President David Granger yesterday warned that government will not tolerate any attempt to derail the implementation of needed security reform.
“Security sector reform is essential to maintaining a force which is committed to our citizens’ safety. My government will resist any attempt, from any quarter, to reverse, retard or to thwart the reforms on which we are embarking,” Granger told the opening ceremony of the two-day Police Officers’ Annual Conference at Eve Leary, where he also said that comments made recently by former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds about the emergence of a “counterforce” during a past crime wave raises questions.
Speaking to a sizeable gathering that included senior police ranks and top government officials, Granger stated that security sector reform is a high priority for government and is at the moment being implemented with the support of the British government.
Last month British security expert Lt Col (rtd) Russell Combe handed over an action plan for the reform of the security sector. He was hired to resuscitate a security sector reform plan that had been aborted under a former PPP/C administration.
Granger informed that the reform will involve measures to promote greater probity in the work of the police and to ensure greater integrity among its officers. It will also strengthen professional responsibility and oversight of the force, he said. “Security sector reform is being reintroduced with the aim of providing increased security for all citizens by improving the Force’s performance to allow it to become, increasingly, more capable of crime-fighting and law-enforcement. To be so capable, it must command the confidence of citizens. There must be public trust,” he stressed while reminding that security reform is not a recent invention of this administration. “The need became evident, especially during the period of intense criminal violence known as the ‘Troubles.’ The reform project, regrettably, became a victim of political prevarication,” he noted.
“I stated in my address to you last year, 2017, that had previous security sector reform initiatives and recommendations been implemented, the deaths of many civilians and policemen during the ‘Troubles’ could have been avoided,” he said, while adding that the reform will reconfigure the police divisions, increasing them to ten so as correspond with Guyana’s administrative system.
Granger stressed that security sector reform will strengthen partnerships and enhance cooperation between the Force and communities. “Security reform is not a political gimmick. It goes to the heart of law enforcement and good governance. I am confident that, with the implementation of those reforms, the Force will be better able to protect our country, our communities and our citizens,” he stated.
The president used the opportunity to highlight Hinds’ “counterforce” statement, which was contained in a letter recently released to the media. Hinds had said that a “counterforce” emerged after the security forces had failed to nab politically-motivated criminals who wanted to undermine the then PPP/C government.
“… Today, the daily newspapers informed how a covert ‘counterforce’ had to be brought into existence to perform the law-enforcement functions, functions which belong under the constitution only to a legitimate Police Force. Numerous questions arise from these careless remarks. Who comprised, who commanded, who controlled that ‘counterforce’?” Granger questioned.
He lashed out at the former PPP government under which Hinds served for failing to tackle the security problems which the country endured, particularly during the crime wave of the early to mid aughts.
“Our country endured two decades of ‘woulda,’ ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’ without any attempt to deal seriously with the causes of our security problems. Corruption, like a malignant cancer, cannot be cured by being ignored,” he added, while repeating comments he had previously made.
Granger also reiterated his intention to investigate the deaths that occurred during the ‘Troubles.’ He informed that government will launch inquiries into the worst massacres which took place during that period, with the first being the Lindo Creek massacre. The other inquiries, which will follow in due course, will examine killings in Kitty, in September, 2002; Lamaha Gardens, in October, 2002; Bourda, in November, 2002; Buxton-Friendship, in June, 2003; Prashad Nagar, in June, 2003; Agricola-Eccles, in February, 2006; La Bonne Intention, in April, 2006; Bagotstown-Eccles, in August, 2006; Black Bush Polder, in August, 2006; Lusignan in January, 2008 and Bartica, in February, 2008.
“It is incomprehensible that so many atrocities could have occurred over such a short period of time without inquests or inquiries being conducted into most of them,” he said while adding the inability of the police to curtail the criminal violence during that period led to the emergence of a “counterforce” and assorted “death squads.”
“It revealed complicity between rogue elements of the discipline services and drug lords. It exposed infiltration of rogue elements into the force. It rendered the security services vulnerable and exposed some of its innocent members to unwarranted death,” he said, while noting that the lessons of the ‘Troubles’ must guide security sector reform. He assured that the Lindo Creek inquiry is intended to improve the force’s administration and operations and not to demoralise or destabilise it.
“The surge of corruption of the security forces, the surge of criminal violence, the surge of execution killings and the failure to eradicate narco-trafficking are all interrelated. The authorities, at the time, instead of trying to cure the cause were more concerned with concealing the symptoms,” he noted.
Granger told those present that if the Force is to win the fight against crime, against disorder and violence, “it must continuously ensure that only persons who are ‘fit and proper’ are appointed to the highest offices of the force’s administration and operation to direct the performance of these functions.”
While acknowledging that the force is heavily tasked, he said that the duties can only be executed effectively if ranks are committed, are competent and are incorruptible.
He noted that transferring a corrupt officer from one branch to another or posting him from one division to another or promoting or demoting him from one rank to another cannot guarantee that “he will change his wicked ways.”
According to Granger, the best efforts of the Office of Professional Responsibility and of the Police Complaints Authority could be undermined by corrupt senior officers who condone the misconduct of subordinates. “They do the force no good but, rather, damage the careers and worst yet endanger the lives of honest policemen and jeopardise public security,” he stressed.
While noting that the trust between the public and the police was damaged more during the ‘Troubles’ than any other time, Granger said that efforts must be made to rebuild public trust.
Granger later told the media that he was not being tough in his comments to the police force but, rather, he wanted to convey government’s tough approach to tackling crime.
”No, I wasn’t tough on the police. I was tough on crime. I am on the side of the Police Force. I am very confident in the Police Force, that is why I went through all of the trouble to initiate the reform so that the Police Force would have an easier time in combatting crime. That is what I was tough on—crime!” he said.