No word on Combe’s report

Dear Editor,

In an interview with Stabroek News early in May this year Mr Russel Combe, a UK security expert announced that he would be submitting by June (2017) month end an Interim Security Reform Action Plan for Guyana. We are now in July and there’s no word about the whereabouts of Mr Combe or his plan. The nation anxiously awaits its publication.

It is expected that that the Combe plan would be posted on the Ministry of Public Security’s website for public scrutiny and comments. Because the plan is related to public security in particular, and not national security in general, the government should not invoke any excuse whatsoever to keep the plan under wraps as it is wont to do.

The recent attempted robbery at Republic Bank on Water Street demonstrates once again the urgent need for security sector reform in whatever shape or form, provided that the recommendations when implemented are operationally effective and correspond to the exigencies of one situation or another.

In so far as the foiled bank robbery is concerned, questions are being asked as to why the SWAT team was not activated and immediately dispatched to the scene of the robbery, since it included hostage-taking, and attempts to take control of a commercial building in the centre of the city. In a worst case scenario, it could have been terrorists. In either situation, the task of removing the danger created to public safety was the responsibility of a SWAT team. In the circumstances, it should have been immediately activated and sent into action. This just did not happen.

Further, it is unfortunate that the neither the police nor army operatives who share imagery from the National Intelligence Center and are tasked with the responsibility to monitor 24×7 unusual movements on the streets of Georgetown where 40 CCTV cameras are located, did not detect any suspicious movements in or around the vicinity before the crime was committed.

Moreover, the attempted bank robbery proved once again that all the talk about intelligence-led police work is not bearing fruit as was expected. From all indications, it appears that the bandits sought to invoke the element of surprise, considering that they chose to do so at the beginning of a normal business day.

The attack on the bank reaffirms the contention that it is in Police ‘A’ division that gun crimes are most prevalent and out of control. Guns continue to be easily available to young people in the city where 2 gun crimes are committed each day. The government seems to be at their wits end on how to address this situation. The National Security Council (NSC)  should think twice in future before supporting any of Mr Ramjattan’s half-baked recommendations, the latest being the extensive barricading in of Members of Parliament during sittings of the National Assembly ‘protecting’ them from a possible terrorist attack.

Incidentally, the threat of a terrorist attack should be determined by a specific threat level established by the local intelligence community and not simplistically or whimsically by what has occurred in other jurisdictions. The NSC should direct Mr Ramjattan to focus on hot spots and potential hot spots in the city of Georgetown. And the police must be provided with badly needed human and technological resources to prevent criminal activities, particularly in ‘A’ division.

It is within this backdrop that Mr Combe’s interim report must be made public immediately. And stakeholders must be invited to share their views on the document. Further, Combe’s interim report should be brought to the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Security for discussion and recommendations for its improvement.

We await publication of Mr Combe’s report.

Yours faithfully,
Clement J Rohee

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