The police are returning to the repressive role that they played during the horrible days of dictatorship. The restrictions and discriminatory treatment against anti-government protestors at Cornelia Ida on Sunday has once again shown the rotten side of the Guyana Police Force and its proclivity to take sides when it comes to political protests.
The role of the police is not to prohibit protests. The job of the police is to maintain order. In fact, the police have a duty to protect persons who are protesting.
In the interest of maintaining public order, the police may decide that certain protests may be disruptive to the rights of other people, including their physical movement. As such, it may place restrictions on where persons may protest.
But such action should never be as such to neutralise the protests. Once there is no threat to public order, there is no reason why protestors cannot be allowed in front of any venue.
Last Sunday, the police erected barriers across the road from an event attended by the President of Guyana. The PPPC supporters who were protesting what they see as an illegal President were kept at a distance, which would have the effect of neutralising their protests.
The police were determined not just to keep them away from the location but also to ensure that they could not be seen or heard from within the school where the event was being held. This was unnecessary and excessive. The police actions represented a case of overkill.
The police have adopted this brainless approach ever since the protests outside the Marrriot Hotel. They were seen following Opposition leaders around at St Cuthbert’s Mission. There was no need for this. It is almost as if they were tailing some persons who had every right to be there.
Not only were the PPPC protestors restrained some 100 metres away, but they were also forced backwards when they found a side street from which to protest. The police acted repressively against the PPPC protestors. Why are the police trying to stop peaceful protests?
The actions against the PPPC supporters were quite in contrast to the actions, which they took in relation to the APNU supporters. They later allowed these supporters access to the front of the school where they vociferously screamed their support for the President.
Guyana has an ugly history of political repressions during the reign of the PNC dictatorship. And the main instrument of the repression was the police force. The police were trained to turn a blind eye to the actions of thugs who broke up political meetings.
The Special Squad was a collector of intelligence, which was used for political purposes. And the Tactical Services Unit was used to intimidate persons attending political meetings. The police were also used to victimise political opponents of the regime.
During that era, the police were asked to do a number of unprofessional things. And it seems as if that era has returned. Videos have appeared on social media showing how the police were taking down black flags, which hung from lamp posts.
The APNU+AFC is reducing the Guyana Police Force to doing “jankalar” work. It is not the job of the police to be undertaking political shoddy work. The APNU+AFC is demonstrating eye pass against the police. It would not have deployed the army to do such low-down work; but its feels that it is okay to undermine the professionalism of the police by having them do such work.
The police’s job is to maintain order. It has to establish secure perimeters if it feels that this is necessary. Its jobs however is not to have their perimeters become barriers against the right to political protest.
Its role is not to show favoured treatment to one political party by allowing their supporters closer access than the other political party.
This is unacceptable behaviour by the police and it should be brought to the attention of the British High Commissioner whose government is financing security reform. There can be progress in such reforms if the police force has become a repressive force.
It is time for the British government to be informed of the actions last Sunday and to decide whether they will ever continue to support a force, which acts against the civil liberties of citizens.
The actions of last Sunday should also be brought to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The right to freedom of assembly was violated last Sunday and the actions of the police are to be condemned and brought to the attention of this international human rights bodies.
Guyana went through a terrible period, which involved political assassinations and beatings of political opponents, in the past. Guyana must not return to those days in which the police played a role in suppressing people’s freedoms and human rights. The police must not become, once again, a tool of political repression.
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