The daily attacks committed on citizens by criminals justify the immediate declaration of a limited state of emergency. It matters not that the police, as at last September, were saying that the number of serious crimes was down by 22% – what matters are the levels of fear and the vulnerability of citizens to criminal attacks.
Last Thursday, a family residing in Black Bush Polder was subjected to a terrifying ordeal. Bandits invaded their home. Family members, including a female, were brutally beaten with guns. The bandits discharged shots in the house. Residents who heard the commotion reportedly contacted the nearby police station but were told that transportation was not available for ranks to respond to the report. One news report is saying that the family had to hide between some banana trees all night.
Meanwhile, yesterday morning, there was an armed robbery at a petrol station at No. 6 Village, Berbice. Two armed men swarmed the employees of the station. The bandits were vicious. One of the guards was awakened from his sleep and robbed while the other was similarly robbed and lashed in his face. Those men will be brave to return to that job.
The violence is not restricted to evenings and nighttime. Persons are being attacked in broad daylight.
A new video has appeared on social media showing a man, who appears to be a Cuban, being mobbed in broad daylight on Regent Street. The man tried to fight back, but eventually relented after he realised he could have been stabbed to death by criminals. No one came to his rescue. Storeowners are claiming that robberies on Cubans are a regular occurrence on Regent Street.
The Cubans are propping up the economy. It is the purchases being made by Cuban nationals, which are keeping so many businesses afloat. The Cubans have also revived the real estate sector because of the need for increased accommodation. Yet they are being attacked and robbed.
Something has to be done about the crime situation. A limited state of emergency should be considered.
In 2011, Trinidad and Tobago declared a limited state of emergency in certain hotspots in order to deescalate the crime situation in the country. The state of emergency entailed curfews after 11 pm and involved police roadblocks and patrols.
The state of emergency attracted fierce criticism from opposition and human rights groups, but the government claimed success, with some US$117M worth of narcotics being seized. One study also found that there was a decline in trauma at the main medical trauma centre.
Last year, the Prime Minister of Jamaica declared a state of emergency in the St. James Parish, which had been hit by high levels of crime. The results of the emergency were impressive, with a 67% decline in murders.
A state of emergency therefore is not to be feared. It is not an admission of a collapse in the social order. A state of emergency is an acknowledgement that there is a problem and that targeted action needs to be taken. In the case of Guyana, action needs to be taken to bring an end to the daily criminal violence, including murders, being meted out to citizens.
A state of emergency need not result in economic losses. A state of emergency has to be tailored to provide a safe environment, which will encourage business activity. There need not only be limited restraints on people’s movements. For example, a limited curfew can be put into effect after 2:00 am, the time when most of nightlife in any event is required to cease.
Guyana is about to enter a political crisis. It is well known that criminals like to take full advantage of the tensions and instability resulting from political crises because the police are spread thin. It is during such periods that crime spikes and becomes even more vicious. Therefore, the imminence of a political crisis is not encouraging at all. It is dangerous for law and order.
The government must realise that whatever little chance they have of regaining power is being daily undermined by the crime wave, which is terrorising citizens. They ought to also realise that any political crisis will lead to escalation of criminal attacks and this will hurt their chances of reelection.
Declaring a limited state of emergency is therefore not an admission of failure. Not doing so will be political suicidal.
The government should declare a limited state of emergency. It should try to put a halt to the daily attacks on decent, law-abiding citizens. There is no shame, no disgrace in declaring a limited state of emergency to address the runaway crime situation.
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