The government should start implementing the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces report in order to tackle crime

Dear Editor,

As Guyanese cower in fear under the onslaught of another crime wave, the PPP/C continues to suggest ludicrous crime-fighting schemes that clearly will not work. On September 26, 2013, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee said that the APNU had nothing to offer with regard to an anti-crime plan for Guyana. In fact, the opposition supported anti-crime plan has been approved by Parliament and has been languishing on Mr Rohee’s desk since 2004.

In July, 2003, two months after being constituted, the Disciplined Forces Commission, comprising experts selected by all parties, began deliberating on ways to improve the security situation in Guyana. The Commission’s final report was delivered to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Ralph Ramkarran, in May 2004.

The report contained 164 recommendations for the improvement and upgrading of the Guyana Prison Service, Guyana Fire Service, Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Police Force.

The then PPP/C controlled Parliament, kicked the report around from government bureaucrats to select committees for another six years, finally approving it in Parliament in June, 2010. Since then, in spite of a new crime wave and repeated calls by the opposition parties for implementation, the PPP/C continues to do nothing about the report.

Among the recommendations made by the Commission were the raising of police salaries to mitigate corruption, the hiring of more qualified police personnel, better training on the use of force and the strengthening of the investigative capabilities of the GPF. None of these things has been done and the results of the failure to implement the recommendations are clear for all to see.

The GPF remains as corrupt as ever; bribes are routinely solicited. In fact the US has repeatedly warned its citizens travelling to Guyana about this phenomenon.

Many police personnel are barely literate as the GPF attracts only the least educated Guyanese into its ranks. Citizens are forever complaining about our “ignorant” police.

The ruling party has made no substantive improvements to police training. Instead the PPP/C spent over $158,000,000 to commission a fancy training centre in June, 2013, with no plan for how the expensive edifice will be used. Failure to upgrade police investigative capabilities results in the continued use of torture as a means of eliciting confessions, most often from innocent, Guyanese young men.

Evidently, if the Commission’s recommendations were followed, we would have been better off today.

The Disciplined Forces Commission recommended the strengthening of the investigative arm of the Police Complaints Authority. Moreover, the authority should be independent of political influence, well staffed and financed. This was not done.

Today, reports of torture, extortion and extra-judicial killings abound, yet, citizens have nowhere to turn for redress and remedy; the Police Complaints Authority remains ineffectual. To date, no National Security Sector Reform Programme has been enacted as recommended. There is therefore no comprehensive approach to police reform.

The Minister’s announcement of the imminent establishment of a SWAT team is laughable. What will a SWAT team do except take away much needed personnel from currently active police units.  Guyana does not have hostage standoffs or embassy invasions for a SWAT team to deal with. SWAT personnel will therefore spend their days and nights playing cards and dominoes in the barrack room.

In Guyana we have drive-by shootings, violent robberies, home invasions, drug related executions, sexual assaults, trafficking in persons. Evidently, we need better investigators and intelligence analysts to catch the perpetrators, not SWAT personnel who can rappel from hovering helicopters. And what about crime in the Guyana’s interior, how is a SWAT team relevant to that?

Minister Rohee should stop misleading Guyanese. A comprehensive anti-crime plan, supported by the APNU and the AFC has been in existence since 2004. The Minister’s own party voted for it in Parliament. The Minister needs to stop coming up with these irrelevant, patchwork, unworkable schemes. He needs to dust off the Disciplined Forces Report, read it and start implementing the recommendations before Guyana is overrun by more phone snatching, home invasions, cutlass-wielding, gun-toting criminals!

Yours faithfully
Mark Dacosta

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