized by the government has reached the end of its tether. A force seriously undermined by corruption, brutality and political control is almost always only one step away from impunity and this is what seems to have happened on Tuesday.
The Donald Ramotar administration has been brought quicker to a crisis point over policing than its predecessors because no comprehensive reforms had been undertaken by them. He inherited all of the fundamental problems and there is no way out of it than an immediate acceptance that there is a crisis in policing and the search for solutions in conjunction with the opposition-controlled Parliament.
The morass has been heightened by the wider public’s lack of confidence in his Minister of Home Affairs, who prior to the Linden unrest had shockingly advised the public that senior policemen who had been engaged in a police boat scam had been allowed to repay monies that they had defrauded the public of. Those policemen, of course, should be identified, charged and taken before the court. That statement by Minister Rohee was grounds enough for his immediate resignation from government for allowing senior policemen off the hook for grand corruption while his law enforcers seek to charge the supermarket shoplifter whether or not the latter was prepared to make restitution. Another apparent police fraud apparently linked to the auctioning of police vehicles has also seen the Minister acknowledging serious improprieties in the force, including the behaviour of the police’s own internal affairs unit.
As shocking as the Shaquille Grant case is, the police force had arrived at this stage of dysfunction a long time back. It is not a blip on the radar but one that will continue to recur. How many would have thought that after the killing of Yohance Douglas by the police in 2003 nine years later the country would be in this situation?
To make matters worse, the police are now grappling with the murder of one of their detectives, Mr Jirbahan Dianand, 23. He was found dead on Friday with a bullet wound to his head. This killing must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all sections of society. The murder of a law enforcer is usually considered one of the direst threats to law and order especially when committed in the line of duty.
The police must get to the bottom of this. Here again, the force faces a monumental challenge. It has before it this year a list of execution-style killings that it has made no progress on and one of its number has now been added to it. The force has negligible investigative capacity and resources. It lacks intelligence on the ground and does not have the forensic resources or expertise on the ground to allow it to break these cases. This plight has been decades in the making and only the PPP/C needs to be blamed for this as it has had 20 years to institute and inspire change but failed miserably.
Both of these cases should crystallize for President Ramotar the imperative of acting swiftly to reverse the decline and to lift the force to a place where it can acquit itself credibly. The deaths of Shaquille Grant and Jirbahan Dianand emphasize the continuing decay in the force and the jeopardy that the country faces as a result.