Kaieteur News – If we accept that the primary responsibility of all governments is to ensure public safety, then all the governments of Guyana have failed. And there has been no greater failure, in this regard, than the government of Bharrat Jagdeo.
It was under Jagdeo’s administration that the country experienced its most frightening crime wave, one which had political and racial undercurrents. The crime wave which followed the 2001 prison break is unparalleled in Guyana’s history, and reflects the palpable failure of the Jagdeo administration to provide security for citizens. In 2006, at the height of Jagdeo’s presidency, more than 200 persons were murdered, mostly by criminal bandits. The episodes were terrifying. The Guyana Indian Heritage Association (GIHA) has documented some of the atrocities committed between Feb 2002 and Feb 2003. It is a frightening chronology, with almost daily reports of robberies, murders and criminal violence. And this was only for one year.
According to one report, published in the Guyana Times newspaper, the killings for that single year included that of police detective sergeant, the husband and wife of a family in Annandale, and a pensioner, Haroon Rasheed, who was doused with kerosene and set alight at his Non Pareil home.
A young school child was killed when her home was riddled with bullets. A passenger in a bus passing along the East Coast Public Road was permanently disfigured when a channa bomb was tossed in the bus resulting in severe burns. The atrocities that followed in the same and subsequent years are too numerous to recount here.
Sitting at the helm of the country at the time was Bharrat Jagdeo. Under his watch in 2008 there was the slaughter of innocent citizens at Lusignan and Bartica. In 2008, 11 residents were slaughtered in their homes at Lusignan. Among the victims were children. One month later twelve persons, including policemen, were slaughtered in Bartica.
The crime wave caused the rich to bail out of the country. One of the richest families in Guyana packed up and went abroad to live in Miami. But the poor people of this country had to sit and face the music. Jagdeo’s government could not protect them. He could not even protect one of his own ministers who was killed when the terrorist gang operating out of Buxton invaded his home and killed him, a sister, a brother and a security guard. During a recent event hosted to eulogise the former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Jagdeo said that much of the things during that period would go to the grave with Luncheon. This comment caused some unease with a family member of the former Agricultural Minister Sash Sawh who was a victim of the crime wave.
But there have been subsequent suggestions by Jagdeo that the government was being misled by persons within the security apparatus. No names were called. It is an astonishing admission from a man who once held supreme executive authority. It is shocking to learn that the government was being duped. But even more shocking was that no attempt was made by Jagdeo to remove those responsible for misleading the government.
Such actions would not have been condoned by Burnham. When the Ministry of National Development was destroyed by fire, Burnham removed the head of the Guyana Defense Force for failing to anticipate the arson attack. The power of the Commander- in-Chief to make changes to the army was not checked. Jagdeo could have done so. He could have also initiated moves, provided for in the Constitution, to remove persons in the police force whom he felt were misleading the government.
He did not do so. Public sentiments were in his favour. The public had been calling for persons in the security sector to be removed. But today it is easy for him to blame operatives in the security sector without holding accountable himself or anyone in the political directorate. The uncontrolled crime wave gave rise to another perversity: the rise of phantom squads. While many members of the public welcomed the relief which came about when criminals began to be eliminated, the emergence of such squads represents a retrograde development. Jagdeo was eventually pressured by the United States into holding a Commission of Inquiry as to whether his Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, had any links to any phantom squad. The COI exonerated Gajraj but the international community signaled their displeasure of having to deal with Gajraj and he was promptly banished as Guyana’s High Commissioner to India. Fifteen years onwards from that terrible period, Guyanese still remain vulnerable to another such threat. In fifteen years, nothing has been done to assure Guyanese that they are safe in the country. This is why Guyanese must not forget the sordid record of Jagdeo when it comes to security of citizens. He could not protect them then, why would they feel that he can protect them now?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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