A review of David Granger’s Public Security: Criminal Violence and Policing in Guyana. ISBN 978-976-8178-40-4.

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Public security has always been the Achilles’ heel of the People’s Political Party Civic (PPPC) in Government. The PPPC, in office between 1957 and 1964 and again between 1992 and 2015, failed palpably to ensure a satisfactory level of security for citizens. The security situation often deteriorates into crises whenever the PPPC is in government.

The PPPC used this pattern of security crises to excuse its own failures. It resorted to claims that its administrations have been victims of political subversion and that its arch-rival – the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – deploys criminality as a political weapon.

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David Granger’s Public Security: Criminal Violence and Policing in Guyana demolishes the pitiful claims of political subversion. Granger does this not by disproving these claims specifically but by unmasking the real reasons for the PPPC’s demonstrable record of failed public security policies.

Granger, in this regard, takes up where he left off in an earlier book – Public Policy: The crisis of governance in Guyana. He iterates that criminal violence, the antithesis of public security, flourishes where public policy falters. That Bharrat Jagdeo’s PPPC presidency during the first decade of the 21st century ‘falters’ can be said to be understatement. The crisis of public security and the corruption and unlawful actions of some members of the Guyana Police Force during this period represented a national catastrophe which threatened the very survival of society.

Granger, elsewhere, referred to that first decade of the 21st century as a ‘decade of death’. In this book, he observes that, between 2002 and 2008, Guyana had an average of two murders every five days. This is a stark but shocking criminal scorecard for a country of fewer than a million persons and which belongs to one of the more stable regions in the world.

Public Security: Criminal Violence and Policing in Guyana is a collection of twenty essays which were published between 2008 and 2011, prior to the author’s election as President of Guyana. The essays examine the reasons why public security was imperiled during that period.

The book exposes the absence of a proper security policy. It highlights the PPPC’s disregard of a profusion of reports making recommendations for security sector reform. It underscores the failure of the PPPC to implement its own National Drug Strategy Master Plan and the high incidence of domestic violence and its disproportionate impact on women.

The book recalls that deplorably ugly and grievously gruesome incident in which the genitals of a young boy were set alight in a police station – an incident which Granger refers to as the ‘Crime of the Year.’ The book also recounts the surge in the number of murders, the involvement of criminal gangs in creating an atmosphere of insecurity and the rise and fall of a convicted, notorious narcotics trafficker. The abandonment of the United Kingdom-funded Security Sector Reform programme and the need to address the serious shortcomings of the Police Force are also examined.

Granger writes with a command of the facts. He leaves little to conjecture. The essays have benefitted from Granger’s meticulous eye and his scrupulous research. His style of writing is engaging, refreshing and lucid prose.

Granger’s arguments are evidence-based.  The PPPC will find it impossible to refute the strong conclusions which, inevitably, are drawn by the author. The book’s conclusion indicts the PPPC for its public security failures. These include its failure to learn the lessons of the ‘Troubles;’ the failure to overcome the inertia over security sector reform; the failure to found its anti-drug policy on social justice, the rule of law and respect for authority; the failure to protect women; the failure to investigate police excesses; the failure to rein in a renegade Minister who was complicit in criminal conduct, including possible murder; and the failure to adequately resource government agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority and the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard whose functions involved combatting criminal activity. Jagdeo’s presidency, in summary, represents a failure to guarantee public security.

The book, however, cannot be accused of being one-sided or biased. It does not constitute a blinkered view of Guyana’s security problems. Granger, objectively, dispenses credit where credit is due. For example, he acknowledges the actions taken on the legislative front to strengthen law enforcement. He notes, however, that overall enforcement of the promulgated laws left a lot to be desired.

Granger even appears to commend then President Bharrat Jagdeo for establishing a Commission of Inquiry into the allegation of the involvement of a Minister of the Government in death squad activities. There appears, however, to be more than a hint of sarcasm here since it is widely known that it was pressure of the United States Government which forced President Jagdeo to launch the Commission of Inquiry.

Granger also notes the attempts by the PPPC administration to establish a Security Sector Reform Secretariat which was intended to be a permanent institution to continuously manage the security sector. He was magnanimous enough to describe the National Drug Master Plan 2005-2009 as comprehensive. A number of other key committees, however, were not known to be implemented.

A vivid picture of the abject failure emerges from this excellent study of the PPPC’s public security policies. The PPPC failed to implement its own security plans or retreated from those plans for reasons best known only to itself. Had the consequences of such failures not been so calamitous for the country, those shortcomings could have been viewed as a case of a government simply being clueless.

If there is any criticism which can be made of Public Security; Criminal Violence and Policing in Guyana, it is that Granger may have underestimated the gravity of reforming the security sector. One of his first tasks when he assumed the Presidency in May 2015, was to reengage the United Kingdom about security sector reform.

Security sector reform remains a work-in-progress. In this regard, it is clear that Granger may have miscalculated the deformities which occurred during the Jagdeo era and the enormous effort which would be needed to reverse this malignancy.

Granger, as President, however, laid a solid foundation for security sector reform. He had gone about purposefully establishing the essential infrastructure and sturdy superstructure to improve public security.  One of the institutions established during his tenure as President was the National Anti-Narcotics Authority (NANA). The recent dissolution of this Agency forebodes, possibly, another disastrous era for public security under the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration.

Public Security: Criminal Violence and Policing in Guyana represents the most authoritative study of the crisis in public security during the first decade of the 21st Century. The book proves that the PPPC’s problems with its Achilles’ heel – public security – is of its own making.



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