The misrepresented statement by Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan late last week that the crime rate in Guyana is not really in a bad state and there must be an appreciation of the fact that Guyanese live in a geopolitical space (Latin America and the Caribbean) where interpersonal violence is the highest in the world, is downright unacceptable.
In an editorial a few months ago the question of whether fighting crime was a fake campaign promise by the then APNU/AFC Opposition, was asked. The question was natural given what was seen as a continual increase in criminal attacks. From then to now, nothing seemed to have changed and for many, it appears to be worse.
This has gone seemingly unchecked over the years as mindsets are inundated with fear and the question of “who is next” seems involuntary. The stories that emanate daily are horrific to say the least; some with brutal sexual assaults. Not only are families scared, humiliated, deprived of valuables, communities ravished and left even more vulnerable, but life is brutally snuffed out in some instances.
Unfortunately, crime has not only become a fixture in daily news, but a prominent one. There seems no respite despite the much publicized increase in resources and new recruits. While crime will realistically not be erased, taxpayers expect sustained quick responses and robust approaches in combating. This is not taking away from the brave men and women from law enforcement who risk their lives.
The issue, of what can only be described as current failed policy in combating crime, has to be put into a particular context. The previous administration was constantly berated by the then Opposition, which is now the government, for being weak and incapable of fighting crime. This was used as a major campaign theme to rile sentiments against the PPP government’s perceived lack of vision and expertise in the security sector. At the same time, the then Opposition spared no effort to boast of its prowess in security.
The voting populace probably needed no convincing over security personnel who were part of the APNU/AFC opposition coalition. The fairly extensive list of former senior Police and Army officials who joined the slate might have instilled a sense of belief in relief from crime even from non-supporters. That seeming prolific gathering of security specialists probably caused crime itself to shudder.
None can dispute the esteem offices which they served. That might have tilted the balance of the crime-fighting scale in favour of the coalition since probably there was little or no reason to doubt the capabilities showcased.
Regardless of where the ballot was cast, expectation for a vast reduction in crime was real and immediate. Therein lies the profound disappointment. The expectation afterwards was for the promised new approach to effectively combat crime through more robust interventions.
Sadly, it did not happen and remains elusive. Families are now reeling in despair and mindsets preoccupied with trying to stay safe whether indoors or outdoors. People are still being trailed from financial institutions and regularly robbed. The unsuspecting on their way home are relieved of possession at gunpoint. Schoolchildren are not spared while overseas-based Guyanese returning for holidays are robbed.
When the belief that not every detail of a robbery is reported for fear of further humiliation is taken into consideration, a more frightening scenario is revealed. The question is, what has the coalition done since in government to effectively combat crime? Given the boasts, the expectation would not be farfetched for close to a crime free society by now.
The reality is that fear has taken a stranglehold on the nation depriving people their freedom from that mindset so as to be able to focus on making a living. This brings into the fray the nexus of the current harsh economic policies and a derivative of crime.
While there will always be some who will engage in criminal activities regardless of the economic situation, forcing people into poverty will have a frightening effect. Analysts will postulate the nexus of youth in crime as a result of unemployment. Cleary many jobs have been loss under this administration and this is not an attempt to state that all those who were fired have resorted to crime for many are forced into humiliation in finding a legal livelihood.
After four years and the upward spiral of crime, one may rightfully question polices and interventions, if any, and its effects. With the current circumstance, one can again question the genuineness of this particular influential campaign promise.
There needs to be some impacting action to address the growing crime rate in Guyana as countless murders and armed robberies are now becoming a daily phenomenon.