FROM: The People’s Progressive Party
TO: The Disciplined Forces Commission
DATE: 29th August, 2003
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) welcomes the establishment of the Disciplined Services Commission. The Party is optimistic that this Commission will successfully complete its task and provide useful recommendations, which can lead to qualitative improvements in the operations of the Disciplined Forces and decent levels of law and order. This in turn will contribute positively to the safety of citizens and property and create the conditions for people to enjoy their rights and discharge their responsibilities towards national development.
The People Progressive Party is therefore pleased to provide this submission based on the Commission’s Terms of Reference, which were adopted by Resolution 21 during the 2nd Session of the 8th Parliament of Guyana.
The People’s Progressive Party
is mindful that Article 197 A (5) of the Constitution called for the formation
of Disciplined Forces Commissions from time to time as deemed necessary and
with power to:
1. Examine any matter relating to the public welfare, public safety, public order, defence or security, including the structure and composition of the Disciplined Forces; and
2. Make recommendations generally with a view of promoting greater efficiency, giving effect to the need, in the public interest, that the composition of the Disciplined Forces takes account of the ethnic constituency of the population.
The PPP, in making this submission, wishes the Commission to note that President Jagdeo and Mr. Corbin, the Leader of the Opposition, in their Communiqué dated May 6, 2003, agreed to the establishment of this Disciplined Forces Commission as provided for in the Constitution but, more importantly, agreed to, and provided unanimous Parliamentary support for, the Resolution that called for the Disciplined Forces Commission so constituted, to inquire into the Police Force and to give priority to that enquiry during the discharge of its mandate.
The People Progressive Party would want the Commission to also note that arising from the Agreement between President Jagdeo and Mr. Corbin, Leader of the Opposition, the Constitution was amended, providing the Disciplined Forces Commission, established under Article 197 with the powers and authority of a Commission of Inquiry.
It is in that context that the People’s Progressive Party presents its submission, responding to the Terms of Reference of the inquiry into the Guyana Police Force.
It is the conviction of the PPP that Police Forces generally have had to commit themselves to continuous reform and modernization. The maintenance of law and order, the fight against crime and the provision of security of person and property in the new century generate increasingly complex issues that a Police Force has to address if it were to achieve success and retain the confidence of the citizens. Thus, the PPP would like to see the pace and scope of reform in the Guyana Police Force accelerated.
The modern Police Force functions best when the vast array of complementary actions in diverse fields converges and produces an enabling environment. It is the PPP’s humble submission to this Commission that much more has to be done to cultivate such an enabling environment in Guyana today.
It is the success with which its mandate is discharged that public confidence in the Police Force is grounded. That success is largely dependent on the adequacy of the ways and means that the Police Force adopts to function in the complex internal security environment of today.
1. (a) Changing Nature of Crime
The People’s Progressive Party recognises that there has been abundant confirmation in Guyana that the very nature of crime had, over the years, undergone a process of change. It has become well organised, well financed and have international connections. Furthermore, in CARICOM countries and elsewhere, the evolution of crime poses a threat to national economies, growth and development, political stability, democratic processes and citizen’s well-being and security.
The categories of crime that are
particularly troubling included:
• illegal trading in firearms,
• illegal trading in aliens,
• money laundering
• kidnapping and extortion
• armed robberies
Due to its gravity in recent years, the People’s Progressive Party cannot avoid drawing to the attention of the Commission, the appearance of armed criminal gangs that have made innocent civilians, notably business people, their major target with robbery being their primary objective. The perpetration of these crimes, and the callousness and brutality with which they have been executed, have left in its wake numerous victims who have been murdered and maimed, apart from the material losses suffered.
The PPP feels constrained to further
direct the attention of the Commission to the most recent spate of kidnapping
and extortion to the stock in trade of the criminal gangs operating in Guyana.
(b) Ethnic Imbalance
A number of other permissive circumstances contributed to furthering ethnic imbalances in the Security Services.
