Ignoring GPF’s ethnic representation

Ever since the struggle for independence, the nexus of ethnic violence and the composition of the Disciplined Forces, had been identified as a key problematic in the creation of a viable state.

The international scholar Cynthia Enloe, who taught at UG during the seventies, wrote in her seminal text, “Ethnic Conflict and Political Development: “The resolution of inter-ethnic conflict demands that armies and police forces be examined not as neutral instruments that cope with problems, but as potential causes of the problems as well.”

During the Constitutional changes approved by Parliament in 2000 – consequent to the post-1997 election violence, the nexus was identified as necessary to be addressed in Article 197 A (5):

“Disciplined forces commissions may be constituted by the National Assembly from time to time, as may be necessary, with power to examine any matter relating to the public welfare, public safety, public order, defence or security, including the structure and composition of the disciplined forces and make recommendations generally with a view to promoting their greater efficiency, and giving effect to the need in the public interest that the composition of the disciplined forces take account of the ethnic constituents of the population.”

President Bharat Jagdeo in accordance with the National Assembly’s Resolution No 21 of 2003 of 16 May 2003 did constitute and appoint a Disciplined Forces Commission which, inter alia called for an inquiry into, “The methods and processes of achieving greater ethnic balance” in the Disciplined Forces.

The members were Ian Chang, Justice of Appeal as Chairman, Charles Ramson; Anil Nandlall; David Granger and Maggie Beirne. Ms Beirne resigned from the Commission and, on January 14, 2004, Professor Harold Lutchman was appointed in her place.

Presented to Parliament May 17, 2004, their Report was sent to a Special Committee that was supposed to resubmit its recommendations in “four months” but was only finally approved unanimously on June 10 2010. Of its 164 recommendations, 71 concerned the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

The recommendation on manpower mandated the Force to achieve greater ethnic diversity by setting recruitment targets rather than quotas. To achieve this, ethnically-diverse recruitment teams were to be employed as “openly and extensively as possible”.
The identical directive was given to the Guyana Defence Force, and resulted in the following directive in their “Recruitment Outreach Guidelines” 1006.

  1. Particular focus was to be placed on recruitment in Indo-Guyanese communities, but not at the exclusion of other ethnic groups.
    c. Public information is to be adequately disseminated in order to remove negative misperceptions about the recruitment policy. The public information campaign should highlight the inclusionary ethnic recruitment and retention policy of the GDF, in terms of:
    (1) the need for greater Indo-Guyanese representation in the interest of achieving ethnic balance.
    (2) respect and regard for diverse religious practices.

    Unfortunately we can find no comparable directives in the GPF’s recruitment guidelines but from the optics of the last batches of recruits, the directive towards representative recruitment patterns has not been adopted by the almost one-year old APNU/AFC government. Very early on their Cabinet approved an increase in Police manpower from 3,410 to 4,956 – an increase of 1500+ but at no time did they mention the Constitutional and Statutory mandated “ethnic parity”.

    Last week, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan claimed the GPF was now at 4500 strength and still needed 2000 persons to reach its “maximum capacity”. The Minister obviously had his figures skewed since the GPF can only process 660 recruits annually and there had been no Cabinet announcement that the GPF’s strength would in effect be more than doubled.

    But he also was silent on the mandate for the country to achieve an ethnically representative GPF. President Granger, who was a member of the DFC that made the recommendation, should intervene to insist the ethnic recruitment targets be implemented.