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A frightening reality exists in beloved Guyana- the shedding of blood in our communities. It ought to be of serious concern to all law- abiding and decent Guyanese because no one can predict the next community that will be struck with fear by the execution- style killings by civilians and rogue men in uniform.
All of us must pay keen attention to this phenomenon and resolve in ourselves to eliminate it, and to protect our families and communities. This reappearance of street executioners and extrajudicial killings cannot be decoupled from unprecedented and strange actions of the incumbent PPP/C government. In fact, certain actions and/or inactions of the government seem to be encouraging the boldness of those involved in killings in our country.
Two days before the presentation of the National Budget 2023, by the PPP/C, Guyanese were shocked at the news of the gunning down of Delon Josiah, at his home, in his bedroom, at Perseverance, on the East Bank of Demerara. Days earlier Anthony Charles, aka ‘Skiddle’ of Leopold Street was gunned down in broad daylight.
Last year, on December 21, Sabutaro Singh was stabbed to death on Regent Street, in the center of the city. Again, on March 21, 2022, Ricardo Fagundes was killed execution- style in Main Street, a stone’s throw away from State House- the official residence of the President of Guyana.
On September 15, 2021, businessman Orin Boston, of Dartmouth Essequibo Coast was allegedly shot and killed in his bed by the police. Last year, on June 10, Quindon Bacchus of Haslington, East Coast Demerara was allegedly shot and killed by the police.
In 2002, under the PPP/C, there was the “Phanton Squad” and brutal killings of many Guyanese including George Bacchus a self-confessed informant to the then minister of Home Affairs, Also, citizens would recall, the Lusignan massacre in 2008 and Lindo Creek massacre in 2008.
It is strikingly interesting that, extrajudicial and execution- style killings appear to be happening with worrying impunity under successive PPP/C governments. It is a worrying trend during PPP/C government citizens have to live in fear of both civilians and rogue men in uniform. And whilst both killings are bad, the fact that rogue men, working on behalf of the state and dressed in the uniform of the state, rather than serve and protect the people in the state are aiming their guns, with apparent intent, to kill harmless citizens of the state. The judiciary, the branch of the state, responsible for the dispensing of justice appears inconsequential to them.
A glance at the history of our country would reveal that, there is a pattern of killings. Unknown persons involved in such killings seem to be emboldened whenever the PPP/C holds the reins of political power. What is very troubling is that, we have not heard a word from the police on the progress on any one of the recent killings. This is inspite of the huge amount of tax-payers’ dollars spent to procure and install CCTV cameras, in different sections of the city.
That, notwithstanding, citizens have the right to protection. This is nothing new. Under the social contract citizens should be guaranteed the protection of their rights by the state. The right to life is first, foremost and fundamental. Unless this right is protected the question of protection of other rights does not arise. Every citizen has a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty [a sense of security that one’s life and property would not be assaulted], and property.
The right to protection is fundamental. It is embedded in our common law tradition and natural rights principle. In Guyana, under our Constitution the government has a constitutional obligation to protect the right of citizens to life. Nobody, including the Government, can try to end your life. Moreover, the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect you and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect you if your life is at risk. An efficient police force is essential for the protection of person and property. However, the government has politicised the police force. It has been using some of its members to do its biddings.
The recent fiasco in Caneview/Mocha, in which the police were used to prevent people from protecting their homesteads and belongings, is a classic example of how the PPP/C has distracted the police from its core duties and responsibilities. The questionable actions by the government to appoint and promote selected members of the force is another case in point.
What the government seems not to understand, or cares not to understand is that its actions have compromised the integrity of the Force. Public trust in the work of the Force is perpetually eroded. And with each new case of killings that all important and indispensable ingredient to relationship building between the people and the police continues to evaporate.
Undoubtedly, this is making the work of the Force much more difficult because if citizens do not trust the police, then they are less likely to cooperate with them. It is true that an efficient and effective police force depends on the assistance and cooperation of communities. In some cases, local communities are the eyes and ears of the police; there is that relationship where people feel safe in the presence of the police. However, this is not the case in many of our villages and communities. Suspicion is a natural result of uncertainty of the intention and motive of police presence in a community.
Worse is the fact, that the government and competent law- enforcement authority appear to have a working understanding that they are not authorised to pursue certain killings. Almost all of the execution- style killings remain unsolved. Strangely, with all the shedding of blood, through execution- style, Guyanese have heard nothing from the Minister of Home Affairs.
But there is a wider question, the answer for which is connected to the actions of the PPP/C government. If one were to consider the geographical areas in which such killings are taking place, then one would recognise that those are poor and vulnerable communities. There is a correlation between such communities and crimes, how the vulnerable could be exploited as hired guns or engage in unlawful activities to satisfy hunger or other material need or want.
The government has been shamefully unresponsive to the plight of the poor and vulnerable in our society. This unresponsiveness runs like an unbroken thread through its recent $781.9 B Budget for 2023. It is uniquely uninspiring and insensitive to the felt needs of citizens. Budget 2023 is discernibly a sad continuation of the structural discriminatory and lopsided policy of the Irfaan Ali led government. Indeed, it is in the main a demonstration of how little the government thinks of all Guyanese.
Nothing for ordinary Guyanese living in poor and broken communities; the cycle of poverty continues. But, yes, substantial allocations, by government, for infrastructure, in certain areas. Negligible amounts to improving the quality of life for ordinary Guyanese.
While the government has presented its biggest budget yet, ordinary citizens must continue to “catch hell” to make ends meet; more people will fall below the breadline; and more are likely to entertain the possibility of other options, which unfortunately could include anti-social activities to survive. In 2023, with Guyana’s enormous wealth, we deserved a Budget for All Guyana, not ‘one Guyana.’