By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – While the phenomenon of unsolved hits or assassinations, which continues to increase in Guyana, is not unique to this country, one might want to ask his/herself why most of these occurrences go unsolved here, taking into consideration the significant financial and technical resource that the Guyana Government continues to pump into the Guyana Police Force.
It is for this reason that the iNews team went on a journey to seek answers to these questions for the wider Guyanese society, interviewing from the ordinary man, to top ranking (former and current) officials of the Guyana Police Force and members of the private sector to garner answers to the question: does our resource match the task?
Hits/assassinations are sudden with hardly any warning and executed with precision through sound and secretive planning, targeting mostly politically and famous individuals.
In many instances those who are targeted end up dead with little clues to help investigators solve the crime. Such premeditated and treacherously murders are usually drug, gang or politically motivated.
To solve such crimes, it usually require intense investigation and for witnesses to come forward willingly and aid investigators by providing useful information. This brings into question immediately the concern of fear, giving rise to the need for witness protection.
According to former Commissioner of Police of the Guyana Police Force Winston Felix, a strong witness protection system requires study and innovative action that will fashion a program to suit the Guyanese society. “We live in a small society, everybody knows everybody” he said, recommending that local authorities consider taking such persons overseas to ensure greater safety and security.
But this is easier said than done, since the question of cost will influence such a move. Sometimes to protect one person, an entire family is required to be taken into witness protection and kept there for long periods of time, which sometimes lead to people becoming tired and walking away.
Added to this, hits/assassinations have the power of money behind it, resulting in the payment of witnesses to remain quiet and acquire sophisticated weapons, placing law enforcement at a disadvantage to effectively and conclusively solve such crimes.
Does our resource match the task?
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, has recommended a multi faceted approach to solving the crime of hit/assassinations, a recommendation that has garnered the support of several others.
He believes there is no one area that one can heavily concentrate on in preparing the state crime fighting apparatus to confront this horrendous issue.
“You must have forensic facilities with the technological hard and software to store empirical data; you also need to use investigative artillery to confront bandits. Maritime as well as aviation machinery is also needed… at the end of it all you have to have a prison system that ensures their safe custody but also which must have a rehabilitative component to ensure criminals when released do not continue the cycle of criminal conduct” Nandlall explained.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Governance and Security Committee of the Private Sector Captain Gerald Gouveia says he does not think that the task of solving such crimes is bigger than the Guyana Police Force, stressing that effective strategies must be developed in this regard.
He also called for the crafting and implementation of legislation that will allow investigators to make full use of wire tapping services and allow direct access to public close circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
However, in opposition to these views, the former Police Commissioner and opposition member Felix argued that the GPF is yet to match task with resource. He nonetheless agreed that the situation at hand needs to be analyzed through which effective strategies can be developed.
He believes that the force is losing its much needed human resource through retirement, “while the government speaks about giving resources…. What it has failed to do is to maintain the human resource” he added.
He reminded of recommendations that were made in the past to extend the retirement age for ranks which would in effect slow up the exit of the force personnel, “skills that took years to build and develop are just gone” he said, adding that “it leaves young inexperience persons with little senior investigators to guide them, this is one of the major issues.”
Felix did not stop there as he for lobbied increase in allowances for officers, “at least allowances must mean something, allowance today are too meager,” he said. The former commissioner added that the current conditions in the force are not encouraging to attract the right human resource.
The way forward and its link with politics
Guyana while investing financially in its security sector, simultaneously continues to craft modern legislation that meets the news challenges that criminal conduct presents.
But this is just a small step in crime fighting. According to Nandlall, investigating the crime and arresting the suspects are the fundamental facets of the equation to solving the crime of hits/assassinations.
He also identified as challenges to the process the thousands of miles of unmonitored borders that Guyana has, which allows for the swift and unnoticed escape of criminals.
In an attempt to determine the prevalence of hits/assassinations and its association with politics locally Nandlall said,
“Historically a trend is clearly discernable between politics and crime, one need to look at when there is political discord… there is an increase in criminal conduct.”
He recalled incidences where bandits were killed in the past, their funerals were taken over by politicians and had their coffins draped with the national flag, “this is clearly a link between politics and criminal conduct” he said.
However, opinions on this link differ considerably. Meanwhile, Mr. Gouveia recommends that the police develop relationships with communities, which will garner better intelligence to solve such crimes.
“The police operationally need to know how to win friends and influence people” Gouveia said, adding that “I shudder to think that the new way of criminal activity is assassination for money”.
In 2012 $16.4B was expended for the continued development and modernization of the security sector, $872.7M was spent in 2012 on the acquisition and maintenance of essential security related equipment and 18 police stations in Regions 4 and 6 were equipped with computers and connected to force headquarters.
In 2013, $17.5B was allocated to the Public safety and security through which Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory will be completed; $2.1B in total has been allocated to the sector.
Many are still of the view that this is not enough and more needs to be done to develop and sustain human and technical resource to match the task at hand.
Efforts to have Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell contribute to this article proved futile, while Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee declined to comment.