EYEWITNESS: Honing in…


…on crime causation

They say crime, like poverty, will always be with us. But some take it farther to claim poverty actually drives people to commit crime. But with even a moment’s reflection, we see there are communities just as poor as others and yet their rate of spawning criminality is vastly lower. Tolstoy once wrote something that might offer some insight: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

While law-abiding citizens are all alike – if for nothing else that they obey the law – the ones who turn to the criminal side have an infinite number of reasons they do so. But yet, if we’re to get a grip on crime, we have to somehow try to discern patterns, so we’re not reduced to customising crime prevention measures for each potential law breaker.

Well, it seems the PNC-led Government and its AFC-led Ministry of Public Security did in fact conduct such an investigation – funded by the IDB – using our prison inmates as their subjects. Can’t do better than that, can you? These convicts already took the plunge over the legal line…there HAS to be something in their background that might offer a clue for their exceptionalism, no? Now, right off the bat, your Eyewitness is happy they didn’t look into genetic backgrounds – since this can easily slide into racial profiling. He would paraphrase one of his favourite singers, “What’s race got to do with it”??!!

But of all the variables considered, Ramjattan hones in on one: from an early age many inmates were “exposed to environments likely to nurture criminal behaviour”. Well…duh!…if it ain’t heredity, it has to be environment!! Nature vs nurture and all that! But exactly what are these “environments” that produce criminal behaviour in Guyana?

Well, just a couple of months ago, this newspaper ran an editorial that quoted from another IDB study of criminality in our region – the “Antipodes of Violence”: “When a society or social group approves illegal behaviour and disapproves of legal behaviour, the law naturally loses authority as a regulatory system, and the likelihood of committing illegal acts increases.” We see this operating every day in Guyana.

And this is the variable that Governments stubbornly refuse to confront: that some leaders approve illegal behaviour in their constituents. Remember “choke and rob” took off in the ‘60s against PPP supporters? Never did go away, did it? How about “kick down the door” bandits?? Then, of course, there are the famous escaped bandits who were baptised “Freedom Fighters”? And let’s not forget the “child soldiers” who started as “lookouts”?
But Ramjattan would never look into this, would he, Bannuh??

…on national unity once achieved

There was a rather poignant letter in the press referring to the heady days of the early 1950s when Jagan and Burnham were as one on the question of getting the British out and improving the lot of Guyanese. Kinda reminded your Eyewitness of that movie from the seventies – “The Way We Were”. It starred Barbara Streisand as a militant Jewish activist who marries Robert Redford, the bright, amiable WASP writer – who just wants to go along to get along.

And we know how that would end, don’t we?? They split, try to make up, but eventually each go their separate ways, “doing their thing”. And that’s the fly in the sepia-coloured memory of Jagan and Burnham, isn’t it? Jagan, the strident Marxist activist asked Ashton Chase to step aside because he assumed Burnham’s membership in the English Communist Party meant he was sympatico.

But as Burnham’s sister Jessie wrote, in her pamphlet, “Beware my brother Forbes”, Burnham was always more about Burnham.
The lesson? Partners, in coalitions or otherwise, must be committed to the same cause.

…on Rule of Law

Your Eyewitness compliments TIGI for supporting the “sauce for the goose; sauce for the gander” rule in the “misconduct in public officials” charge.
Can’t have some public officials more equal than some, just because they wear green!


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