Sometime back an individual sent me one of those jokes that people usually circulate on social media. It was about a bird that collapsed on the ground during extremely cold weather.
Up came a cow and dumped on it. The mess kept the bird warm. The joke continued that not everyone who dumps on you is an enemy. The bird felt good, so it began to sing. A cat heard the singing and investigated. It dug the bird out of the mess and ate it. The morale is that not everyone who takes you out of mess is your friend.
This joke came readily to my mind when I read that fourteen firefighters raided the crashed Fly Jamaica flight after it landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport on Friday.
The plane had difficulty stopping on the tarmac and ran off the tarmac to crash into a sand trap and a perimeter fence. Ranks of the Timehri Fire Station were already on standby. The pilot had radioed in to inform the control tower that the aircraft had problems with its hydraulics.
Nobody died, but the aircraft was damaged. An engine was ripped off. The passengers were evacuated, and police and soldiers moved to secure the aircraft. That was all well and good, but for the firemen who boarded the craft and helped themselves to whatever they could put their hands on.
They are all in police custody, but the shame has spread all over the country. Uniformed first responders have emerged as vultures at the scene of an accident.
It is not that this is common to Guyana, but our disciplined ranks should not have been common thieves. They should be the people to render assistance in times of crisis.
In the wake of the report, I explained to some members of staff that many of the lower ranks in the disciplined services are not among the brightest in the society. Further, many join the forces because they believe that the services are perhaps the easiest places to gain employment.
I have known policemen to behave in the same way those firemen did. Some have gone to road accident scenes and helped themselves to valuables from the victims. It was the same with some hospital porters who transport the dead or the injured.
In the case of the plane crash, many of the victims were not native to Guyana, so one can imagine their impression of Guyana. People lost computer devices, phones, colognes and jewellery. Fortunately, some have been recovered.
People seek jobs to make their lives better. Somewhere along the way, they become opportunists and suddenly become no better than the common criminal. Policemen have joined the force with all good intention, but they change.
There have been reports of recruits lobbying to become traffic ranks because of the opportunity to fleece drivers. The ranks on the roads have been known to report to robbery scenes. Some captured the criminals and recovered stolen articles, but for some reason the money was never really returned. If any was, it was a fraction of what was taken.
Still fresh in my mind are those soldiers who kidnapped and killed a young man named Dwieve Kant Ramdass. The man had a quantity of gold and cash. Somehow the soldiers got word and descended on the Parika Ferry Stelling and removed the young man from the crowd.
They killed him and took his money. The law has dealt with them. Some policemen who got into the act have also been dealt with. Honesty for many is just a word.
Police ranks have reported that recruits have stolen phones belonging to their comrades in the barracks. This has happened even before these recruits have become policemen.
It all boils down to parental training and societal orientation. Many parents do not preach social values to their children, with the result that the children grow up seeking shortcuts to prosperity, sometimes with dire consequences.
Two nights ago, some young people on their way home were pounced on by a group of people, a woman was in the midst of the robbers, and robbed. The young victims did not have much, but those who attacked them did not care.
It is as if they have a mindset to simply live off the earnings of others. That has long been the case of young people in school developing role models who made money by illegal means. These young, misguided people see the pursuit of fast money as their goal.
Those fourteen firemen would have developed the same mindset. They would have grown up seeing people spending money and knowing that those people did not make their money by legitimate means. However, some of them did not want to take certain chances, so they entered mainstream life. They became uniformed ranks.
However, they still kept their eyes on gaining more than they were earning. The crashed airplane offered an opportunity for them to get more than they could earn legitimately.
Some of them are going to court and they will have to depend on their immediate family who have precious little; people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Money that could have gone to do other things will now be diverted to pay lawyers. It is a case of diverting scarce resources when there should have been no need to.
We all know of prison officers who feed off of prisoners. They smuggle illegal things into the prisons for a fee, placing the lives of their colleagues at risk. But they do not see the bigger picture. Some say it is a societal problem. I say it is a case of people fashioning their lives to take development one step at a time.
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