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I begin by condemning in the strongest manner the incident at State House on the morning of Thursday, December 15, 2022. I also want to take this opportunity to wish the injured rank a full and speedy recovery.
It was reported that a male attempted to illegally enter State House, which is the official residence of the President of Guyana. In the process, the person seriously injured one of the security ranks, relieved another of a firearm, which he then used to discharge several rounds. Thankfully, the discharged bullets did not strike anyone.
As a former head of the Presidential Guard, I find the entire incident very alarming as it appears that there was a serious breakdown in the security arrangements at State House resulting in this unfortunate incident. It must be noted that the Presidential Guard is a unit of the Guyana Police Force. Its members are policemen and women.
The question to be asked is how was the person able to get into the security enclosure at State House with a weapon (knife), which he then used to inflict serious injuries on a rank and relieved another of a firearm? This clearly shows that something is definitely wrong with the security arrangements at that location. It is fortunate that (according to the sketchy reports) the person once in possession of the firearm did not attempt to go further into the compound of State House.
This incident calls for a comprehensive review of the entire security arrangements, not only at State House, but at other buildings where senior government and other functionaries work and live. This must be done by competent professionals. This review must include staffing, training, and the relevant Standard Operational Procedures (SOP’s), among other issues.
I have noted that the Head of the Presidential Guard, Special Assistant Commissioner Edgar Thomas, was called out from pre-retirement leave in August 2020 to be in-charge of that Branch. I know Thomas very well. He spent most of his years in the Guyana Police Force at the Police Communications Branch. His competency is in the electrical and electronic fields. He has absolutely no expertise in executive security, but, he is the head of security for Guyana’s President.
Speaking about competency at the Presidential Guard, it has not escaped me that on September 17, 2020, eight ranks of the Presidential Guard who were recruited on August 18, 2020, a mere month before, were promoted to the rank of sergeant. They are part of the management structure at the Presidential Guard. One wonders the extent to which this may have contributed to the apparent dilution of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Presidential Guard.
Since this incident there has been conflicting reports. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported that “the perpetrator was shot on response and is presumed dead”. The police reported of an “alleged shooting incident”. Other reports stated that the perpetrator is a Haitian, other that he is a Nigerian. It was reported that he worked as a security guard, yet another report stated that he worked as a cleaner. There is another report which suggests that a triangular love affair might be at the center of this incident.
What alarms me, and should alarm every right thinking Guyanese, especially media operatives, is that at the time of penning this letter more than forty-eight hours have elapsed since this incident and the Acting Commissioner of Police has not seen it fit to face the media to inform the Guyanese public of the details of this serious security lapse, which in my view can have national security implications.
I recall not so long ago in the wake of the damning allegation by police sergeant Dion Bascom that a senior rank of the Guyana Police Force received a large cash bribe to cover up the Ricardo Fagundes murder, the Acting Commissioner and the Crime Chief held a press conference to “debunk” the allegation. That did not go so well. I would have thought that given the seriousness of the State House incident they would have seen the necessity to provide the public with relevant information, which I am sure would have cleared up the speculations and rumors. That would be the professional thing to do by any competent person.
Perhaps the fall-out from that disastrous press conference has left the acting Commissioner and the Crime Chief so traumatized that they are now fearful of having another media engagement.
I hope that this incident would cause the government to realize that professionalism and competence are the required elements in the Guyana Police Force, including an important Branch like the Presidential Guard.
The security of government functionaries, especially the President, should not be entrusted to cronies and favourites.
God help the Guyana Police Force!