We will soon be approaching four years since Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan was handed the reduced portfolio from Home Affairs to Public Security.
Notwithstanding the exponential increase in numerical strength and the spawning of military and police ranks within the state and public sector, the sum total of horrific occurrences far outweigh whatever little may have been achieved in that sector since the APNU+AFC came to power.
Among the first acts of the new government was to seek to exercise political influence, and to intrude in the operational mandates of the military and law enforcement agencies. In the case of the police, this was manifested by attempts to direct the Police Service Commission what it should do and not do.
The axing of the end-of-year, one-month tax-free bonus hit members of the security sector hard. It turned out to be both a psychological and a financial hazard. Ranks looked askance when they saw billions being spent on extravagant and restige projects yet they were continually denied their annual bonus.
Next came the establishment of Commission of Inquiries into the Lindo Creek Massacre and the ‘alleged attempt on the life of the president’.
These Inquiries were aimed more at flushing out a number of ‘political undesirables’ from the ranks of the military, police and CANU, and to parachute in their place, elements who the regime considered malleable to messages from the political directorate.
The reduction of piracy on the Corentyne River and in the area of overlap had less to do with the Government of Guyana’s much touted successes. On the contrary, it had more to do with the Surinamese Government’s strong actions to stamp out piracy in waterways under its jurisdiction.
Dereliction of duty on the part of government to maintain a high level of internal security and good order within the prison system, resulting in two major disasters in less than two years, should be viewed as a microcosm of the APNU+ AFC’s abysmal failure in the security sector at the national level.
In the wider society, contrary to the bleatings of the subject Minister, the citizenry continue to suffer almost on a daily basis from gun crimes, robbery under arms, larceny from the person, break and enter and larceny, domestic violence, child abuse, and murders.
Suicides have increased at the once prosperous but now depressed sugar estates.
Attacks on the PPP/C administration’s jettisoning of the UK’s Security Sector (Draft) Reform Programme was misplaced and without merit. Alternatively, the PPP/C government had committed to supporting, and had actually begun utilizing on an annualized basis, budgetary resources to fund a five-year Guyana variant of the model the British had recommended.
The just completed Security Sector Reform Report a/k the Combe Report is more or less a carbon copy of the Capita-Symonds Report which the PPP/C administration had begun implementing utilizing its own resources.
The retrofitted structure recommended by Combe will see a significant increase in the bureaucratization of the Police Force where senior ranks will be called upon to attend to reform measures on a full-time basis. At the same time, an unprepared Ministry of Public Security will be saddled with the responsibility to ensure effective implementation of the programme and full realization of deliverables.
That aside, problems are bound to arise in the Police’s ‘chain of command’ unless the Commissioner himself chairs both the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the Police Reform Change Board (PRCB).
Knowing how difficult it will be for the Minister to lead a process as complex and challenging as reform of the Police Force in particular, and the security sector in general, the Director should, preferably, be a competent, experienced and professional civilian and not a party hack.
But it was not only security sector reform, albeit retrofitted that the government adopted lock, stock and barrel from the PPP/C.
The Granger- led administration, notwithstanding its attacks on the PPP/C administration’s crime fighting strategy has recognized the need to preserve some law enforcement initiatives put in place by the previous administration.
These include, maintenance of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, the Firearm Licensing Approval Board, the Police Legal Adviser, the Stray Catching Unit, the Juvenile Holding Centre, the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) and the National Intelligence Centre.
Moreover, the coalition administration, notwithstanding its harsh criticisms of the IDB-funded Citizens Security Programme CSP (1) under the PPP/C has accepted the need to continue with CSP (2).
And as if on a wrecking expedition, government flagrantly undermined the effectiveness of Community and Neighbourhood Policing, cutting down drastically the respective mandates of these organizations to a size that hobbled its mobility and reach countrywide.
Further, assisted by maximum administrative delay the administration frustrated the implementation of the respective strategic plans of the Guyana Prison Service and Guyana Fire Service.
In one fell swoop, the APNU+AFC disbanded the National Commission for Law and Order, the National Committee to Combat Inter-personal Violence, the Ogle and CJIA Security Monitoring Committees, the Advisory Committee on Alternative Sentencing, the Crime and Social Observatory, the Task Forces on Smuggling and the Contraband and Illicit Drugs and Firearms.
Innovative crime fighting Initiatives to facilitate crime mapping by means of satellite, on-line crime reporting, and I paid a bribe website, the Integrated Crime Information System and the regional House of Justice project were all scrapped by the ‘security experts’ attached to the Granger-led administration.
Had the elections not intervened in May 2015, the then Ministry of Home Affairs would have increased the number of CCTV cameras in and around the city of Georgetown and other towns, a digital occurrence book was to be introduced at police stations, steps were taken to procure body cameras for police ranks, a redesigned machine readable passport was to come on stream in 2015, the Special Weapons and Tactical Team (SWAT) was to undergo advanced training with new, upgraded weapons,
E and F divisions of the Police Force were to be delinked, floating police stations were to be established on the Waini and Berbice Rivers, the Cops and Faith Network was to undergo institutional strengthening, training of a number of police ranks selected to serve in the much anticipated Aviation Branch of the GPF was slated to begin at the Engineering School at Ogle, the Marine Branch of the GPF was on the cusp of becoming a world class organization, the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Prison Service were to undergo name changes from Guyana Police Force to Guyana Police Service and from Guyana Prison Service to Guyana Prison and Correctional Service.
Restructuring of CANU was in the pipeline and branches of the unit were to be established at all the newly established official ports of entry.
Polygraphing of ranks in the disciplined services were to be extended to civilians engaged in law enforcement in one form or another.
Had government not abandoned polygraphing as an anti-corruption safeguard, corruption in law enforcement agencies would have been drastically reduced.
The scandal hitting SOCU might have been possible but highly improbable.
The National Incident Response Team to fight off cyber attacks and enhance cyber security was to be strengthened and enhanced technologically and with additional highly skilled Human Resources.
Correction of the defects at the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory was to be accelerated in 2015.
In that same year, the lab was expected secure ISO certification and international accreditation as a precondition for evidence and DNA testing. A business plan to market the services available to the public was to be agreed and made public.
Clement J . Rohee
Former Minister of Home Affairs