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Thursday, March 30, 2006
Opposition parties to draft crime strategy
From Kaieteur News...

The parliamentary opposition parties will formulate a document within the next two weeks on recommendations coming out of a forum held yesterday on crime.

This document will be distributed to stakeholders with a view of arriving at a decision on the way forward.

The forum was held at City Hall under the theme ‘Unity for our Security' and was organised by the parliamentary opposition parties.

Individuals and organisations were able to voice their thoughts on the issue of crime in Guyana .

The discussion was preceded by presentations by Dr. Michael Scott, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Guyana , and Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram.

There was a general call from the presenters and from the floor that political parties, faith-based organisations, community-based organisations, and non-governmental organisations must all come together if the scourge of heightened crime currently pervading in Guyana is to be adequately addressed.

Contributors felt that the opposition parties must engage the government in the process since they would not be able to tackle crime alone.

One contributor emphasised that the issues of justice and equity must be addressed before solutions to crime are examined.

It was also suggested that “narcotic-consuming” countries should bear some responsibility for crime prevention and reform, and provide assistance to countries like Guyana to cut the crime rate.

Dr. Scott told the packed auditorium that a decision has to be made to be tough on crime.

Every institution of the State has to be decriminalised.

He said it would require obtaining accurate data on organised crime, the mobilisation of adequate resources, and the seeking of external assistance.

The establishment of ‘crime watch' groups in communities must be encouraged along with good policing instead of vigilantism.

Dr. Scott is of the opinion that the authorities should extend an amnesty with some kind of incentive to encourage micro-disarmament.

He also proposed that there should be retraining of members of the law enforcement agencies.

Dr. Scott pointed out that investment flow would recede if there is no sense of security in a country.

“To tackle crime, there is a need for good governance; the rule of law must be adhered to, the role of civil society must be acknowledged, and there must be transparency and accountability for acts by the State which do not seem lawful,” he said.

In his presentation, Ram declared that the ethnic insecurity dilemma in Guyana has given way to a national insecurity dilemma.

“The events in the past three years beginning with that of February 23, 2006 have invoked terror, and have shocked society by the brazenness in which they were carried out,” he said.

He stated that the present crime situation in Guyana is a result of failures in the economy, governance, and the political and legal systems.

He is of the view that the situation cannot be addressed under the current policies of the government.

“We need to encourage an economic model which would place people in jobs,” he said.

Ram took the opportunity to call on the members of the Integrity Commission to resign since they are not able to do their jobs effectively.

He called for the laws to be amended so that unexplained wealth of government officials and Members of Parliament, including the opposition, could be investigated.

Alliance for Change (AFC)'s Gerhard Ramsaroop, speaking from the floor, informed the gathering that his party has formulated a plan to deal with crime, which includes the appointment of a special crime unit comprising Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Police Force personnel.

Ramsaroop said the AFC is prepared to be part of a national response to crime but feels that a response perceived to be a government or opposition response and which does not include civil society will be ineffective.

The AFC supports the development of an amnesty programme for the surrender of illegal weapons.

This, the AFC says, should be backed by a ‘buy-back' scheme and introduction of draconian legislation denying bail to persons found in possession of illegal firearms and increasing the jail sentence.

The AFC supports the appointment of a drug enforcement chief to coordinate and execute drug enforcement policy to be implemented in tandem with the assistance from the US Drug Enforcement Agency and other security forces.

The party suggests that special prosecutors and magistrates should be appointed for selected categories of offence.

The forum was attended by a wide cross-section of the Guyanese society and included members of the diplomatic corps, political parties, trade unions, and civil society.

PNCR Member of Parliament Deborah Backer chaired the session.

Among those seated at the head table were Opposition Leader Robert Corbin, WPA Co-Leader Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, and Leader of ROAR, Ravi Dev. (Andrew Richards)