Jun 11, 2010 News
By Gary Eleazar
Some six years after the Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission was sent to a Special Select Committee for approval, 40 plus meetings, several changes in committee members and hours of debate in the House last evening, the recommendations were finally approved.
Chairman of the Special Select Committee Prime Minister Samuel Hinds when he presented the report to the House conceded that it was long in coming but time was not standing still given that several of the recommendations in that document, which has its genesis in a body chaired by now Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang, have already been implemented.
Comprising of some 164 recommendations, the majority were directed at the Guyana Police Force namely 71, another 41 targeting the Guyana Defence Force, 23 for the Fire Service and 29 for the Guyana Prison Service.
A point to note, which was quickly pointed out by the Prime Minister, was the recurring thread amongst the bodies, namely ethnic balance in representation and accountability to civilian authority.
The report did suggest that a study be conducted on how to address the ethnic make-up imbroglio and some government officials pointed to the Parliamentary Oversight Committee as it relates to the civilian accountability.
This body whilst approved by the House is yet to be implemented, which was lamented by the opposition speakers.
Speaking to some of the specific recommendations, Hinds told the House that as it relates to the augmentation of the Guyana Police Force, whilst it is concurred to by all, the hurdle to achieving this anytime soon was the lack of resources.
The report also suggested that training of private security personnel should be removed from the police force, as well as the Special Constabulary should be relieved of guard duties and be allowed to function as Police Force Reserves.
This, Hinds said, did not find favour with the Commission given that the police felt that they should reserve the right to train members of the constabulary in the use of firearms as well as the fact that recent legislation addressed the other issue.
It was also agreed to that members of the Guyana Police Force being recruited should have at least a Secondary Education.
One hurdle that is yet to be crossed, according to Hinds, is the suggestion that the force achieve a representation of the ethnic diversity without employing a quota system. But, Hinds disclosed, “We did not experience any great inspiration on how to deal with this problem.”
The allowance of members of the Guyana Defence Force to arrest civilians was a sore point during the committee stage and yesterday’s debate.
Hinds conceded that at the committee stage there was a constant back and forth on this issue but it was subsequently approved.
Basil Williams of the People’s National Congress Reform, who was also a Committee Member, argued that even the Guyana Defence Force did not want that power, stressing that it would be difficult for a soldier to arrest someone and then see the case through to the end, adding that the ranks of the GDF were not trained to effect such functions.
Hinds in his rebuttal of the charge said that there may have to be some training on the arrests, pointing out that it is not that the ranks will be prosecuting the case, rather their power of arrest would be different from that of the police, in that they would just arrest and detain.
He explained to the House that for far too long members of the GDF have been in a position where they witness transgressions of the law, but because they cannot arrest, they are curtailed.
Shadow Home Affairs Minister Deborah Backer in her presentation to the report from the Select Committee immediately launched into a tirade against the Subject Minister, Clement Rohee, telling the House that although he is the substantive Minister he was not present at more than half of the meetings.
Rohee in his defence said that whilst he may have been delinquent in his attendance at the committee meetings, he was occupied otherwise in the interest of Guyanese and was confident in the other members of the Committee in articulating their cases.
Backer told the House that his absence illustrated a lack of respect for what was being undertaken.
Backer said that while the recommendations have been known since 2004, she took cognizance of what the Prime Minister said, in that several of them have already been implemented.
She said that many of the most important recommendations have not been addressed, adding that most of them did not even require input from the donor community.
Backer in her presentation quoted a section of the report which said, “During training, emphasis must be placed on the fact that the use of minimum necessary force is always preferred, even in confrontations with armed and dangerous criminals.”
She also pointed to the section that read, “Permission to carry firearms should be restricted to GPF members who clearly demonstrate a high degree of responsibility. On occasion where it is necessary to equip junior ranks with firearms for frontlines duties and the responsibility element is doubtful in such ranks, they should be under the control of a mature, responsible and experienced supervising rank.” Backer charged that had these elements of the recommendations been implemented, then the deadly shooting of a student from Patentia Secondary, Kelvin Fraser, would not have happened.
Backer contends that the measures which the Minister spoke of that have been implemented are merely “cosmetic.”
She also pointed to the fact that while the Government is agreeing to the need for a higher level of education, the administration is not doing enough.
Backer said that the Government seems only interested in more equipment and painting buildings, which according to her, is referred to as modernization.
Alliance For Change Leader Raphael Trotman, told members of the House that it is a traditional custom for members when debating reports from committees, to pat each other on their backs, but given the length of time the report spent in committee it is an indictment on all involved.
Trotman said that he was not optimistic in any way, even with the adoption of the report, given the track record of the administration when it comes to similar measures.
He said that the Alliance For Change is all in favour of change but they were not convinced that the report will yield any fruit.
He too pointed to the killing of the young school child adding that even if the young man was making ‘cat calls’ or had in his possession marijuana then the use of such force is no way justifiable.
Trotman in pointing to the number of years it took for the report to reach the House, questioned how many centuries it would take to implement the recommendations.
Subject Minister Clement Rohee in his presentation slammed the opposition speakers’ saying that he supports the motion with confidence and optimism, whilst rejecting all of the critics preaching gloom and doom, which is not based on facts about the state of affairs in the Joint Services.
“Police bashing is not going to get the country anywhere,” said Rohee.
He chided the opposition, pointing to the fact that none referred to the Citizen Security Programme (CSP), which has seen some of the most extensive tutoring being received by police trainers.
The CSP, according to Rohee, is multi faceted and will yield remarkable transformation for the Disciplined Services
He said too that while many talk of the several reports that have not been implemented in the past, including the report that was sent to the select committee, the CSP draws on all of those reports and is all-encompassing.
“People talk without edifying themselves,” Rohee asserted, adding that the Guyana Police Force is not isolated in their shortcomings.
He said that police forces around the world all have their problems that they have to deal with.
Rohee emphasised that in Guyana perception is not reality and critics should check with statistics, most of which has to be submitted to the United Nations, because of obligations as a result of treaties signed.
Jul 04, 2022Kaieteur News – Berbice beat Essequibo by 29 runs when the Guyana Cricket Board inter county U17 50-over tournament continued recently at LBI. Berbice batted first and were bowled out for 83 in...
Jul 04, 2022
Jul 04, 2022
Jul 04, 2022
Jul 04, 2022
Jul 04, 2022
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]