Last Sunday, the Police shot and killed three suspected bandits in Black Bush Polder. Prior, the media would have reported on numerous stories of robberies and brutal assaults on residents there and in other areas in Berbice at the hand of bandits, as cries for help seemingly went unheard by the political leadership.
While the Police must be commended for the action taken at Black Bush and which has led to residents showering praise and noting their relief, it should not be forgotten that the SWAT team was only dispatched a very short while ago to Berbice, long after the spate of crime began.
The lengthy delay in taking action exacerbated fear among citizens and emboldened the criminals. Many asked if the authorities made themselves deliberately oblivious of the ongoing spate of crime or were teleported elsewhere in a time warp. This is noteworthy in the context that the Public Security Minister is expected to be an integral part of routine high-level national security meetings.
There were reports that the Minister debunked that Guyana is in a bad state with regard to crime, as he conveniently made comparison to other countries. Reportedly, he called for an appreciation that Guyanese live in a geopolitical space of Latin Americana and the Caribbean, with interpersonal violence is the highest in the world.
Those sentiments were quickly condemned as many viewed it as justification for the high crime rate here. It was also deemed insensitive with no regard for the pain and suffering of the victims; some of whom were killed. An obvious and simple interpretation of his comments is that it seems alright to be robbed here since the same is happening to others elsewhere. That’s a journey deep into the realms of absurdity.
One would expect the National Security meetings to discuss status reports on crime, its frequency and the impact of interventions or lack thereof. That implies the Minister and his team are thoroughly briefed on the crime situation, the sentiments of victims and the citizenry as a whole.
He can only claim of being unaware if he is not a part of those meetings which would render his position as Minister useless. As a backup, the media offers a repository of related information. It therefore becomes difficult to accept that the Minister lacks knowledge of the national crime situation and its effect on people. He would be extremely challenged to claim otherwise.
That brings into focus what appeared as a delayed response to the situation in Berbice. The eventual response seemingly stemmed from societal pressure through the conduit of the media. Sadly, it could probably be interpreted that in the absence of such pressure, the SWAT team may not have been deployed.
The question of critical levels was asked before. To repeat; how many crimes must be committed and how many citizens must be beaten or killed before a meaningful intervention by the Public Security Ministry? An answer must be given especially in the context of the seeming attempt to justify the crime rate in citing what happens beyond our borders.
That said, following the Police action at Black Bush, there appears to be a sense of gloating by some officials, including some within the State media. A senior officer there reportedly asked on social media how a small-time Berbice village thief acquired a high-power rifle, bullet proof vest and other weapons and ammunition.
While there may be relevance and which would question the gathering of intelligence, his political insinuation through the question is not subtle. He rides a political horse which boasted of its prowess to deal with crime. It failed abysmally. In that context, one can also ask how five hardened criminals who escaped from the Camp Street Prison became freedom fighters and were adorned by the horse he rides?
The Police’s success in Black Bush must not be used by the State media to try and hide what Berbicians suffered over time. That aside, platitudes are in order and they must be encouraged and given the necessary resources to combat crime. Citizens want Police to intervene to curb crime. They want bandits to be arrested or killed. They want to live without fear.
Those are not unfair expectations, especially when they pay for such services through taxes. Any appearance of reluctance to take necessary action would not only be a disservice, but a failure to govern in their best interest. By playing up that Berbicians can now rest peacefully cannot hide their inability to do so for a long period in the past.
A few Government defenders in their triumphalist endeavours, are trying to create the impression that the Police action at Black Bush may have caused crime to disappear. There must be no ambiguity; what happened at Black Bush was long overdue and is not a favour to residents. It must be sustained and is crucially needed elsewhere as crime remains high throughout.
Given what continues to play out holistically regarding crime, one wonders whether there is a logical explanation for what appears a hesitancy on the part of the current political leadership to frontally tackle crime. The real answers, if forthcoming, would be very interesting as reality continues to be denied.