When will the Opposition Parliamentarians take responsibility for the reckless, irresponsible and vindictive decisions they have been making as lawmakers? And when will the Police Commissioner and his Crime Chief stop hiding behind the Minister of Home Affairs, and take full responsibility for not doing enough to curb the spate of violent murders and other violent crime taking place throughout Guyana?
On March 14, Government Chief Whip Gail Teixeira said that the joint parliamentary opposition was behaving like “little boys playing with big issues in a playground and they are missing the mark all the time.” This warning came soon after both APNU and the AFC voted to kill the Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2012. The Bill that sought to fill a loophole within the system that allowed trafficking of firearms. In defending the action of his party, Opposition Leader, David Granger said, “The greater danger must be recognized”, referring to Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, who piloted the bill. He then stated emphatically that APNU will not support any Bill brought to the National Assembly by Rohee, regardless of its merit. When a Kaieteur News reporter asked Granger if the opposition is ready to take responsibility in any case where lack of such provisions in the law results in greater violence, he responded, “We have taken a position that he (Rohee) is not competent to remain Minister of Home Affairs and we take responsibility for that position. Him remaining in that position is the greatest danger to public security.”
It is highly unlikely that the relatives of those recently murdered would agree that the Home Affairs Minister is a “greater danger” than the heartless killers who gunned down their loved ones. I challenge the APNU Leader to explain this insane logic to children who must now grow up without a father, and a wife who must now feel the burden of raising a family without a husband. APNU’s obsession with Minister Rohee is putting the security of all Guyanese at risk.
As anticipated, the Opposition is once again using these acts of violence to renew the call for Rohee’s removal as Home Affairs Minister. Former Police Commissioner and APNU Parliamentarian Winston Felix is delusional if he thinks the Guyanese people have forgotten the reign of terror by murderous criminals who slaughtered many innocent men, women and children under his watch. Felix has no credibility to criticize this government, Rohee or the men and women in uniform. It is ironic that he used the word “incompetence” to blame government for the recent crime surge, yet incompetence is the reason he’s considered the worst Police Commissioner Guyana has ever had. Even now, the suggestions he is giving, are measures already in place by law enforcement. This dinosaur has nothing new to offer.
These Parliamentarians should be demanding an explanation and course of action from the Police Commissioner, Leroy Brumell and his Crime Chief, Seelall Persaud. They are the ones responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Guyana Police Force, not the Minister. I was pleased that the Commissioner appeared at a recent press conference with Home Affairs Minister Rohee, but Brumell needs to do more to convince Guyanese that he has the situation under control. There are just too many similar trends in the past not to invoke painful memories.
Asking people not to “press the panic button” will not cut it.
Brumell really has no excuse. There has never been another period in our history when the Guyana Police Force has been more equipped, trained and prepared. I recalled the days when a police officer would have to “boom a ride” in a taxi to get to the scene of a crime or accident because the Force had no vehicles. Today, this institution is much more modern and well-equipped, thanks to a hard working Home Affairs Minister and a generous PPP/C government. Police now have many new vehicles and mobile units; a state of the art forensic laboratory that will be operational by the end of October; the use of surveillance cameras; wire-tapping devices and authority; superior training; and the manpower to get the job done properly. The Force is even in possession of a water cannon that never worked when the need arises. At times I wonder if this equipment, designed to disperse large crowds of unruly protestors, had been deliberately sabotaged to prevent its use.
But if Commissioner Brumell needs additional resources to keep our citizens safe, I’m confident he will get it from this government if requested. He needs to be more proactive and innovative in finding new ways to outsmart the criminals, and to restore public confidence in the Guyana Police Force.
No government can rule effectively if crime is running rampant in the country. The economy suffers; commerce suffers; tourism suffers; and most importantly, citizens live in fear for the safety of themselves and their families. The opposition, I’m sure, is well aware of this. Because the security of the nation is both urgent and imperative, it must not be exploited by the opposition to score cheap political points, nor to weaken the administration. A new approach is needed by the Guyana Police to rid the country of illegal guns. As the saying goes, one cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect to get a different result. My approach is a bit radical, but I honestly believe it will bear fruit if implemented. I therefore offer the following suggestions to Commissioner Brumell, and encourage anyone with better ideas to do the same:
1. For a limited time only, the Police Commissioner should introduce a ‘Buy-Back” program for firearms – no questions asked. Anyone can turn in a gun at any police station without fear of being arrested, or being asked for their name and address or where the weapon was obtained. This program is done on a regular basis in New York very successfully, and it could be just as successful here.
An amount of $20,000.00 (US$100.00) can be offered for every working gun turned in, and $10,000.00 for every gun turned in that does not work. A defective gun can be used very effectively to commit a crime, for when a victim stares down the barrel of a gun, there is no way to determine whether or not the gun works. The Commissioner of Police should make it known that after the Buy-Back Program has ended, an aggressive campaign will be launched by law enforcement to go after those guns not turned in, with mandatory prison time for those caught with illegal firearms, working or not. Local businessmen/women can be persuaded to finance this project through sponsorship, because the more guns that are taken off the streets, the safer their businesses become, and the less likely their families and themselves will be targeted.
I will gladly volunteer to initiate this program on behalf of the Guyana Police Force.
2. Offer a one-month conditional amnesty to hard-core criminals wanted by the police for heinous crimes such as murder; aggravated assault; armed robbery and rape. Depending on the severity of the crime committed, felons will qualify for a substantial reduction in sentencing by surrendering to the police. While in prison, they, and other prisoners, will have to undertake mandatory counseling geared at rehabilitation, which will help re-establish the prisoners back into society; giving them hope and the opportunity for a new life. Upon their release from prison, they would be placed on supervised probation with electronic monitoring for 3-5 years. If probation is violated within this period, they would be re-arrested to complete the full term of their sentence.
Here is the logic behind this ‘carrot and stick’ approach:
To put it simply, deadly criminals would be taken off the streets, resulting in a reduction in murders and other brutal crimes, making communities much safer.
Anyone who commits murder in Guyana, knows that if found guilty, he is likely to be sentenced to life in prison. And if he chooses to run from the law, he is likely to be killed in a confrontation with the police. With this in mind, he becomes even more desperate and ruthless because he cannot see a way out of the dilemma he puts himself in. He is void of hope… so he stays on the run as long as he can, committing crimes along the way to survive with little or no respect for another human life. But if given an opportunity to wipe his slate clean after spending a few years in prison to return to live a normal life with his family in freedom, I feel sure that most criminals on the run would choose this option. Give them hope.
3. Very stringent laws must be introduced and enforced to deter crime, especially crimes motivated by race and religion; rape; the sexual abuse of children; and crimes committed against tourists, re-migrants and foreign investors.
4. There is a dire need to re-introduce the gallows. The commutation of the death penalty to life imprisonment has only benefitted the agenda of the Guyana Human Rights Association. What about the rights of the victims, don’t they have rights too?
After President Hoyte approved the hanging of a few convicted murderers in the early 90s, the crime rate dropped drastically. It worked then, it will work again. Criminals, who knowingly take the life of another human being, forfeit their right to live. I say enough is enough, hang these killers and restore normalcy to the lives of law-abiding citizens throughout this dear land of ours.
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I have been doing columns since 1988. I have been a major columnist with the Catholic Standard, Stabroek News, Kaieteur... more