It takes a long time for government to implement changes within the police force, because there is resistance to change. The old ways have served some people just fine and there is an unwillingness to change.
The Ministry of Public Security is part of the problem, because it too is stuck in the past. It does not want change, but rather, control. It is this desire to control which is responsible for the resistance to change within the security services.
There are persons within the police force who are quite happy with the way things are. They are not interested in change. There are persons within the government who would like to keep the police on a string and therefore they too are quite happy with not modernizing the police force.
There has long been expert consensus that the police should not be burdened with a great many of the functions which they find themselves having to carry out. But since the police are not quarrelling and since people find a way to get things done, there is no incentive for change.
Guyana is still a country where once you have the right connections, you can get things done easily. There are many rich persons in Guyana. How many rich or prominent persons have you ever seen in the line at the passport office? How many businessmen have you ever seen joining the lines which used to exist outside the passport office from as early as five in the morning?
You do not see them because they have the connections. They do not have to sit on any bench and wait their turn for hours.
The ordinary man knows what is going on. They sit and wait their turn and they see when the ‘big shots’ come in and mention that they were ‘sent by Inspector so and so, to see so and so’.
The issuance of passports should have long been taken out of the hands of the police. It is an immigration function and all over the world it is being privatized. But in Guyana where politicians are obsessed with control, there is an unwillingness to do so
The police should not be certifying drivers’ competence. The police should not be certifying the roadworthiness of vehicles. The Commissioner of Police should not be the authority to grant gun licences and for processing renewals.
The police should not be required to be granting permission to hold dances. This approval should be done by the neighbourhood democratic council. The police should not have to grant permission to minibus drivers to travel outside of their zone. This should be done by some other authority.
The police should not be guarding the President and the Prime Minister. The government should establish its own Secret Service delinked from the police. All of these functions should have long been divested from the police.
Simple mathematics will demonstrate the impossibility of the police inspecting all of the vehicles present on our roadways. The police cannot, given the few police stations which issue vehicle fitness certificates, be able to inspect every vehicle on our roadways. It is simply impossible, and so it is not hard to imagine what is happening.
In Guyana, you hear stories. And people will tell you that it is cheaper to pass a ‘towel’ (meaning a thousand dollars) to a certifying officer, than to have to wait hours to have your vehicle inspected. It is cheaper to pass two ‘towels’, (two thousand dollars) than to be decertified and told to go and but two brand new tyres.
There are some vehicles on our roadways which appear to have come out of the dump yard. Yet you would be surprised how many of these vehicles have certificates or roadworthiness.
If the Ministry of Public Security is serious about reducing corruption in Guyana, it would move quickly to divest the police of certain responsibilities.
All of the aforementioned functions carried out by the police should be privatized. This will bring greater revenues to the government, because they will have to licence businesses to perform these functions and instead of paying bribes, the public should be charged higher user fees.
But you can bet that come next year, this same conversation will be heard again. There will be no change, because control matters more than competence.
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