The recent moves by the government to give approval for the creation of a SWAT unit to deal with the upsurge in crime and to confirm acting police commissioner Leroy Brumell, according to AFC member Moses Nagamootoo is nothing more than a “political ploy”.
He said “I have a feeling that it is a death squad under a different name” while adding that government first mentioned a SWAT unit eight years ago.
The Ministry of Home Affairs last Wednesday announced that Cabinet has approved the establishment of a SWAT Unit for the Guyana Police Force. According to the ministry the initiative is aimed at strengthening the Force’s law enforcement capabilities.
Nagamootoo in an invited comment on Saturday told this newspaper that very recently, the government had been blaming the upsurge in crime particularly on the AFC and its Chairman Nigel Hughes. He was referring to cartoon believed to have been circulated by persons close to the PPP in which Hughes was holding a gun. The AFC said that the cartoon intended to depict that Hughes was supporting criminals.
Nagamootoo said that government’s announcement of the SWAT unit after eight years is a confirmation of its ineptitude and incompetence in dealing with the crime situation. “It seems they are trying to play politics with the lives of Guyanese. They didn’t have to do anything about crime because the opposition was fuelling it”, he stressed while adding that “it is not whether the cat is brown or black but whether the cat can catch the mice”.
He said that the government seems to “have had everything” but for some reason have not been able to tackle the crime situation. He stressed that government must have the will to bring the US DEA and the UK’s Scotland Yard to Guyana, not just getting a group of people and giving them a new name and new designation.
In relation to government’s agreement with the Leader of the Opposition, David Granger for Brumell to be confirmed, Nagamootoo said that he was left hanging on the fence for a “long time while they (the government) played politics and they have now decided to send him out in good grace”.
He said that “they can call the team SWAT or whatever they want. Right now you need a superman and (Home Affairs Minister Clement) Rohee has fallen short of that”. Asked about why the need for SWAT when Rohee had announced reforms on the last day of last year to help strengthen the police in a number of areas including crime fighting, he said that the British came to help with the reform of the Force but they were rejected. He said that previously when he was a part of the PPP, a lot of noise had been made about the racial imbalance in the Force. In the last 21 years “what have they done to correct this”, he asked, while adding that if people do not see a balanced reflection of all the races in Guyana, there would always be an issue.
He also raised the question as to why the Force has not been able to do better in the crime fight. According to Nagamootoo it probably has a lot to do with political interference. He said that confirming Brumell will not help things. “It has to do with creating balance”, he said, adding that young people should also be encouraged to become cadets so that they can become career officers earning decent living wages.
“It has to do with the ethnic imbalance, political interference and the fact that a lot of people don’t have confidence in the Force”, he stressed.
The announcement that Brumell would be confirmed came from APNU on Friday. The agreement came following a meeting between Granger and President Donald Ramotar. Ramotar proposed that Brumell be confirmed. Previously, government’s choice was the current crime chief Seelall Persaud. Brumell was the opposition’s choice.
Brumell’s intended confirmation comes one week after Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry Pre-sident Clinton Urling called for changes at the top of the police force and also that police officers must be paid better than they currently are.
“If the actions (SWAT and making Brumell’s position permanent) of the Govern-ment were brought on by the statement then I am glad that they are listening to the private sector,” said former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo.
“GCCI President Clinton Urling has a sense of what the business community is feeling on the ground with regard to crime and security,” Dookhoo told Stabroek News.
He spoke of a recent meeting between members of the various private sector organizations and the Minister of Home Affairs along with the top brass of the Guyana Police Force. “We let them know how we felt. We all went to see the President and it started happening from there,” he said.
He reiterated the call for Government to pay women and men of the Police Force better. “You cannot pay someone $35,000 per month…people don’t work for loyalty…they have to be able to meet their needs…policemen are people just like us. We must be able to pay them a reasonable sum. So I support Urling on this,” said Dookhoo.
He said that over the last five years the private sector bodies have been calling for increased salaries for police officers and these calls have been met with undertones of non-support.
Are the reforms yielding any progress?
At the beginning of this year Rohee announced plans under government’s Public Safety and Security Strategy, including major reforms of the disciplined services. In particular, he has said reform of the police force would start this year, with civilian oversight of the implementation of a five-year strategy that emphasizes more training. He also signalled the possible hiring of foreign police officers to serve as consultants for reorganization of the force.
Asked during a press conference last month to respond to comments that there has been no improvement in the operation of the Force, Rohee said “there will always be persons who will criticize and we have grown accustomed to that. The security sector is not the only sector that faces criticism from time to time. Critics there will be”.
He told Stabroek News that “I dismiss out of hand the view that the reforms are not making any sense or that the reforms are not being productive. Change is a process that takes time. This is not an event and when you are talking about seeking to effect changes through a strategic plan of an institution such as the Guyana Police Force or any police force, because you are dealing with people it takes patience and it takes consistence”.
He said that the first hurdle to overcome is to get the police to buy into the plan and he is confident that they have crossed that. He told Stabroek News that the police meet every month to assess progress being made with respect to the implementation of the plan. In fact we have widened the meeting not only to include the Ministry of Home Affairs, the police change team, the Project Implementation Unit but the Strategic Management Department is also represented at those meetings so it is a quadripartite meeting. “When the Capita Symonds people begin their intervention it will be ….five bodies sitting around a table working together to ensure that this strategic plan works so I think like everything at the beginning there will be teething problems, we are working to overcome those teething problems”.
Rohee stated that the fact of the matter is that the various teams are engaged to ensure that the strategic side “does not get side-tracked or waylaid by persons who have no interest in seeing it succeed and we have made progress, small progress but I believe that in the next few months know that all the parties are clear with respect to their responsibility and working together we will achieve quietly.”