President David Granger: Thank you Commissioner. Minister of Foreign Affairs, performing the functions of Office of the Prime Minister, Honourable Carl Greenidge; Vice President, Minister of Public Security, Honourable Khemraj Ramjattan; Chancellor of the Judiciary, Honourable Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Ministers of the Government; Senior Officers of the Security Forces; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Director of Public Prosecutions; Officers of the Guyana Police Force; Members of the Media; Ladies and Gentlemen:
As you know, it is my pleasure and duty to attend this annual Police Officers’ Conference. The Police Force, as you know, is the principal agency of the State concerned with ensuring law and order. The Police Act tasks the Force with the prevention and detection of crime; the preservation of law and order; the preservation of the peace; the repression of internal disturbance; protection of property; the apprehension of offenders and full enforcement of all laws and regulations of which it is directly charged- a heavy burden.
The Police Force has multiple functions in this nation, these statutory functions are necessary but they are not sufficient. The Police Force, if it is to win the fight against crime; against disorder and violence; it must also continuously ensure that only persons who are fit and proper are appointed to the highest offices of the Forces’ administration to direct the performance of these functions.
The Asian aphorism ‘fish rots from its head down’ suggests that misconduct and gross negligence in an organisation is caused, usually, by lack of leadership, neglect or misconduct to the highest levels. The Forces’ role is reinforced in the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana which states that,
The police force, established under the Police Act, shall function in accordance with the law, as the law enforcement agency of the State, responding to the daily need to maintain law and order by suppressing crime to ensure citizens are safe in their homes, in the streets and other places.
The Police Force indeed is heavily tasked; it has to conduct border policing and counter terrorism; it has to conduct counter narcotics and counter trafficking in persons operations; it has to confront serious and organised crime: gun crimes, economic crimes, cyber-crimes; it must reduce road traffic offences and suppress public disturbance. The Police Force can perform these functions effectively only if its members are committed; only if they are competent; only if they are incorruptible. Human safely and public security can be guaranteed only by a Force that is officered by persons who are competent, committed and uncorrupted. No government, anywhere, could count on its employment of incorrigible officers and expect that law and order will be maintained. Officers, crime is the greatest impediment to human safety and economic prosperity. Crime must be curtailed if the people are to be safe and if the state is to be secure. The control of the eradication of crime will protect citizens right to life and will permit them to enjoy the rewards of their labour.
I called on the nation, on becoming President, in my inaugural address to the 10th Parliament on the 10th of June, 2015 “to combine our efforts and concentrate our energy on defeating the real enemies of our people: crime, disease, ignorance and poverty – the four horsemen of the Guyanese apocalypse”. I met the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, four months later and in response to his inquiry about Guyana’s needs I asked first and only for the restoration of the Security Sector Reform Action Plan, which had been rejected by the previous administration.
Officers, Security Sector Reform is a high priority for my government. It is being implemented with the support of the British Government. It will involve measures to promote greater probity in the work of the police and to ensure greater integrity among its officers. It will strengthen professional responsibility and oversight of the Police Force. Security sector reform is being reintroduced with the aim of providing increased security for our citizens by reforming the Force to allow it to become increasingly capable of crime-fighting and law-enforcement. To be so capable, it must demand the confidence of citizens; there must be public trust.
Security sector reform is essential to maintaining a force which is committed to our citizens’ safety. My Government will resist any attempt from any quarter to reverse, retort or to thwart the reforms on which we are embarking. Security reform is not a recent invention of this administration; the need became evident especially during the period of intense criminal violence known as ‘the troubles’.
The reform project regrettably became a victim of political prevarication, but today the daily newspapers inform us how a covert counterforce had to be brought into existence to perform law enforcement function- functions which belong, under the Constitution, only to the legitimate Police Force. You must question the rise of these careless remarks. Who comprised, who commanded, who controlled that counterforce?
Officers, our country endured two decades of woulda, coulda and shoulda without any attempt to deal seriously with the causes of our security problems. Corruption like a malignant cancer cannot be cured by being ignored. Officers, Dukie’s Law teaches that if corruption is concealed it will continue. Transferring a corrupt officer from one branch to another or posting him from one division to another; or promoting him or demoting him from one rank to another cannot grantee he will change his wicked ways. The best effort of the Office of Professional Responsibility and of the Police Complaints Authority could be undermined by corrupt senior officers who condone the misconduct of subordinates. They do the Force no good but rather, damage the careers or, worst yet, endanger the lives of other policemen and jeopardise public security.
Officers, I stated in my address to you last year, 2017, that had previous security sector reform initiatives and recommendations been implemented, the deaths of many civilians and policemen during ‘the troubles’ could have been avoided. The monument is this very compound has been erected as a memorial to the two dozen innocent policemen who paid with their lives for the crimes of a few guilty persons during those ‘troubles’.
