Like most Guyanese, I am totally disgusted by all the brutal, senseless killings and barefaced robberies taking place every day throughout the country, and the apparent lack of any coherent plan by the Minister of Public Security to end this escalating crime spree. The ease with which criminals are going about their business, brutalising families in their homes, stripping them of their valuables, their dignity and often, their very lives, is reminiscent of the infamous Burnham era of the notorious “kick down the door bandits”. And Minister Khemraj Ramjattan seems clueless and in denial.
Responding to questions at an AFC press conference last Friday, he said, “Sometimes this thing is emblazoned across the front pages of newspapers giving the impression as though we are in a real bad state, [but it’s] not really true”.
In its editorial of April 23, 2019, the Government propaganda mouthpiece tried to discourage outraged public-spirited citizens from becoming vigilantes by assuring them that the APNU/AFC Administration is competent enough and “fully capable of enforcing the law, including protecting citizens”. And shamelessly, the Guyana Chronicle’s editorial concluded that “In the last three years or so, since the APNU/AFC coalition was elected, there has been a steady decrease in crime due to a Government initiative and the police adopting a more intelligence-led approach to crime fighting… In fact, President Granger has emphasised that security is one of the preconditions of the ‘good life’ that Government is committed to delivering to all Guyanese” and that, “crime will not be tolerated”.
But while the Chronicle propagates this hogwash, the nation wakes up every day to independent press reports of an escalating crime wave that’s out of control.
Readers may recall that the newly-elected APNU/AFC Government launched a six-week gun amnesty nationwide campaign on September 1, 2015, aimed at getting illegal weapons off the streets to reduce the gun-related crime rate. It netted a total of 186 illegal firearms, but most of those were previously used by our indigenous Amerindian brothers for hunting food and protecting their families and livestock from dangerous wild animals in isolated hinterland areas, far away from police protection. The fact that none of these weapons was used to commit a single crime is evident that the campaign was a failure. Most of these hunting rifles have since been returned to their rightful owners.
The years between 2000 and 2010 are often referred to as “The Troubled Period”. During this decade, there were massacres in Agricola, Bagotstown-Eccles, Bartica, Bourda, Campbellville, Kitty, Lamaha Gardens, Lindo Creek and Lusignan. And despite the promise made by President Granger to set up a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the spate of murders that occurred, only Lindo Creek was singled out for investigation to disparage members of the police force. There is enough evidence in the public domain to suggest that most of the killings done during this period were politically motivated, and the perpetrators were protected by some in the current Government who prevented the joint services from pursuing the criminals that invaded the village of Buxton.
During his testimony to the Rodney Commission in July of 2014, Staff Officer attached to the G2 Branch (GDF Intelligence Unit), Lieutenant Colonel Sydney Charles James said GDF records show that on August 10, 1979, fifty pistols, 100 magazines, 20 Berretta SMG’s and accessories, fifteen M70 rifles, ten 879 guns, and 11 Light machine guns, among others, were all given to the then Ministry of Mobilisation and National Development. In addition, Staff Officer James told the Commission that seven Smith and Wesson weapons were issued on May 18, 1976, to Robert Corbin, the then Parliamentary Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, and former PNC Leader.
During a shootout with armed bandits in the Mahaicony Creek on January 9, 2008, police recovered three guns, including a Beretta submachine gun and an M72 rifle, which the GDF admitted were the property of the army and confirmed that they were part of those issued to the PNC.
To date, more than 200 weapons, among them heavy machine guns, issued to the PNC during the 1970s are still unaccounted for.
Repeatedly, the People’s Progressive Party has made calls for the PNC to return the weapons that were issued to the Ministry of Mobilisation and National Development by the Guyana Defence Force between 1976 and 1979. But so far, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan and the PNC Leader, President David Granger remain unresponsive. Undoubtedly, if a Commission of Inquiry is held into the “troubled period”, the lies propagated by the PNC-APNU/AFC that the PPP is responsible for the deaths of over 200 Black youths would have a serious backlash on the Government when it is exposed that most of the so-called 200 Black youths “killed by the PPP” include the notorious criminal Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins and his murderous gang killed by the police; policemen that were killed by the criminals; a number of Indo-Guyanese who were also killed by criminals; and even a person who suffered a massive heart attack. These lies, once exposed, would make it difficult for the APNU/AFC to label the PPP as a racist party in an attempt to discourage Afro-Guyanese from joining the PPP/C. For this reason, President Granger will never allow a CoI to reveal who is really responsible for the atrocities committed during the 2000 to 2010 period. And if Ramjattan dares to turn up the heat on these criminal gangs, he may very well discover the source of the missing GDF weapons, putting him in direct conflict with some powerful people in the PNC leadership.
Since 2015, crime has escalated to dangerous levels, prompting the British Government and the US State Department to issue travel advisories to their citizens to exercise caution when travelling to Guyana due to an increase in crime, citing violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder, as being “common”. Yet, Ramjattan declares it is “not really true”. Now he wants to increase the academic qualifications for entrance into the Police Force, but fails to give police officers the 20 per cent salary increase they were promised during the 2015 election campaign. And to add salt to the wound, he took away the one-month tax-free Christmas bonus the Joint Services once enjoyed under the PPP/C. Morals in the Police Force must be very low under his leadership.
In one of his earlier columns, Kaieteur News’ Peeping Tom just about sums it up, “Businesses are being robbed at gunpoint. Workers are being pistol-whipped in the course of these robberies. Customers are being deprived of their belongings during these robberies. Homes are being invaded and the occupants beaten. Businesses are being robbed. When you go into a shop these days you are tempted to make your purchase quickly because you do not know if while you are there some bandit will come in and rob the place and you in the process. Guyanese are locking their gates and their doors and retiring before it gets dark. They are fearful. This is not the way people should be living in Guyana. The criminals are curtailing the freedom of citizens. The people who voted for change did not expect this state of affairs under the new Government. Expectations were high that the new Government would cause a reduction in crime. This has not happened”.
Since Khemraj Ramjattan became Minister of Public Security, he has brought the entire security sector in disrepute. In March 2016, seventeen prisoners were burnt to death and 11 others injured in what was described as the worst prison riot in our history. Then in July 2017, during the blazing inferno of the Camp Street Prison, a prison officer was murdered and 8 notorious, hard-core criminals escaped, two of whom are believed to still be on the run. Since then, there have been several more well-organised prison breaks, countless murders and armed robberies that dominate the news behind Government corruption. No doubt, Minister Ramjattan has a difficult job… One he has proven incapable of.
He may well succeed in his bid to replace the egotistical Moses Nagamootoo as his party’s prime ministerial candidate, but the electorate will ensure he never gets the opportunity to serve one day in that capacity.
For all the deaths and the many victims of violence and armed robberies that occurred under his watch, Khemraj Ramjattan has yet to accept ministerial responsibility for his inability to keep our citizens safe. It is now time for the Minister of Public Security to be fired in the public interest, or be reassigned to a Ministry where his incompetence can no longer affect the safety of our people.
PPP/C Member of
Member of the
Committee on the