Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee yesterday said that the deficiencies in the country’s criminal justice system are a matter of “grave concern” to the government and he noted the difficulties encountered in the local courts in executing extradition orders.
However, the minister said that the matter is currently being addressed with a view to resolving the issue “in favour of the Government of Guyana/Government of the United States of America bilateral relations”.
While the minister did not mention any case where the courts have blocked an extradition request there is the matter of Barry Dataram for whom an extradition request was made by the US but this has been stalled following a court ruling which exposed a lacuna in the law.
Minister Rohee was at the time making a presentation during the first day of the Guyana Police Force annual officers’ conference at the Police Officers Mess under the theme ‘Consolidating Our Gains through Reform, Training, Partner-ship and Effective Policing”.
In his presentation Minister Rohee urged that the conference critically examine the issue of training to ascertain what could be done to produce a better trained police rank to meet the current needs of the society.
And on the troublesome issue of complaints over the slow police response to reports, the minister pointed out that while all divisions have set varying benchmarks for responses to reports made by members of the public, he is not convinced that many of the divisions have systems in place to monitor responses.
“In this regard I would like to encourage commanders to constantly make assessments of their human, vehicular and other assets at their disposal, including the matching of those assets with the calculated response time,” Rohee urged.
Importantly, the minister welcomed the development that all police divisions have been submitting reports on domestic violence but he said in view of negative comments that are made about police action in such matters, “there is a crying need for some more attention to be paid at all times to the handling of those complaints.” And while some divisions have been referring a significant portion of reports to the welfare department of the Ministry of Human Services & Social Security the minister noted that there may be need for monitoring to ensure that the agency takes appropriate action.
The minister told the officers that he was “recently pained by the recent disclosures concerning some members of the force alleged to be involved in corruption.” But he said he welcomed and congratulated the force for the strong stand taken against the ranks, adding that such measures must continue with a view to weeding out the bad eggs” from the force. “No person should be spared in this exercise,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Minister Rohee reminded the officers that when the Takutu Bridge opens later this year there is likely to be more activities taking place in Lethem and along the Lethem to Linden Highway and the force by now ought to have plans to reinforce its presence, including immigration at Lethem and Kurupukari. He pointed out too that the force must boost the police presence on the Lethem to Linden highway and, additionally, the force must reconfigure its management structures in Linden and Lethem.
Rohee noted too that the threat posed by criminal gangs has subsided significantly and he commended Commissioner Henry Greene and his ranks for “staying the course” and ensuring that the gangs were “effectively crushed.”
The minister also recognised the support provided to the force by members of the joint services, particularly the army.
However, he warned the officers that their work is not completed as there is much more to be done to ensure that the country does not return to the situation it was in and this can be accomplished if they keep on top of the situation.
“Any manifestation of such a situation has to be nipped in the bud,” the minister emphasized.
“The Guyana Police Force has to be proactive in its posture and enhance its crime fighting prevention. All categories of offences and crimes have to be attended to in your overall strategy,” Rohee urged.
And on the issue of traffic, Rohee pointed out that the country recorded the lowest number of road deaths in 39 years during the year 2008 but he said that the force should not “sit back and relax.” Instead, every effort should be made to reduce the number of fatalities further.
“Every death that occurs on our roads as a result of an accident is one too many,” the minister said, adding that the traffic department with support from the relevant stakeholders should strive to have the country’s roads safer.
“There are still too many acts of indiscipline being committed on our roads – not to mention the destruction of public property such as the traffic signals infrastructure.” And traffic ranks should conduct themselves in a professional manner while on the roadways and any corrupt ranks should be weeded from the organisation.
East Bank roadway
He announced that in recognition of the dramatic increase in traffic on the East Bank roadway the government will install lights along the road from Providence to Timehri and the installation of traffic lights along certain junctions is under consideration. The installation of such facilities, the minister said, will enhance the safety of citizens, especially those travelling along the East Bank at nights and also it will provide support to the force in their efforts to fight crime in that area.
In the meantime, the police were commended by the minister for their efforts at ensuring all of the events during Guyana’s hosting of Carifesta X were virtually incident free.
And the minister made mention of the recent attack against Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan and he said Guyana as a cricket-loving country was shocked at it.
“While we are all aware that the situation in Pakistan is volatile, I do not think that anyone of us expected such an incident to occur. It however serves as a reminder to us that nothing should be left to chance when dealing with security. Allegations abound as regards the action taken by the police in Pakistan during and after the attack,” the minister commented.
He then challenged the officers to research the recent attack in Pakistan and the bombing and killings in Mumbai, India and to prepare papers and at the same time examine Guyana’s circumstances to find out how prepared the country is to deal with such attacks. He reminded that adequate security arrangements need to be in place for the safety of the English cricketers who are here to play in two one-day internationals against the West Indies, beginning tomorrow.
Meanwhile, there was a partial response from the police at the end of last year to seven matters the minister had suggested the officers deal with in 2007 and 2008 and some of these were: the establishment of Victim Specialist Units to deal primarily with domestic violence victims; the setting up of Sexual Assault Units to tackle reports and carnal knowledge; the operation of a Family Liaison Unit to treat with family instability and disruption; and the establishment of a Youth Investigation Branch to look at problems affecting youths.
The issue of a witness protection scheme was also another matter along with the creation of a threat detection and analysis unit.