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Coping with accountability
Posted By Staff Writer On October 9, 2012 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | No Comments
Setting aside the importance of finding out the truth about the circumstances that attended the killing of the three men at Linden during the July 18 protest in the mining town, the ongoing work of the Commission of Enquiry is important for another equally good reason, which is that it brings us – and more particularly the Guyana Police Force – face to face with the principle of accountability as an important tenet of democracy.
If the truth be told we have often been left with the impression that some institutions of state, not least the Force, are uncomfortable with accountability. That is precisely why sections of the independent media are doing everything in their power to report the unfolding events of the Commission of Enquiry. Quite simply, we are witnessing the altogether unaccustomed spectacle of the police being made to account publicly for civilian killings.
Over the years we had, for the most part, grown accustomed to loss of life at the hands of the police, unaccounted for at the end of the day save and except by way of a succession of routine and entirely unconvincing media releases.
The circumstance of lives lost and far from satisfactorily accounted for had left a hideous stain on the institution of the Force. Worse, it had created a yawning chasm between the police and the populace deep enough to rob the former of much of its intelligence capacity gleaned from sustaining links with civilians. Perhaps worse, the seeming absence of accountability had bred monsters, rogue policemen whom – in the words of The Mighty Sparrow – simply went around “playing, God,” embracing the notion that even their worst excesses would be met with little more than a short and decidedly feeble public outcry after which things would return to ‘normal.’ That is what we had grown accustomed to.
These circumstances render the Linden protest that preceded the setting up of the Commission of Enquiry decidedly historic. It was Linden’s resoluteness that eventually forced the government’s hand in the matter of a Commission of Enquiry even at the risk that some of its outcomes could cast even darker shadows on an already seriously compromised Police Force.
It may, at this stage, be far too early to say for sure what gains the Commission of Enquiry may bring. What the Linden protest and the attendant Commission of Enquiry already appears to have brought, however, is a far more contrite police response to the subsequent Agricola killing. Interestingly, the people of Agricola too seemed prepared to employ protest as an attention-getter in a case which, significantly, has led to the institution of murder charges against three policemen.
Two points should be made at this juncture. First, the Linden killings and the subsequent setting up of the Commission of Enquiry could prove to be a watershed for a Guyana Police Force which, hereafter, must face the reality that misdeeds – including killings – by ranks must be accounted for in ways that go beyond public statements that lay claim to self defence. The earliest days of the Commission of Enquiry have witnessed senior officers, including Acting Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell seeking with a considerable sense of urgency to extricate themselves from any direct responsibility in the matter of the actual shootings. Hopefully, that should be enough of an object lesson to persuade the top brass of the Force that unless they can rein in the rogue cops they will have to answer for them before more Commissions of Enquiry in the future. More than that, perhaps the findings of the Commission of Enquiry may also pronounce publicly on the matter of whether or not the Force might be subject to political control and if so, just who is pulling the strings. That is another matter which we need to settle once and for all if the Force is to have its reputation restored. Even at this relatively early stage of the work of the Commission of Enquiry, the resoluteness of the people of Linden may well turn out to be a defining moment, as much for the Guyana Police Force as for the citizens of our country.
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