Over the past couple of years, even casual attention to social conversations leaves us with the impression that crime and lawless behaviour is on the rise. To pick up the daily newspapers is to have that impression reinforced. Just this week, for example, I read about nine persons being detained in connection with the murder of Marvin Bridgeman who was shot dead on Tuesday at his home. “Several individuals, said to be known to the police, were arrested and up to press time were being questioned in relation to the shooting and other matters,” said the report. “Bridgeman was shot six times while sitting in the garage of his home on Tuesday evening.”
In another newspaper, there was a strong letter from Ley-An Sui complaining about the wanton use of fireworks in various celebrations. “What is intolerable,” she said, “is the use of fireworks directly over my house coming at me from all sides like an attack of machine-gun fire, extremely loud bangs and other piercing sounds. Among some of the multitude of fireworks sold are some that are quite aptly named – Evil Enemy, Conniption and Earthquake. To the authorities, if you would be willing to seriously address the blatant and flagrant breaking of the law with respect to fireworks and all incendiary devices, I think it would be an amazing move and it would show the citizens that we are serious about addressing crime.”
In that same newspaper that day there was a report of a man by the name of Man Lallo being bludgeoned to death in a country village at about 9.30am. Lallo, a caretaker, was on duty at the building where he worked when he was killed. Further on in the publication, we are told of the Education Minister visiting a school nine months after he made a crucial intervention to curb the level of criminal activity by some students there. He pledged to reverse indiscipline plaguing the school and sent 24 students, who had been identified as the ringleaders by members of the school’s teaching staff, to learning enhancement centres in the country. There was also a report in the paper of a man on trial for murdering his friend in 2005 after a rum-drinking session at a neighbourhood bar. The murdered man, Andrew Richardson, 23, was shot twice in front of his house after the bar closed for the evening. In the international news section there is a report of a life being lost over seemingly minor matters, as we often hear in Guyana; this one involves two neighbours, one 63 years old, the other 65, who were in a months-long dispute over a trimmed hedge. One of the men, armed with an axe and a pistol, attacked his neighbour, and beat him to death.
In a time when we are alarmed over the prevalence of crime here, it is revealing that the six incidents related above, while having a familiar ring to us, did not happen here. Most of them came from press reports in a Trinidad newspaper I picked up in that country on November 4 detailing incidents involving serious crimes; the sixth one, dealing with a crime over a neighbour’s hedge, actually took place in Berlin. In fact, to pick up almost any newspaper, in any place on earth, on any day, is to find that the surge in crime and lawlessness that distresses us here exists everywhere in the world where mankind is pursuing life.
Obviously, the presence of it here is very distressing, and citizens must impress on our leaders the urgent need for crime control, but we should go into the battle realizing that our neighbours are facing similar, or sometimes bigger, problems in this same vein. Friends of mine in Barbados are telling me of the almost daily incidents of gun crimes in that island, and to read the Jamaican press, or the St Lucian, is to see the same condition in those places.
The replication is not to suggest that we should be taking comfort from the spread of this condition. On the contrary, these incidents cropping up all over the globe only serve to heighten our concern; they show that even in the most successful and envied societies the plague of crime rages. When we see the USA, for example, with the highest standard of living in the world, being apparently unable to stem the flood of gun crimes and drug wars and random neighbourhood bullets killing innocents, it alerts us to the clearly mountainous battle a country such as Guyana is facing to get control of this problem. As we justifiably worry about our safety, we need to remind ourselves about the men and women in our police force and security services who are bravely working to bring crime under control. Picking up a newspaper from another country, as I just related above with Trinidad, shows us the depth and the span of the problem everywhere. Our Guyana crime dilemma is a global problem; that makes it even more of a calamity than if it was just ours alone.