I recalled that as the Leader of the Opposition five years ago I introduced a motion in the National Assembly requiring and I quote “that the national assembly condemned the killing of the citizens of Guyana which occurred during the period of ‘the troubles’”. I expressed the concern that Commissions of Inquiry have not been convened to investigate the unlawful killing including the assignation of a minister of the government in April 2006 on the East Coast of Demerara and that, further, the National Assembly calls on the President of Guyana at that time in accordance with the Commission of Inquiry Act Chapter 19:03 to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the unlawful killings of citizens during the years 2004-2010.
Here I stand, I have not changed my intention to investigate those deaths; I have not changed. My Government will launch inquiries into the worst massacres which occurred during ‘the troubles’. We have started one massacre at a time, with the Lindo Creek Massacre, massacres which are to be investigated in due course: Kitty-September 2002; Lamaha Gardens in October 2002; Bourda in November 2002, Buxton/Adventure in November 2003; Prashad Nagar in June 2003; Agricola/Eccles in February 2006; La Bonne Intention or as my Francophone friend would say, ‘La Bonne Intention’, in April 2006; in Bagostown/Eccles in August 2006; in Black Bush Polder in August 2006; in Lusignan in June 2008; in Bartica in February 2008 and as you now learned from the media in Lindo Creek in June 2008.
It is incomprehensible, officers, that so many atrocities occurred over such a short period of time without inquest or inquiries being conducted into most of them. ‘The troubles’ occurred during the darkest period in our post-colonial history. The inability of the Police Force to curtail the criminal violence led to the emergence of counterforces and death squads. It revealed the complicity between rogue elements of the security forces and the drug lords. It exposed the infiltration of rogue elements into the Force. It rendered the security forces vulnerable and exposed some of its innocent members to unwarranted death.
The lessons of ‘the troubles’ must guide security reform. Inquiring into Lindo Creek massacre and inquires which will eventually be commissioned are intended to improve the Force’s administration and operation. They are not intended to demoralise or de-stabilise the Force. The surge of corruption of the security forces; the surge of criminal violence, the surge of execution killings and the failure to eradicate narcotics trafficking are all interrelated. The authorities at that time instead of trying to cure the cause were more concerned with concealing the symptoms. The Force cannot change if old attitudes persist. The causes of the continuation of the criminal violence in Guyana must be ascertained if ever we are to understand the factors and the features and the forces which led to such unprecedented levels of violence in this small country. It must not happen again.
Human safety must ensure that our communities are free from criminal activities. Our children must be nurtured in a safe environment. Our young people must be protected from the allure and the dangers of drug use. Citizens must be able to move around their communities free from crime, free from the fear of crime. Citizens must be safeguarded from attacks on their persons and property. They must be safe at home. They must be safe at work. They must be safe at play. They must be safe on the street. Human safety is necessary to ensure our country’s stability. Our country must be secure against trafficking in drugs, guns and people. Public security will signal to investors that Guyana is a safe destination for their investment.
Officers, there must be change and change must start at the level of the country itself. We cannot continue to ignore the constitutional reality, that the Government governs ten regions, not districts or divisions. There is only one Government and that Government’s policy is executed in ten regions, not seven, ten.
Every region will be administered by a capital town in due course. Every region must provide its citizens with public services including public security. Every region must have its own police division, a division that is coterminous with the administrative region of the one and only Government of Guyana.
Security sector reforms will reconfigure the police divisions, increasing them to ten so as to correspond with Guyana’s administrative system. Change must also take place at the community level. The community policing system must not be treated as a political ornament or as a social sideshow. Community policing seems not to be treated as a trustworthy component in neighbourhoods throughout the country for ensuring security. In fact, they’re often perceived as projecting special interest rather than protecting the general good. Conventional community policing practice requires the bond of mutual trust to be forged between the police and the public. That form of community policing must establish partnerships between the police and public; must emphasise problem solving; must emphasise public safety and public service with the aim of improving the quality of life in the community.
And thirdly, change must take place at the level of the citizen. It is apparent the trust between the public and the police was damaged more during ‘the troubles’ than any other time. Never before in the 179-year history of this proud force have so many policemen been slaughtered. Efforts must be made to rebuild the public trust.
Security sector reform must strengthen partnerships between the Force and the communities. Citizens should not consider themselves to be passive onlookers or bystanders. Security sector reform will help to reduce crime and uncover the causal factors which give rise to the crime, it will enhance cooperation between the public and police; it will rebuild public trust.
Lawless policemen have no place in a lawful Force. A Force which is contaminated by corruption cannot ensure the security of our citizens. Service in the Force must be based on values and commitment, competence and incorruptibility. Police reform is not a political gimmick. It goes to the heart of law enforcement.
Officers, I am confident that with the implementation of those reforms the Force will be better able to protect our country, our communities and our citizens. Young entrants will be able to feel proud of their careers as police officers. Dukie’s Law poses the question asked by the Roman poet Juvenal 2000 years ago: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Which in English means more or less, ‘who will watch the watchmen’ the question suggests that it is impossible to enforce or even to expect ethical conduct if the enforcer themselves are unethical. This nation must change and change will come.