APNU MP Winston Felix is warning of the need for the Home Ministry to restructure its security reform plans or end up with the same dismal performance as last year.
“Last year, the Honourable Minister of Finance informed us…that ‘government has embarked on a comprehensive programme to reform the security sector….’ I must ask after one year has elapsed what has been the benefit derived from this intervention?” Felix, a former Police Commissioner, asked on Tuesday evening as he made his contribution to ongoing budget debates in the National Assembly.
Felix, who is the main opposition’s Shadow Home Affairs Minister, said that there has been no decrease in crime and suggested that continuing to channel funds into reform plans without making changes will yield no positive results. “The crime statistics issued by the police intermittently have given no reason to feel comfortable that the situation is improving,” he lamented.
He pointed to the fact the Home Affairs Ministry had boasted that it was implementing various strategies and had procured the services of the Capita Symonds Group to reform the police force in the areas of administration, succession planning, probity and integrity, public relations and communications.
In addition, Felix said that the Minister of Home Affairs had reported that 10 persons would be employed to hold key positions in the Strategic Management Department which would become a department of the force and the two would work together to ensure that the plan was implemented. However, months have passed and the Ministry of Home Affairs has been mum on what has happening with the project. However, during that time there have been three resignations from the 10-member Strategic Management Group because of apparent fallouts between them and senior members of the police force.
“I ask the Honourable Minister whether officers and other ranks are aware of the role or roles of the Strategic Management Department. Has the Strategic Management Department produced any change? Is there a relationship between Change Management and the Strategic Management Departments? What has been the impact of change on the society and are crime prevention strategies documented?” Felix questioned.
He further stated that there has been no change in the Guyana Police Force as the areas of reform were poorly thought out since they do not deal with the core issues affecting the delivery of an efficient service to the populace.
He believes that government should have followed the recommendations of earlier work produced in the Security Sector Action Reform Project (SSRP) as it not only takes note of international best practices but also identifies the key issues underlying the overall development of a national security policy framework and national security architecture, capacity building for key actors and the perceived links between the reform and gender and poverty issues.
“I am sure the future of the Guyana Police Force would have been well served with the implementation of the recommendations of the SSRP,” he said, while noting that the project looked at crime intelligence, an anti-crime unit, forensic lab, traffic management, strategic review of the force, community police relations, police accountability and transparency, national security policy management and legal framework and the national security policy.
Felix said that the public was fed up of the police force and asked if the Minister of Home Affairs, when he defends programmes such as the SWAT unit, is ever present when allegations are brought against the police for torture, lethargic response to calls and court case failures, among other complaints. “We see no need for the hurried SWAT. Will it solve our several law enforcement challenges?” he questioned.
Turning his attention to funds allocated for community policing, Felix said that in his estimation it has been turned into “political policing” since the allocated sums will never reach and benefit the masses in the communities.
“Community policing is not properly administered…it has been supported by this government but it has now been likened to political policing…we have had in Berbice reports that only certain persons have the community police vehicles and most of the time it is parked in their yard while they receive $20,000 to $25,000 a month …,” Felix said.
He also said that he did not believe that the $447 million allocated for ramping up community policing would go to reaching ordinary community residents. He said too that while there has been an increase in allocations for community policing, there has been no improvements in emoluments for the Joint Services. “The Joint Services, which the government relies on to provide safety and security for the people of this country must suffer another year with no improvement in their emoluments and consequently no improvement in their life styles,” Felix asserted. “Their allowances are horribly low in the face of the high cost of rent, light bill—which is unstable—telephone and water bills,” he added.
To end what APNU has called failures of the disciplined forces under the lead of Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, Felix said that the opposition’s no confidence vote against Rohee should be amped up. “The no confidence should be amped up so we see the Guyana Police Force breathe,” Felix said. (Marcelle Thomas)