Like most Guyanese, I am totally disgusted by all the brutal, senseless killings and barefaced robberies taking place every day throughout the country, and the apparent lack of any coherent plan by the Minister of Public Security to end this escalating crime spree. The ease with which criminals are going about their business, brutalizing families in their homes, stripping them of their valuables, their dignity and often, their very lives, is reminiscent of the infamous Burnham era of the notorious “kick down the door bandits”. And Minister Khemraj Ramjattan seems clueless and in denial.
Responding to questions at an AFC press conference last Friday, he said, “Sometimes this thing is emblazoned across the front pages of newspapers giving the impression as though we are in a real bad state, (but it’s) not really true.”
In its Editorial of April 23, 2019, the government propaganda mouthpiece tried to discourage outraged public-spirited citizens from becoming vigilantes by assuring them that the APNU+AFC administration is competent enough and “fully capable of enforcing the law, including protecting citizens”. And shamelessly, the Guyana Chronicle Editorial concluded that, “In the last three years or so, since the APNU+AFC coalition was elected, there has been a steady decrease in crime due to a government initiative and the police adopting a more intelligence-led approach to crime fighting… In fact, President Granger has emphasised that security is one of the preconditions of the ‘good life’ that government is committed to delivering to all Guyanese” and that, “crime will not be tolerated.”
But while the Chronicle propagates this hogwash, the nation wakes up every day to independent press reports of an escalating crime wave.
Readers may recall that the newly-elected APNU+AFC government launch-ed a six-week gun amnesty nationwide campaign on September 1, 2015 aimed at getting illegal weapons off the streets to reduce the gun-related crime rate. It netted a total of 186 illegal firearms, but most of those were previously used by our indigenous Amerindian brothers for hunting food and protecting their families and livestock from dangerous wild animals in isolated hinterland areas, far away from police protection. The fact that none of these weapons were used to commit a single crime, is evidence that the campaign was a failure. Most of these hunting rifles have since been returned to their rightful owners.
The years between 2000 and 2010 are often referred to as “The Troubled Period”. During this decade, there were massacres in Agricola, Bagotstown-Eccles, Bartica, Bourda, Campbellville, Kitty, Lamaha Gardens, Lindo Creek and Lusignan. And despite the promise made by President Granger to set up a commission of inquiry (COI) into the spate of murders that occurred, only Lindo Creek was singled out for investigation to disparage members of the police force.
Since 2015, crime has escalated to dangerous levels, prompting the British government and the US State Department to issue travel advisories to their citizens to exercise caution when travelling to Guyana due to an increase in crime, citing violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder as being “common.” Yet Ramjattan declares it is “not really true.” Now he wants to increase the academic qualifications for entrance into the Police Force, but fails to give police officers the 20% salary increase they were promised during the 2015 election campaign. And to add salt to the wound, the government took away the one-month tax-free Christ-mas bonus the Joint Services once enjoyed under the PPP/C. Morale in the police force must be very low under his leadership.
Since Khemraj Ramjattan became Minister of Public Security, he has brought the entire security sector into disrepute: In March 2016, seventeen prisoners were burnt to death and 11 others injured in what was described as the worst prison riot in our history. Then in July 2017, during the blazing inferno of the Camp Street Prison, a prison officer was murdered and eight notorious, hard-core criminals escaped, two of whom are believed to be still on the run. Since then, there have been several more well-organized prison breaks, countless murders and armed robberies that dominate the news behind government corruption.
No doubt, Minister Ramjattan has a difficult job… One he has proven incapable of.
He may well succeed in his bid to replace Moses Nagamootoo as his party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, but the electorate will ensure he never gets the opportunity to serve one day in that capacity.
For all the deaths and the many victims of violence and armed robberies that occurred under his watch, Khemraj Ramjattan has yet to accept ministerial responsibility for his inability to keep our citizens safe. It is now time for the Minister of Public Security to be fired in the public interest, or be reassigned to a ministry where his incompetence can no longer affect the safety of our people.
PPP/C Member of Parliament
Member of the Parliamentary
Committee on the Security Sector