On innumerable occasions, I have questioned this Government’s commitment to combat violent crimes, to uphold the rule of law and to act in conformity with the Constitution. I do so once again. On this occasion, I will interrogate its commitment to battle violent crimes.
No one can doubt that Guyanese from all walks of life, in particular, on the coastland, are in a state of terror unleashed by those who perpetrate violent crimes against them with impunity. The upsurge in recent months has left dozens dead, dozens injured and dozens psychologically and emotionally scarred for life. There has been absolutely no proportionate reaction from either the Guyana Police Force (GPF) or the Government. It is as if it is business as usual.
Indeed, one cannot point to a singular measure implemented or even conceived to confront these morbid atrocities. Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan seeks to appease a fearful and brutalised citizenry with the least comforting “it is not that bad” remark. His recent penchant of revealing statistics which show a decline in violent crimes assuages no one: the statistics are incredulous, as the people are living, nay, suffering a different reality. To withhold the truth from the public, the GPF stopped publishing their monthly statistical data to which the press had become so accustomed. One is, therefore, left with Ramjattan’s ipse dixit on the matter.
Four years ago, I publicly opined that the leadership of the GPF is being undermined by political interference. I essayed multiple examples to support my contention. I condemned such interference as unlawful and contrary to both the Police Act and the Constitution. I predicted that this would naturally lead to a destruction of morale and authority in the Force and impact negatively, on its capacity and performance. The nation is now enduring the results of such interference. Police officers are now afraid to use lethal force where the situation so demands because policy statements have been issued from the highest Office of the land absolutely eschewing the utilisation of lethal force. That policy directive not only emanated from the wrong Office but it is also legally flawed.
One Commissioner of Police was virtually hounded out of Office by the Government, in abrogation of the “security of tenure,” which the Constitution accords to that Office. A similar fate swiftly followed the next Police Commissioner who was appointed to act in his stead. It is not insignificant that they are of the same ethnicity.
In May 2015, a Senior Superintendent of Police, Wendell Blanhum, was elevated to the post of Crime Chief. Prior to his elevation, he was second in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Blanhum remains one of the most educated and highly trained officers in the GPF. His training, both locally and overseas, includes crime prevention policing, investigation of organised crimes for the Americas, policing and management, intelligence-led policing and law enforcement leadership, to name a few. He holds a Degree in Public Management, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Laws Degree. He is not yet 40 years old but has already served nearly two decades in the Force.
Minister Ramjattan was quoted in the press (Stabroek News – December 6, 2017) as saying that “Blanhum has been an absolutely competent Crime Chief. He solved a lot of crimes”. Yet, Officer Blanhum was removed from that post and reassigned to a desk as Deputy Commander of A Division. This bizarre move constituted the implementation of recommendations emanating from a most jaundiced Commission of Inquiry (CoI) held, to investigate, what many believed to be a fabricated plot, to assassinate the President. Blanhum has been deliberately kept away from active duties since.
However, it does not end there. I am reliably informed that recently, Blanhum was transferred to Mabaruma, Region One. I was further informed that this is the first time that an officer of such rank has ever been assigned to such a remote location. It is not that I am implying that remote locations of our country do not require officers of the stature of Blanhum. But it was never done before. In any event, one can hardly compare the incidence of crime on the coastland with that of Region One. The quintessential question, however, remains: on what basis can one justify assigning one of the most qualified and able investigators in the Force away from the heart of the country’s crime zone, the coastland, particularly when violent crimes are peaking?
There is more still yet. I was informed that there is a “shake-up” taking place right now in the Force, driven by political diktat, to remove from key positions and locations, officers whom the Government feels they cannot influence and direct, and to replace them with those perceived to be malleable and controllable. This is being done specifically in preparation for the impending Regional and General Elections. We know too well the implications and ramifications which will flow therefrom.
In the meanwhile, the Force continues to haemorrhage from lack of confidence and competence and citizens’ lives continue to be lost, families continue to be destroyed and sparse money to survive continue to be plundered by violent miscreants in our midst. Clearly, we deserve better as a people.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall,