When the PNC-led coalition assumed power in 2015, much of the credit was due to the incumbency factor that worked against the PPP Government after 23 years in office. But there were also the strident claims of the coalition parties during the campaign: that their slate, which was dominated by high level ex-personnel from the Police and Army, would be able to do a better job at curbing crime.
Under “Programme of Action”, their manifesto promised: “Within the first 100 days of the formation of a Government of National Unity, the following will be done: development and implementation of a sustained national crime prevention plan”. Many citizens believed their assertions.
Sadly, four years after the change of Government, the levels of crime stalking the land have risen to unprecedented levels, especially violent, gun-related depredations. One year ago, the U.S State Department released its 2018 Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Report on Guyana’s Crime and Safety Report. It declared that Guyana’s general crime rate, in a population of just 750,000, was at a “critical level” and “above the U.S. national average.” The Report that will be issued soon for the following year will have to paint an even bleaker picture, since crime has continued to rise exponentially.
To the cries of a beleaguered populace, the Government, through its Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, has unfolded a two-pronged strategy that is based on PR more than concrete Police action. The Police began releasing regular “crime statistics” that were so constructed to convince the hapless populace that their personal experiences with crime are not to be trusted. For instance, one report from around the time the US Report was released stated that there was: “a 26% increase in robberies where no instruments were used; however, a 13% increase in robbery under arms where firearms were used. Further, there was a 32% decrease in robbery under arms where instruments other than firearms were used.”
What is the average citizen to make of this gobbledygook in percentages, which emphasises “decreases” when in reality robberies with firearms have skyrocketed, and obviously use of “other arms” would have decreased? Were the citizens to be comforted to know they will be facing more firearms when they are robbed? Only last week, there was an attack on a supermarket located a stone’s throw from one of the largest Police Stations in Berbice – Albion — wherein an AR-16 automatic rifle was fired so indiscriminately that even the Police vehicle parked outside the station was riddled with bullets.
Yet there was no response from the Police inside the station. Mere days later, a family in Black Bush Polder was shot at, brutalised, robbed, and one member was taken hostage; while the Police responded to frantic calls from the family by stating that they had no vehicle. A vehicle was found to bring them the next morning, in broad daylight.
The SWAT Unit that was ostentatiously brought from Georgetown to Berbice was not called out. The other prong to the Public Security Minister’s “crime fighting” strategy was to use the Police’s concocted “crime statistics” to compare them with those of other countries and insist that “crime is not so bad here”.
Earlier, the President had brushed aside his Security Minister’s recommendations in regard to the reorganisation of the top brass of the Police Force. He had proceeded to fire one Police Commissioner and his successor, and then handpick the incumbent. The Crime Chief, whom the Security Minister described as “very competent”, was reassigned to a desk-bound back office, while the unilaterally appointed incumbent seems to be out of his depth.
The most telling assessment of the Granger Administration’s record on crime, however, came in his assessment of his four years in office last week. The release was completely silent on crime. And this silence is more pregnant with meaning on the Government’s failure to fulfill its most basic duty to the citizens of this country: to protect them from “a nasty, short and brutish life”, than all its previous fake statistics.