Remarks by the Hon. Moses V. Nagamootoo, Prime Minister & Acting President Of The Co-Operative Republic of Guyana At the Opening Ceremony of the Police Officers Conference Officers’ Mess, Eve Leary Thursday, January 26, 2017

 

Your conference is taking place at a time of great changes in the world. A new President took office in the United States and he immediately started to implement his campaign promises.

One of those is the erection of a wall along the Mexican border. President Donald Trump has identified a law-enforcement function of the Wall, that is, to lock out criminals from the United States of America.

It is not for us to say whether we agree or disagree with this decision. But unlike the USA, Guyana has extensive borders with three countries, and the mere length of our borders would not allow us to build any walls. For us, the better option would be to:-

  1. promote inter-agency cooperation among our intelligence, defence, security and law-enforcement agencies;
  2. encourage participation of civil society in crime detection, community protection and intelligence gathering;
  3. build functional cooperation with neighbouring states, friendly countries and international agencies in the fight against trans-border and transnational crimes, and
  4. ensure that the three branches of Government in Guyana – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – work in comity and share in the governance process in such a way as not only to prevent abuse of powers but to strengthen our democratic system and to effectively enforce public policy.

As the law enforcement arm of the Executive, you need to know and respect tenets of democracy, such as the separation of powers that guide the Executive in its relations with the Legislature and the Judiciary.

We are all better together. Stronger, too. So I ask you, as law enforcement officers and ranks, to respect our laws, our institutions and our democratic traditions.

Our Government has been leading the way in ensuring the independence of both the legislature and the judiciary, and making them financially and administratively autonomous.

In as much as any citizen, or the government for that matter, may criticise decisions emanating from our courts which, after all, are not cloistered halls immune from public scrutiny, our Government does not encourage attacks on the legislature and judiciary. It is not Government’s policy or decision to besmirch the character of any judicial officer. Our Government would not condone attempts, however well meaning or veiled, to impugn the integrity of judicial officers.

Since our APNU+AFC Coalition Government assumed office some 20 months ago, Guyana has enjoyed an unenviable image of a peaceful country, determined to uphold the Rule of Law, restore clean and accountable governance, and to distance our administration from both the pervasive corruption and executive interference that had characterized the not-so-distant past.

We must all bask in reflected pride and glory that in our democratic Guyana, we enjoy an open, multi-party parliamentary system. We have a free and plural press, where journalists are not persecuted and media are not suppressed. But we demand the right to fair comments, the right of reply and constructive and contemporaneous criticisms, however robust.

It is good to know also that Guyana has no political prisoners in our jails and though we have the death penalty in our Statutes, there have been no judicial executions over many years.

We have achieved all these positive attributes due to the fact that there is open and free political space in which the separation of powers is very much evident.

That is why, as Prime Minister with responsibility for the state media, I want to say this: while I would not interfere with editorial discretion, I disassociate myself from perceived scurrilous attacks in the Chronicle newspapers against the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary who will, less than a month from now, demit his substantive office as Chief Justice at the end of a distinguished career.

I say this because I feel that the national security architecture is better protected with an independent and strong judiciary, and when the branches function independently but in a way that cumulatively (a) enunciate policies and administer them; (b) make laws and approve public spending; and (c) protect constitutional rights and dispense justice that would enable them to ensure law and order, public safety, good governance and the rule of law.

The benefits of working together are manifestly reflected in the satisfactory performance of the Guyana Police Force over these past 20 months, for which I congratulate officers and ranks for responding to the challenges that we faced in the security sector with courage, resolve and purpose.

Effective law enforcement is intertwined with the policies adumbrated by the Executive, the laws that are made, unmade or reformed in the Legislature and the administration of justice by the Judiciary.

It is within this wider context of our lawful and impregnable system of inter-action and cooperation that you have shattered the predictions of the messiahs of gloom and doom, who often boast of a “crime spree” and “crime spiraling out of control” in Guyana.

Since the assumption to office of our Government, we can proudly proclaim that Guyana has no death squads, no extra-judicial killings, and no electronic support architecture for the criminal enterprise and no agreement with the narco-syndicate to be an auxiliary of the national security apparatus.

It seems not so long ago that we experienced the gruesome episodes of torture, executions and use of excessive force, which had impugned the professionalism of the Guyana Police Force. Fatal shooting by the police, fell from 17 cases in 2008 and 13 in 2013, to only 3 such cases last year.

That you have distanced yourself from contamination of past lawlessness and excesses in less than two years must be justification to say, “well done”. You could do better.

And better you did.

It was once noted that there are “lies, damned lies and statistics”. So, I should be careful to use statistics that show that in the last 20 months, when compared with the corresponding period, percentage-wise, the incidence of crime has fallen. But no amount of statistics would compensate for the tragic consequences that follow criminal activities — the loss of loved ones, the agonies of survivors, damage, deprivation of property and mental depression.

