Guyana Chronicle
April 21, 2002

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THE Government has clearly decided to elevate the very sensitive issue of political attacks directed at the Guyana Police Force by calling the attention of the international community to the implications for stability and progress at a time when they continue to provide much needed development aid for this nation.

Speaking within days of a media briefing by the head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon, who accused the PNC/Reform of encouraging "terroristic activities" directed at the Guyana Police Force, President Jagdeo was specific in his general open appeal to the international community:

"The impression is given in Guyana that there is political cover for the criminals", he said, blaming "some elements of the main opposition party "who seek to glorify criminals or to denigrate and target members of the Police Force...

"It seems as though they have to make a choice, and decent citizens of this country will have to make a choice whether they will support the forces that protect law and order or will glorify criminals....

"The international community must take note of what's happening here. It's not just the fight against international terror; terror in all its manifestations must be openly and vigorously condemned", said the President

For its part, the PNC/R's leadership continue to make statements disassociating itself from any involvement with or encouragement for criminal elements, and strongly deny that it was engaged in an anti-police campaign while insisting on its criticisms against the Target Special Squad (TSS) which it wants disbanded.

PNC/R's Hard Row

The PNC/R may have chosen a very hard row to hoe with its balancing act between being identified with constant attacks on the police, and the TSS in particular, even when two police officers have been murdered in two weeks by criminals, and, at the same time, glorifying criminal elements.

And the party is doing so at a time when the lawmen continue to risk their lives in the hunt for five armed and dangerous criminals who escaped from the Georgetown Prison on February 23, and to maintain law and order, especially in communities suspected of harbouring criminals, some involved in the spate of car hijackings and armed robberies.

As reported in yesterday's Chronicle, a group of private citizens is currently engaged in organising a petition against the terror of criminals and plan to forward it to the locally based diplomatic missions of the USA, United Kingdom and Canada.

The petitioners can be expected to be criticised by the PNC/R since they have implicated that party in giving support by statements and activities that have contributed to the personal and physical attacks on members of the Police Force.

Since CARICOM Ministers responsible for National Security are known to have their own networking system of cooperation in the fight against criminals, it would not be surprising to learn that Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj, will be alerting his Community colleagues to this new development in Guyana of the Police Force being openly undermined in their line of duty by the main parliamentary opposition party.

Additionally, there is the regional mechanism of the Association of Caribbean Police Commissioners that cooperate on an ongoing information-sharing basis of developments in their respective jurisdictions.

It would be up to Police Commissioner Floyd McDonald to determine if and when he should update his regional colleagues on the problems facing his Force, including the incessant political demand by the PNC/R to disband a vital unit of anti-crime fighters - assuming he has not already alerted his fellow Commissioners.

Positive Profile
The PNC/R, on the other hand, can perhaps help its own case by resorting to some positive measures, instead of indulging in diversionary tactics with new threats, as made by its leader, to embark on a programme of non-cooperation and "extra-parliamentary" programmes against government policies.

For example, the party may wish to consider the practical value of providing leadership to oversee reconstruction of the railway embankment road in the Buxton area that was once again seriously damaged, disrupting the flow of traffic and inconveniencing villagers and others, as happened in the anti-PPP/C political disturbances following the March 19 general election.

Such a stand would clearly send the correct message to its supporters who wrongly think that they are doing the PNC/R a favour whenever they choose to engage in unlawful acts like damaging property of the state, more precisely property of the people of Guyana, as part of anti-police, anti-government protest activities.

Further, since the PNC/R is in the habit of washing its hands from any involvement in criminal/terroristic behaviour that frequently flows from marches/demonstrations it has organised, then it is evident that it either lacks the capacity or the will to prevent such lawlessness.

Therefore, it should give serious consideration to stop such marches/demonstrations and restrict its protests to what it can effectively manage by lawful means. Right now, the party should listen to the voices from within civil society, instead of the reckless political activists in sections of the media, and resume the high-level dialogue on the way forward.

The party's threatened extra-parliamentary activities mean only one thing for the criminally prone in our midst - occasions for more criminal behaviour, more terror from which, clearly, not even the police are to be exonerated.

If the threats of further non-cooperation and extra-parliamentary tactics really have nothing to do with the internal leadership wranglings of the PNC/R, then it is high time that the Guyanese people be given the opportunity to see a responsible, positive profile that the party prefers and deserves.

This is a choice for the PNC/R at this very troubling period when the law enforcing agencies need all the cooperation they can get to make this country safe for all - irrespective of race and political affinity.