Is Guyana heading into an authoritarian regime?

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Dear Editor:

Recently, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira,  announced in Parliament that the Government is asking for G$700 million for the GDF for what she called a Regional Joint Support Team, RJST, which had already been set up . While there was little information to be gleaned from her about this special team, a few things have been told to the nation. These include that it will: be a crime-fighting unit, have bases in all 10 regions and aid the Guyana Police Force in this regard.

However, according to recent statistics, the GPF does not need assistance to fight the ordinary and numerous petty crimes, which are occuring at the moment. Specifically, the GPF, has recorded a 38.4% decrease in armed robberies committed with guns for the first four months of 2021. The Force has also indicated that for the same period, armed robberies perpetrated with the use of other instruments decreased by 47.7%. https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2021/07/05/brazen-acts-of-robbery-becoming-a-norm-around-the-city/.

Ms Teixeira advised this unit would consist of members of the GDF and GPF but would not be responsible to either of the two organisations. She avoided answering questions about who its leaders would be, “as this is a matter of national security.” Guyana has special crime-fighting units which include: CANU to deal with drugs, The Major Crimes Unit to deal with serious and organised crimes, and The Financial Intelligence Unit to deal with financial crimes. They have very clear and specific purposes which are known to all and sundry. However, this new RJST Unit is shrouded in secrecy and apparently has been established for an entirely different purpose from other such units, one which the government is not disclosing at the moment.

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The issue is: What is the purpose of this special RJST? The government needs to answer this question or its silence will continue to lead to a myriad of speculation on the unit’s purpose, promoting the very, “hysterical thing” which Ms. Teixeira says we should not worry about. https://www.stabroeknews.com/2021/06/20/opinion/editorial/regional-joint-support-team/

The PPP government has already utilised the controversial Cyber Crime Bill to silence two opponents. This new, insufficiently explained unit will increase fear in an already tense Guyana. Will this unit be used to target persons who fall foul of the government?

Stabroek News asked, “How in a democracy does a government create what sounds like a parallel police force since it is outside the control of the police and was not preceded by the passage of any special legislation, and yet does not consider it necessary to inform the public or answer parliamentary questions about it?” SN continued, “The new force is just sneaked in, and there is no prior debate, no consultations, no explanations, no justifications. This is how authoritarian regimes operate, not democratic ones.”

Is this where Guyana is heading, into an authoritarian regime? Having just come out of a tremendous fight for democracy, are we now heading down another nasty pathway?

Guyana has a very bad history of special squads or units which were labelled as crime-fighters; none of which ended well. What is to stop this unit going rogue, into its own deals?

Regards

Jonathan Yearwood



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