Police reform: Ethnic representativeness

Addressing participants at the opening of Police Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference under the theme, “Security Sector Reform Implementation – Enhancing Capacity Through Training, Infrastructure and Human Resource Management,” President David Granger emphasised his commitment to security sector reform. “Security sector reform is aimed at improving public trust and confidence, developing stronger organisations, boosting the Force’s intelligence, responsive and investigative capabilities and producing a more versatile Police Officer. Security sector reforms, therefore, must be accelerated to strengthen this vital institution in 2019.”
Police Commissioner Leslie James in brief remarks reminded the audience that the reforms are based on the report compiled by British expert, Colonel Russell Combe in the resuscitated British funded US$4.7 million Security Sector Reform Programme. Even though the expert, whose contract expires in March, had publicly exhorted the Government not to have his report gather dust on some shelf, it has not been released in over a year when it was delivered, or even laid in Parliament. As such, one has to be concerned about whether a most import reform has been included in the plan, which, the Police Commissioner asserted: “We have engaged with our counterparts in the United Kingdom (UK) and to this end, three main pillars have already begun implementation; that is, training, human resources management and infrastructure.”
In invoking the human resource element of the theme when the President said, “The Force’s membership of about 4600 is inadequate and needs to be augmented,” it would appear, he forgot to mention – or deliberately chose not to mention that vital component from a previous plan which he himself had a hand in crafting, and which was constitutionally mandated.
This was back in 2003-04 when the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC), on which he sat, held extensive hearings with a wide cross-section of the Guyanese populace. In discussing “Police reform”, he has referred many times to the DFC Report, which had been laid in Parliament in 2004 but only finally approved in 2010, since of the 164 recommendations, 71 concerned the GPF. But he has studiously avoided, as he did once again, the one that addressed the vexed issue of “ethnic imbalance” which had been brought up even before Guyana received independence from Britain. In 1965, the year he entered the Armed Forces as a 2nd Lieutenant, an ICJ Commission, (invited by the British as a condition for awarding Guyana Independence) suggested a programme of accelerated recruitment of Indians into the Police and Armed Force until their numbers were roughly in proportion to than in the population. Nothing came of that recommendation.
During the hearings on constitutional changes in 1999 – precipitated by People’s National Congress (PNC) riots in the streets after 1997 – one of the unanimously adopted constitutional recommendations adopted in 2000 was for the President to establish a Commission to investigate and recommend resolving the ethnic imbalance in the Disciplined Forces. During the aforementioned “troubles” – as since labelled by Grange – intriguingly, it was the Opposition PNC under Robert Corbin that called upon the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government to establish the Disciplined Forces Commission.
On the matter of ethnic representativeness, the DFC had declared: “The Commission…is of the view that the allaying of ethnic security fears which stem from the predominance of Afro-Guyanese presence in the GPF must be addressed… but to ensure, in so doing, that no similar insecurity fears are caused in the Afro-Guyanese community.” More specifically, it recommended: “It should be an aim (of the GPF) to achieve a Force representative of the ethnic diversity of the nation without employing a quota system.” To achieve this, ethnically-diverse recruitment teams should be employed as openly and extensively as possible. The report also suggested that a study be conducted on how to address the ethnic make-up imperative.
While in Opposition, both the PNC – including the one led by David Granger – and the AFC trenchantly criticised the PPP for burying the DFC Report for seven years in Committee. Why is it they have now buried it and not “allaying ethnic fears”?