Eyewitness: Letting it all hang out…in the Police Force


Your Eyewitness would be foolish indeed if he were to condemn the entire Guyana Police Force. Surely, in an organisation of some 4500 men and women, who’ve literally been given the power of life and death over their fellow citizens, some of them would abuse those powers. There’s that famous experiment wherein some college students were given the roles of guards over other students, and, as “guards”, went as far as torturing the “prisoners”!! Yes, we humans do tend to abuse our powers.

But because this known tendency in humans is taken a whole new level when the Police are handed real weapons – with real laws compelling folks to obey them – imagine what can happen! And in Guyana we don’t have to “imagine”, do we?? Police “harassment” has been part and parcel of Guyanese life ever since the Police Force was formed in 1839!!
It was no coincidence that this was the very next year following the abolition of slavery, was it?? Did you think they were told to “serve and protect” those folks who’d been treated like animals for the past three hundred years?? Their job was to protect the SYSTEM, and the whites who ran the system!! Up to independence, most of the officers were whites, weren’t they?? During the riots in the run-up to independence, the name of British Police Commissioner Peter Owen struck fear in the ordinary people. And that attitude never really changed.

Burnham picked up right where the British left off, and he ensured an enlarged Police Force was personally loyal to him. All those who didn’t want to toe his line, it was “off with their heads”!! So, the natural propensity of folks to abuse their power was coupled with the free rein Burnham gave the Police to harass folks who opposed him. Many Policemen were even part of the “kick-down-the-door-bandits” squads up to the late eighties – until Hoyte brought in his “hang-em-high” policy!!

The GPF that the PPP inherited in 1992 had been corrupted through and through; but, sadly, rather than immediately launching a thoroughgoing revamping and reorientation of the GPF, they courted the top brass and continued with the system and the manpower they inherited. And that was a mistake that the entire country suffered from – during the twenty years of the new millennium, that saw Bandits holing up in Buxton having absolutely no respect for them. And taking on the Police directly.

So, the breakdown in discipline in two Police killings – of Bacchus on the ECD and Singh in Ruimveldt – and the riot at Mon Repos by the protestors from Golden Grove shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

…in politics

It ain’t easy being in politics in Guyana nowadays. Used to be you told the folks what they wanted to hear – meaning, promise them the sun and moon! – buy some rum in the rum shops and give your private (racial) spiels under the bottom houses, and that was it!! Since folks voted mostly racially, it was already a foregone conclusion as to who’d win – that depended on the colour of the various noses!!

But now things are different: the noses are almost equal in number – which creates a dilemma for the old order. Suddenly, you gotta be nice to everybody, since the least missteps could cost you those crucial fence sitters’ noses!! Problem is the new “bottom houses” where folks engage in the race talk – the social media. Here, it’s a case of everything hanging out, and since the content’s available to everyone with a smartphone – meaning EVERYBODY – it means everyone’s riled up!!
The politicians now have to be “outing” fires every minute of the day!!

…in Old Blighty

Boris Johnson was never one to keep his thoughts and actions to himself. Letting it all hang out made him stand out in stiff-upper-lip Britain. But party-gate under Covid was too much.
And he’s now out!!