Where are our protectors?
“Soldiers do not do those things.” These were the words of Commodore Gary Best to reporters when he was asked about the possible involvement of ranks of the Guyana Defence Force in a brutal murder last year.
The army hierarchy was serious that its troops were not barbarians and would only kill or do things that normal citizens would not do, when they were under pressure or under strict orders.
However, we have from time to time noticed soldiers being implicated in armed robberies and in other corrupt acts. For example, there was the hunt for cocaine in Wakenaam and the soldiers placed some of the people they arrested in ant nests. To this day the nation is still to get a comment or at least an explanation from the army.
Soldiers were fingered in armed robberies in the hinterland and one of those now in custody was said to be among the leaders.
The press reported on the mishap in the Essequibo River that left two dead and a child missing to this day. The accident was mysterious. The boat looked as though it had been struck by another vessel but there was no way anyone could conclude that such a thing happened. An eyewitness who is expressing fear of coming forward is reportedly fingering soldiers.
This time around, there were eyewitnesses to an abduction, and what is now certainly a robbery. Soldiers have been placed squarely at the centre; the suspects are members of the Coast Guard.
This is indeed a shocker. The army has broken its silence. In a statement issued yesterday the army wrote, “The Guyana Defence Force condemns in the strongest possible terms the criminal action of its Coast Guard ranks stationed at Fort Island. Their actions in no way represent the ethos and character of the Guyana Defence Force. It is reprehensible…”
The army is admitting, now, that there was a breakdown in command and leadership. Is this an admission that army administrators until now, had no control over the criminal elements?
This newspaper reported of a woman being summoned to collect a share of the money taken from the abducted man; it talks of three ranks, one of whom has since confessed. The army has already, even before a trial, admitted that its ranks abducted the missing man.
“The Coast Guard will lead and continue the search until the missing businessman is located.”
The community has had its share of rogue protectors. These abounded in the Guyana Police Force and until recently, reigned with impunity. Now there are the soldiers. This is scary because people seeing the protectors coming toward them must now wonder whether they are safe.
We must now wonder whether there are other rogue ranks who have not yet been unmasked.
“I wish to assure citizens, the fishing community, fishermen, small boat and other vessel operators that the Defence Force subscribes to the highest of professional standards and will continue to discharge its mandate notwithstanding this unsavoury incident,” says Commander Gary Best. Nice words but how much do they mean at this time.
The government recently imposed polygraphy in certain sections, not excluding some sections of the police force. The same must now be done in the Guyana Defence Force, and the Coast Guard is not a bad place to start.