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Retired Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Slowe has flayed the Guyana Police Force for what he described as a monumental breakdown in security during the ‘Baderation Concert” held Friday night at the National Park.
The concert was headlined byJamaican dancehall artiste SKENG. During the show chaos broke out with gunmen firing shots in the air as patrons run helter-skelter for safety.
Slowe in a letter to the press recalled that during the year 2004 he was posted as the Police Commander of “A” Division, which includes the capital city Georgetown.
At that time, he said he was aware that a disturbing feature at shows involving
Jamaican dancehall artistes was the unlawful and indiscriminate /ring of
guns and the use of chemical agent (mace) during shows. Those actions
caused widespread panic at the venue and was capitalized on by criminal
elements to rob unsuspecting and vulnerably patrons. There was evidence, Slowe continued that suggested that the mayhem was deliberately orchestrated for the purpose of creating panic and robbing patrons.
“I was given the task of creating a security protocol for those shows. The protocol was created and implemented. Incidents of unlawful gunfire and the use of mace at shows became a thing of the past,” Slowe added. He noted that a few days ago he saw a video on social media of SKENG and others arriving in Guyana. “I was unaware of who the artiste was (I am sure that is a generation thing), so I made some inquiries. The first thing I was told was that there was likely to be gunfire during the performance of a particular song. I was further informed that there was likely to be mayhem during the
show. How prescient those insights were! Wasn’t the authorities aware of
this? If not, why not?
Slowe said it is very troubling that at a time when the government is seeking to promote tourism and has been hyping the upcoming Caribbean Premier League cricket tournament, the semifinals and final of which are scheduled for the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, security is so lax at an event that a
patron can enter the venue with an illegal firearm according to the police and beverage is served to patrons in glass bottles, among other clear security breaches. “That can only be described as a case of regression,” Slowe commented. He said copies of the protocol he has referred to above should still be around. Slowe said too that the institutional memory should still be there. “I call on the persons responsible for security to dust off the protocol and have it implemented post haste. One of the main elements of the protocol was that the police commander of the division in which the show was to be held had primacy over all the security related activities, including the granting of permission for the event, which was a critical first step.
However, he said the current reality is that politicians are involved and determine every major decision in the Guyana Police Force. “I am therefore of the view that despite a hurriedly called meeting by the police high command to address the issue nothing significant will be done without directions from the politicians whose interest may not be fully aligned with the interest of persons responsible for the security of such events. Slowe also questioned whether there was any similar meeting between the police and the promoter (s) prior to the show to establish clear security guidelines.
Police have since launched an investigation into the mayhem that unfolded at the Hits and Jams concert.
In a statement the police said that a meeting was summoned Saturday morning by the Commissioner of Police (acting) Mr. Clifton Hicken, in the Commissioner’s Conference Room at Force Headquarters, Eve Leary to deal with the breach of security and subsequent discharge of gunshots at the ‘Baderation’ dancehall concert held at the National Park last night.
Among those present at the meeting were Deputy Commissioner ‘Administration’ Mr. Calvin Brutus, Deputy Commissioner ‘Operations’ Mr. Ravindradat Budhram; Head of Special Branch Mr. Errol Watts, Commander for Regional Division 4 ‘A’ Mr. Simon McBean, CCU Head Mr. Mark Ramotar; and promoter of the ‘Baderation’ concert Mr. Rawle Ferguson from Hits and Jams Entertainment Company.
The security posture (and lack thereof) at the event was discussed and recommendations were made for strict compliance prior to the hosting of any other such events in the future. Some of the things discussed at the meeting relate to: Stakeholders approach – with promoters, members of the Fire Service, GRA, and the Police; increased police posture in partnership with the Private Sector; prohibition of beverages in bottles (only plastic cups and bottles will be allowed); improved security search – metal detectors and scanners will be employed.
Also, one person – a vendor from East Ruimveldt, Georgetown was arrested by the Police in the National Park Friday night with an illegal 9mm firearm with one suspected live 9mm round of ammunition. He is presently in custody. The Police are presently following up with the reviewing of CCTV cameras and videos circulating on social media with a view of identifying and arresting persons who discharged rounds in the air at the event in the National Park.
The Guyana Police Force is also appealing to the general public or anyone who might have knowledge or information (maybe phone videos) to share with the police as this will assist investigators in identifying the perpetrator(s) who fired shots at the event that caused chaos and panic.