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Monday, April 24, 2006
he murders of Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh and three other persons on Saturday at his home represent yet another grave escalation in the rollercoaster of violence and bloodshed. What is the solution? How can Guyana escape this murderous, never-ending ride?

There are no easy fixes nor quick answers. In the present situation, against the backdrop of the slaying of a serving minister, the major onus to act falls on the government which must be in a state of shock at the moment. Up until Saturday it had been immune from the scourge of the murdering gunmen. Not anymore.

What the public needs to hear from President Jagdeo and his government is an acknowledgement that the security of the State is under threat and that the security forces as presently configured need help to deal with the crisis. Anything less than that will be a continuation of the administration's irritating policy of denial and the pretence that everything is under control. The security of the State did not only come under threat on Saturday with the murder of Minister Sawh. That act represents but one of a series on a remorseless continuum which has seen the administration refusing to act decisively.

In retrospect, the jail-break of 2002 irreversibly changed the parameters of the security situation and ever since then the government has struggled to play catch up. In the vacuum created by the failure of policing, the 2002 escapees were taken on by the phantoms/death squads and there were suddenly new, dangerous players in the security calculus.

Ever since 2002/3, the balance of power between the criminals and law enforcement has tilted back and forth and new forces enter and leave the stage at will. At no point in recent years has law enforcement comprehensively gained the upper hand and in the past few months there has been a sharp deterioration in security which has seen a curious mix of murders, confrontations with suspected drug kingpins and political intrigue. During this period, the Waddell murder was a key marker in addition to the Agricola massacre, the attack in McDoom in which a 12-year-old was killed, the disappearance of the army's AK-47s and, of course, the furore over the tape allegedly featuring the Police Commissioner.

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