But we are comforted by the facts, as illustrated by compelling statistics, that the Guyana Police Force lessened the incidence of crime and that our police ranks responded positively by apprehending suspects, putting them on trial, and playing useful prosecutorial role in seeing that justice is done. You have sent a strong message that you would deal condignly with law-breakers and that our system of justice ensures that those who do the crime, they would do the time!

No statistics are more compelling than those for 2016 when there was a 63% detection rate for murder. Of the 142 reports, 89 cases were made out. I understand in police lingua, this is called the clear-up rate, and 63% represents the highest such clear-up rate for murder in fifteen (15) years.

If I were a CID sleuth, I would stand up proudly at this time, and be counted!

At the same time, compared to 2015, there has been a 16% reduction in the serious crime rate in 2016 (from 392 to 328 reports). These offences include Robbery under Arms (firearms used), Robbery with Violence, Rape, and Larceny from the Person.

Our Government also notes with satisfaction that last year the Major Crimes Unit busted 37 cases in 2016, which include 10 “cold cases”, 11 murders and 11 robberies in which firearm had been used.

In Guyana, though we have a strict law enforcement reputation that we are seeking to re-build, we have resorted to what might appear to be a human approach to ensure public safety. We experimented with a gun amnesty and we also witnessed pardon of prisoners. We implemented a curfew to allow unfettered drinking in public places until 2 a.m.

I commend our Minister of Public Security for these innovations and also other measures that were intended to reduce the incidence of lawlessness and criminal activities.

But it would appear that we could never guarantee a no-crime environment. Last year, even in the most unsuspecting place, the central prison, crimes were being hatched and hardened criminals were ready to confront law enforcement. The consequences, in one instance, were fatal.

I recall that incident to show that the scope of work by the disciplined forces from patrol duties to prison deployment, is very wide and full of challenges.

However, you met those challenges. You responded not only physically but you employed intelligence to break-through serious Crime cases. There were 40 such break-through including:-

  • Ten (10) murders
  • Fifteen (15) Firearm related Robberies,

Information provided also resulted in seventy eight (78) arrests of persons wanted for Serious Crimes.

Another highlight of how our security forces met the challenges is in regards to piracy. In 2016 there was only one reported case, and the Incidence of piracy dropped from 22 in 2012 to only 2 in 2015.

No one can take credit away from you for what you did, collectively. But you were not alone. Under the leadership of President David Granger, your Commander-in-Chief, the National Security Committee and the Defence Board have been reactivated, and have been meeting routinely. As a result, there have been interagency cooperation, maritime aerial surveillance, border patrols and purposeful deployment of our limited resources material and personnel resources. Our ranks in the joint services went on feet, bicycles, motor cycles, horse backs, ATVs, jeeps, helicopters and in aircraft, wherever the situation required. Ranks have been deployed and are permanently stationed on board the M.V. Tamakay, a floating police station in the Waini River.

The combined and determined efforts of our police ranks have produced results. One only has to reflect two years back when there was an almost inexplicable upsurge in kick-down-the-door banditry. Since then, intense operations by the joint services have seen a dramatic reduction of the incidence of such outrageous attacks, though much more remains to be done to smoke out the left-over gangs from the criminal past.

At the core of all that you did, was discipline. Last year was a testing time for ranks who were deployed in activities associated with our 50th anniversary of independence. Ranks spruced up their police stations and environs, decorated buildings, and even appeared slick and smart at drill squares and on parades. You made us all proud! You did honour to your uniform and you vindicate your leadership at the level of the President, the Minister of Public Security and the Commissioner of Police, that you were capable of doing better, and you did!

Last year helped to imbue our police ranks with greater sense of patriotism, as we reflected on the struggles and sacrifices that led to our country’s independence. I urge you to maintain the momentum, to love what you do, and to do it with commitment and dedication.

The Guyana Police Force is again called upon to greater duty, now that the nation has set as its goal the building of a Green State. This will be a state that is characterized by orderliness, by clean energy and green surroundings. You would be called upon to enforce environmental laws, parking restrictions and laws against indiscriminate waste disposal.

New hierarchical structures that involve some specialized policing skills would be introduced to deal with a new genre of violations such as cyber crime, money laundering, recovery of state assets and terrorism. These features would add to the stature of the disciplined services, and would attract a new breed of intelligencia, fully educated and trained in crime detection, interception and prosecution.

I want to invite the young ranks in the police force to set your sight on every possibility for training and educational advancement, and to see your job as a knowledge-driven vocation that has mobility and a place at the top for every enterprising and ambitious recruit.

To the officers, you must continue to shine and lead by example. To the ranks, policing is a worthy profession from which you could graduate as a model citizen and leader. That was how I thought, and still do, when I had applied to be a policeman and a soldier in 1966. For all of your, the path to the top is dedication and discipline, and grasping every opportunity to learn and benefit from scholarship.

To the Guyana Police Force, you are doing better than ever before. Do not let down your guard. Do not let down your Commander-in-Chief, your Commissioner and your Country. Stay the course!

I thank you.

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