There is this slight storm in a teacup in the local environment. For anxious and insecure Guyanese of all walks of life, though, it was not such a slight storm at all; far from the paltriness of slightness. And that is because so much more is at stake including, at times, life itself.
Two widely publicised statements from official and influential places identified the issue. One was from the Minister of Public Security, as articulated by the Hon. Minister himself. The other was from the United States Department of State in the form of an advisory to its citizens. The two messages are a study in contrast, parts of which are quoted as reported, to furnish context, clarity and, hopefully, some appreciation for the matter at hand.
The Hon. Minister is reported (Kaieteur News – May 31) to have “insisted that serious crime is down, while suggesting that stories on the front page of the media might give the perception of an upsurge.”
For its part, in the same May 31st edition of Kaieteur News, the US State Department warned that “Violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder, is common. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”
Which is closer to the reality of daily life in Guyana? Who is exaggerating by blowing out of proportion without full regard for local conditions? Perhaps by the same token, who is minimising by pretending that things are not as bad as presented? Recognition is due that media headlines ruffle and the police are terribly shorthanded. But that only goes so far. For truth be told, headlines and resources do not matter when a target is stalked, a victim is cornered, and a gun is pointed. For that is the truth of crime in Guyana. That is the sum of all fears that brings out the embedded fears and pervasive and overpowering insecurities that are part and parcel of the troubled days, and even more ominously the menacing dark cloak of night.
That is what matters. Not the preemptive, cautionary note from State to its own. Not the intended-to-be comforting pronouncement to private sector and the rest of listening Guyana from the Minister of Public Security. In some ways, the Minister’s well-meaning balm can be compared to that extraordinary aviation statistics: flying is the safest form of transportation. The statistics so confirm by the longest time and miles. That is, until there is catastrophic failure and personal disaster. That statistics is not so bloodless nor so impersonal nor so far away anymore.
And with respect and contemplation for the words of the Minister, that is what all Guyanese citizens live with today, and for a while now. When that incident, that hurting, that news report of brutality and violation and loss involves them. It is no longer out there; involving somebody else, some stranger, some hapless unfortunate in the wrong place at the wrong time. For that somebody could be the bell tolled (the gun fired and weapon brandished) for oneself. Then it is no longer a question of who is alerting inaccurately, or who is defending unwisely.
That is why, it is better to focus on that which is the disturbing reality that encircles. For these are the circumstances that encircle and terrorise and enfeeble and lastly imprison one and all. Everywhere and anywhere. And anytime and every time too. The hard, irrefutable, devastating truth is this: Guyanese feel endangered. All, to some extent, sense trouble (rightly or foolishly) from the shadows, from any silence, from all sounds. Citizens are nervous. Citizens are frightened. Citizens shelter. These are the palpable perceptions that reign, which overwhelms public reports and police records that say otherwise. Perception is reality. Who will be next? Will that be…?
That is what we have to be overcome. And the only way to demonstrate that is through taking back street, community, and country.
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