Civil society bloc invites parties to forum on police reform

Civic organisation coalition FacingtheFuture (FtF) has invited the three alliances contesting the upcoming polls to participate in a public forum to outline their plans for the police force.

In a statement issued on Friday, FtF said the AFC, the APNU and the PPP/C have been invited to participate in the discussion on policy, in keeping with its stated goal to encourage political parties during the electoral season to focus on the substantial reforms required to create a more functional and inclusive future for Guyana. The coalition had previously invited the parties contesting the polls to propose structural changes required to reform the police force into a service geared to upholding democratic policing.

The forum is scheduled for Friday at 6 pm at the Cara Lodge Conference Room at Quamina Street, Georgetown. FtF said it was not requesting that presidential candidates appear in person, although they are welcome. “The more important aim is to learn what each of the contending alliances propose to do about the critical issue of policing,” it said, having noted that few topics in Guyana generate such “heat, indignation and anger as the ineffectiveness of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).”

Modernising the police force structure, FtF added, goes hand-in-hand with models of ‘policing in the community’ and not by high-tech policing and high-tech weaponry isolated from communities. “These models should assist the community to participate in its own policing decisions in a partnership with the police, working together to mobilise resources to solve problems affecting public safety over the longer term,” it said, while adding that a transformed relationship with the community is a necessary condition of transforming the membership of the GPF into a body representative of the national community it is policing.

It recalled the full-scale Commission of Enquiry launched primarily into the workings of the police force in 2003, noting that it produced over 100 recommendations that never emerged from Parliament.

FtF, which describes itself as a collective of civic organisations aiming to modernise Guyana’s system of government, thereby rendering it more inclusive and transparent, noted that the upcoming elections  offers an opportunity to press political parties to initiate changes to render elections less secretive and more democratic.

National elections, it said, are intended to be a process of stock-taking and of charting a path for the next five years. “Unfortunately national elections in Guyana have never been about the performance of the incumbent government, or the programmes of aspiring contenders for office.

“They are primarily about manipulating ethnic insecurity and the personalities of party leaders. Apart from presidential candidates, no aspiring parliamentarians are exposed to scrutiny either about their personal qualifications for office or their views,” FtF argued.

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