High level of interpersonal violence discredits hard-earned freedom –President- urges faster dispensation of justice- at National Violence Prevention Conference

Georgetown, GINA, November 25, 2013

President Donald Ramotar today called for swifter dispensation of justice and a general relook of the policies that are in place to address the issue of interpersonal violence. He was at the time delivering the feature address at opening of a two – day National Conference for the Prevention of Interpersonal Violence at the Guyana International Conference Center (GICC), Liliendaal.

The conference was organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs and includes participation of a wide-cross section of stakeholders including law enforcement, the judicial system, faith-based organisations, civil society and several governmental and non-governmental agencies.

President Donald Ramotar delivering the feature address at the opening of the National Conference for the Prevention of Interpersonal Violence at the Guyana International Conference Center (GICC).

The involvement of such a diverse grouping is intended to promote inclusivity and ownership in the plans that will be developed to combat this scourge.

This forum coincides with the day designated by the United Nations as “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”.

President Ramotar said that the conference is aimed at developing a framework that will see the creation of national plan to counter violence in all of its manifestations in Guyana. It forms part of a broader ongoing public engagement to address various aspects of public security in a comprehensive way through a participatory approach.

 

The Head of State spoke of the huge costs that have to be borne by countries as a result of violence. However, he noted that, “for those of us who want to see the quality of life in our country improve drastically, it is not only a question of the economy, but also of the question of being free from fear in your own homes.”

The Republicans (a group of prison inmates) performing a skit on the effects of, and the need to fight against interpersonal violence.

Interpersonal violence takes a toll particularly on human lives. However, apart from being a personal and social problem, it is also a public security concern since it impacts negatively on the social order and safety of citizens.

President Ramotar explained that while the State has a general responsibility for the preservation of law and order and for the protection of its citizens; this issue can by no means be the exclusive preserve of Government.

“The State is entrusted with preserving law and order, but citizens and civil society have an obligation to hold and defend public safety and security…it is the responsibility of all sectors and all stakeholders to take a stand against violence…together we must reject and condemn all forms of violence; collectively we must stand in solidarity with the victims of interpersonal violence and united we must work to fashion strategies to combat this threat,” he emphasised.

He reminded too, that interpersonal violence is a challenge that is by no means unique to Guyana, as the Caribbean is besieged by the high level of violence, as well as developed countries.

 

The disproportionate level of violence in the region remains a source of deep apprehension to regional leaders; it tears the social fabric and presents formidable challenges.

Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee delivering remarks at the Conference for the Prevention of Interpersonal Violence

He noted that the high level of violence is particularly painful considering the sacrifices of those who fought and died in the struggle to overcome violence of plantation and structured violence of colonialism.

“The level of violence experienced in the region today dishonours the glorious and heroic struggles of those who resisted the evils of empire so that our people can live in freedom, peace and prosperity,” President Ramotar said.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee urged participants to ensure that this forum does not turn out to be “just another conference”. He reminded too, that violence prevention is much broader than merely crime prevention and detection.

He questioned how is it possible that the police can be at every doorstep, and maintained that the Ministry and the Force need the full support of social partners in order to address this scourge in a holistic and comprehensive way.

Last year, the Home Affairs Ministry announced that it will be employing about 500 or more neighbourhood police, because the Guyana Police Force does not have the capacity to patrol every community, everyday for 24 hours.

He spoke of rise in gun crimes and said that irrespective of the support or non-support of the Opposition, there is need for a review of the existing gun laws.

“Everybody wants a gun…in this country people are behaving as though this is the United States where under the constitution you have a right to bear arms, you don’t,” the Minister asserted.

Minister Rohee added that criminal elements, including those buying and selling guns, must be aggressively pursued. Additionally, the Ministry of Home Affairs must have a role to play in deciding whether or not a person’s firearm licence should be renewed or not. At present, the Ministry has no say in this matter.

Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Sophie Makonnen spoke of the consequences of interpersonal violence, particularly to the social sector. She said it is a vicious cycle which slows economic growth and impedes social progress.

She also reaffirmed the Bank’s continued support to Guyana to address the issue of interpersonal violence.

November 25 is the International Day chosen to highlight gender violence, a scourge described by the World Health Organisation as a major health hazard, one which affects over a third of all women in all societies, all social classes, all continents, and one which is not diminishing. The horrifying statistics are a fitting comment on today’s world.

In November 2009, the Home Affairs Ministry hosted it first ever National Crime Prevention Conference which resulted in the Liliendaal Declaration on Crime Prevention, which informed several policy decisions that were taken in this regard.

 

This conference is being held under the theme, “Working together against interpersonal violence.”

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