Commander’s words could have been open to more than one interpretation

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the counsel purportedly offered by Mr Kevin Adonis, Commander of G Division, to Mr Asif Khan, the victim of a violent robbery at Zorg on the Essequibo Coast.

As reported by the Kaieteur News, Mr Adonis “cautioned Khan to equip his property more securely, since he has millions of dollars worth in stock at his Zorg premises.” (Feb 10). If accurate, Mr Adonis’s advice carries the weight of sound instruction and veiled censure of the victim. Knowing the social climate of the country and perhaps the vulnerability of his premises to robbery, maybe Mr Khan could have indeed strengthened the security arrangements of his property. In this regard, Mr Adonis’s statement expresses a legitimate concern for Mr Khan’s well-being.

However, such a remark also insinuates that Mr Khan is somewhat responsible for the aberrant choices of the perpetrators. Maybe unintentionally, Mr Adonis is proposing that had Mr Khan equipped his premises better, then maybe the crime would have been deterred. This too can seem reasonable advice except that in the experience of Guyanese, security cameras and fortifications only have as much effectiveness as the distorted will of the perpetrators and the responsiveness of law enforcement. Examples of murders caught on security cameras, or concrete fences and window grills yanked open in brazen acts of robbery attest to this fact.

The KN article did not disclose whether Mr Adonis addressed in that moment what efforts were being made to apprehend the perpetrators, and if he did, then such sympathy would render his counsel balanced. In its absence, however, Mr Khan could conclude that he is being identified for lack of responsibility, whereas the criminals receive no such expressed denunciation.

It would seem prudent in situations such as these that attributions of responsibility be balanced, otherwise victims can begin feeling that they are being singled out for blame. Trauma, such as that suffered by Khan and his family, can surely contribute to decoding such interpretations. It is noteworthy that Mr Khan had actually applied for a gun licence, and seemingly hasn’t yet qualified. Perhaps Mr Adonis can offer a rationale for such an outcome, further helping to offer more impartial counsel.

Mr Adonis’s remark can be viewed as instructive and there could very well have been no intention at hinting at the opposite. However, language and meaning can be construed differently based on context, and in this circumstance, either interpretation is possible. It is my sincere hope that Mr Adonis’s comment in no way mirrors that of another Divisional Commander who, possibly unintentionally, illuminated the discourse of rape, and ended up apologizing for what was viewed as an ignominious faux pas.

Yours faithfully,
Romain Khan

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