On Guns, Jail and Punishment

Respect due?

Pity that in Guyana – and the world – of today, the issues as reflected in my lead caption attract national attention to the extent that they impact on the quality of citizens’ lives in terms of security and comfort. Or lack of such.

I myself tire of the goings-on in our hometown.  The Home Affairs Ministry and the Police release statistics to indicate comparative (lower) levels of crime.  But even they know, full well, that numbers are no solace to the victims and survivors of the numerous daily criminal attacks.  (One very disaffected citizen asked me to remind “those government officials”, the Minister and the Commissioner, that they enjoy 24-hour security, compliments of the very Guyanese taxpayers who are themselves living in daylight and nightly fear. I so do.)

Before I exercise my following “lazy” approach, I analyse the high profile crimes, from this layman’s perspective: Crimes of murder, robbery-under-arms, physical assaults and domestic abuse are executed by specific actors. There are the cocaine-related operatives, the seasoned, professional thieves, young under-educated “citizens” and jealous/ignorant spouses.

Add to those perpetrators the easy availability of weapons and opportunity offered by potential victims indifferent to security, and you have the unfortunate social scenario extant today.  (And I’ve not even mentioned our relatively-new phenomenon of hinterland/gold-field crime and vehicular homicide!  Poor new Police Commissioner!)

Related to my lead issues, hereunder are excerpts of thoughts published months and years ago. (Not all laziness…) You consider…


Illegal weapons available

There was a crescendo of outrage in the nation two years into the Crime Spree.  Citizens begged for solutions to the prevalence of illegal weapons slaughtering innocents. September 2004:  “I agree Brigadier Granger that in a society such as some have created here, more weapons will mean more risks, more temptation, more violence and ultimate mayhem.

Assuming however, that you concede that there is now imbalance, between the good guys and the bad guys, in the ownership of arms, what solution do you suggest?  You know that legislation alone is useless.

Concomitant with schemes of buyback, exchange, amnesty and sweeps, what specific operations would you like to see in the villages?

You speak of alleged connivance of some corrupt state officials with respect to the recent Bel Air arms bust.  Seems reasonable.

But I contend that there must be connivance in the villages too!  Why on earth can’t the good police get to the guns in six or seven East Coast villages and their back-lands?”

I then quoted from a Stabroek News editorial: “… What is more probable is that the same shadow network that helped spirit the five men out of the Camp Street lock-ups on February 23 and housed, nurtured and indoctrinated them have found new recruits to carry out their criminal plans.  The gunmen who shot up Regent Street weren’t born with an innate knowledge of guns and bullets though it is possible that a few of them may have had some type of para-military training in one of the disciplined services.

Even if that were so, the way they fitted and operated together points quite clearly in the direction of some type of training camp where the criminals get basic instructions on the use of guns, the details of plans are honed and practice drills carried out.”

I ask now: how far have we arrived? In October 2013?


Jails – Useful?

Or Dangerous?

Prison, jail, penitentiary, correctional centre, detention centre. The descriptions vary but whether modern prison or old “penal settlement,” for this piece the definition, largely (and loosely) has to do with “a place, usually with legal status, where persons are detained or held in custody pending some court trial, or for serving sentences handed down by a Court of Law”.

The modern concepts of “penitentiary” and “correctional centres” envisage convicted persons being guided to reform as penitent, contrite “convicts,” willing to pay their “debts” to society for wrong-doing and actually graduating as better citizens from a reformatory prison facility which goes out of its way to offer reforms and alternatives.  Nothing to do with “maximum security prisons.”

Let all the above suffice as a layman’s context within which to locate our own penal system, from the “Lot 12” Georgetown Prison to the long-term Mazaruni, to Timehri and other “Remand” Centres.  I hear lots of remedial work goes on in some of our prisons but are they measuring up as “Correctional Penitentiaries”?

I suggest that this is now one area for national scrutiny.  What actually happens in Guyana’s prisons of today?


Capital Punishment:

Hang Dem High?

An excerpt from some introductory remarks on Capital Punishment: “Just a few decades ago, Guyanese had either no opportunity or qualms with respect to strong opinions about the issue.  It was on the law books, applied on conviction for murder – with few appeals – and that was it.

The little Hangman’s House on D’Urban Street in the Prison Compound, attracted frequent crowds on the pavement as the convicted killer’s neck was broken in the noose after dropping through the trap door at the end of the rope.  That was Guyana’s execution by hanging.

Elsewhere in the world in those days, capital, or the ultimate punishment; the penalty of death for specific crimes, took various forms.  After the earliest methods of boiling, crucifixion, stretching, stoning, torture and burning at the stake, came some of today’s methods – like hanging, shooting (by firing squad or individuals), gas chamber, electrocution and/or lethal injection.

Western societies gradually consider ethical, human rights and sometimes religious questions which led to moderation, then, in many countries, the cessation of the use of the death penalty.  But even religions sent mixed messages on the issue.  Some teachings stressed “an eye for an eye”; Hindu Indian and many Islamic States still keep Capital Punishment on their books.”

So dear survivor, what do you think?  Should modern Guyana retain – and implement – that Ultimate Penalty?


Respect Due?

I suspect that I’ll return to this soon.  Let me be oblique. Cheddi Jagan’s funeral was the largest national farewell event Guyana has ever seen.  And I say, Frankly Speaking, there will be no larger funeral of any other leader in this land.

One searing image in my mind related to the funeral was a crude but sincere, hastily—scrawled sign lifted high as Cheddi’s coffin passed through the village of Buxton.  Held by young Afros it read “Respect Due”.  Even I was suitably impressed.  No more comment – for now.

I take opportunity to remind that those in authority should earn the people’s respect.  Even functional respect for the office should be predicated on the good works and integrity of the holder who was probably elected by the same “people.”

At  my age and stage, I don’t publicly, show disrespect for functionaries I think little of.  I just avoid; stay away.  Until I return to this, let us still respect our National Institutions, Guyanese.



*1)  How goes the case of alleged sexual assault against the Sophia Muslim Teacher?

*2)  Is there any case against the Minister’s son for alleged physical assault?

*3)  In two/three months will we know the real worth of GuyExpo 13?

‘Til next week!

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