Police reform is just mere chatter

Dear Editor,

Of late the nation has heard a lot of noise about “serious deficiencies” in the Guyana Police Force. The noise is coming from State House and a few impromptu press interviews whenever the media manages to buttonhole the principal source of the noises ‒ President Granger.

Mr Granger is unhappy with some in the GPF because he was advised that those who were in charge of investigating a plot to assassinate him did not do so to his personal satisfaction. So he is now going after them. He has opted to use the recommendations in the Slowe Report emanating from the Presidential Commission of Inquiry as the casus belli.

The entire affair has nothing to do with police reform. From all indications, it appears that the intention is to camouflage executive diktat as police reform in an effort to dupe the Guyanese people as well as the diplomatic and donor community. The government should publish both the Slowe and the Combe Reports for the nation to see for themselves, and to determine whether the actions contemplated by the President are reflective of genuine efforts at police reform or whether the actions are personal because of his dissatisfaction with the way some senior ranks dealt with a concoction about assassinating him.

Crisscrossing Guyana no one has taken seriously the chatter about an attempted assassination on Mr Granger’s life. In fact, many claim it is a distraction from the focus on some senior ranks who regrettably, became victims of a hostile whispering campaign by the victims’ own colleagues who are known to be supportive of either the APNU or AFC and began acting differently since the change in government.

At the end of the day, the real question is do we want a GPF or a GPF? Meaning, a Guyana Police Force or a Granger Police Force. In the case of the former, it is the people through their constitutional arrangements who must decide. Any institution that is national in character and bears the name Guyana must be decided by the Guyanese people. Guyana belongs to the Guyanese people not to any single individual. In the case of the latter, the implication of moving in that direction is that we will bear witness to the remodelling of the Guyana Police Force to the liking of Mr Granger and his party.

What kind of police force do the Guyanese people want and who decides?  In 2014, the PPP/C laid a Bill in the National Assembly calling for the Guyana Police Force to be renamed the Guyana Police Service. The call was made as part and parcel of a raft of reforms for the Guyana Police Force initiated under the PPP/C administration in collaboration with the GPF.

The APNU+AFC rejected the Bill on the ground that they would not support any Bill brought to the House in the name of the then Minister of Home Affairs. It was clear therefore that rejection of the Bill was political and not based on any technical or material consideration. It was obvious to many since that time, that Mr Granger had conceived his own plans for the GPF. However, his plans were partially and temporarily thwarted as a result of the horse-trading between the APNU+AFC with respect to the allocation of ministries, resulting in the Ministry of Home Affairs going to the AFC. Gradually, however, the PNC via the APNU and the Ministry of the Presidency has, in a calculated manner, inched its way into Ministry of Public Security policy-making arena and Force headquarters’ operational matters.

Now the die is cast with respect to the expected shake-up at the GPF’s senior management level. The AFC has lost out once again to the whims and fancies of the APNU working through the Ministry of the Presidency. Mr Ramjattan’s legal authority over the GPF has been eroded once again.

The expected shake-up within the GPF will strengthen the APNU’s political hand within the Ministry of Public Security and by extension the Guyana Police Force. All the chatter about police reform therefore will remain mere chatter.

Yours faithfully,

Clement J Rohee

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