In addition to the changes in the nature of crime, the security forces in Guyana have had to contend with increasing levels of politically instigated violence that, in assuming ethnic dimensions, have threatened to engulf society in communal strife. For many, this development is reminiscent of the political and ethnic strife of the 1960’s.
It is the most recent re-appearance of widespread, politically inspired violence that, not only has made more complex the nature of crime that the Disciplined Forces have to contend with, but also its handling has deeply eroded the very public confidence needed by the Disciplined Forces to support the battle against crime.
The PPP insists that, for the issue of Public Confidence to be fully addressed, the resort to politically inspired violence must be rejected and acceptable mechanisms for conflict resolution embraced and institutionalised within the body politic.
It is the firm conviction of the PPP that, of all the factors that have impacted negatively on Public Confidence in the Disciplined Forces, their handling of politically inspired violence has become their Achilles heel
It is in that context that the PPP continues to call for the correction of ethnic imbalances in the Disciplined Forces, particularly in the GDF and the GPF. This is a matter of national importance and this Commission is challenged with the responsibility to come up with a comprehensive approach to this delicate issue. The PPP is ready and willing to make detailed contributions on this issue at the appropriate time.
For the benefit of members of the Commission, many factors have given rise to the current situation with regards to Ethnic Balance in the Disciplined Forces.
The PPP would like to explore the consequences of the current situation and particularly its impact on the national efforts in fighting crimes.
It is the People’s Progressive Party’s contention that the current situation with regards to Ethnic Balance in the Disciplined Forces is colonial in its origin but aggressively cultivated during the years of the PNC Administration, 1964 to 1992.
The records would show that ethnic imbalance was a historical feature of the Police Force during the colonial era. That, of course, reflected the designs of the colonial masters and the treatment of their subjects in bondage.
The Police Force then was already of largely Afro-Guyanese descent but was led by British Officers. The records of their most initial engagements saw the Police Force engaging in the subjugation of the struggles of the Afro and Indo Guyanese working class against exploitation by their colonial masters.
The People’s Progressive Party and its forerunner, the Political Affairs Committee organised the Guyanese working people to fight for universal adult suffrage and the end of colonialism.
The colonial police were charged with the responsibility for maintaining the supremacy of the colonial administration and resorted to intimidation of the militant leadership of the PPP.
Intimidation took the form of searches, investigation, arrests, persecution and harassment. The working class developed suspicion regarding the impartiality of the colonial Police Force.
The police being used to support the policies of the colonial Government, intensified the feelings of distrust by the public, particularly PPP supporters, of the police and the way the Force was operating.
This Commission must note that the resort of the colonial state to its coercive police apparatus in defence of their unjust and oppressive system resulted in landmark national events, one of which inspired the late and former President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan to dedicate himself to the liberation of Guyana from colonial rule.
With the benefits of political mobilisation and later universal adult suffrage, the PPP increasingly became an elected political powerhouse but as Dr. Jagan pointed out, was never really in power.
During the PPP- led limited and internal self-government Administrations of 1957 to 1964, the PPP in office made attempts to correct the ethnic imbalance in the Police Force.
The records would show that the Special
Services Unit (SSU), which was established during that period and became the
embryo of the National Army, had a much better balanced ethnic composition than
the colonial Police Force burdened with the traditions of its colonial origin.
That period represented the only time in Guyana’s history, prior to 1992, when deliberate efforts were made to create an ethnically balanced Police Force.
The British Colonial Administration, in retaining control of the security services, ignored the brutalisation of the body politic by allowing ethnic insecurity to be generated and by not responding to ethnic incitement and political violence, both of which were used to destabilize the PPP Government.
The colonial masters, during the
last term of Office of the PPP-led Government in 1961 to 1964, conspired with
other Western forces to ensure that independence would not be given to the then
British Guiana under a PPP Administration.
The People’s National Congress became the dominant party in the ruling coalition that assumed power after the 1964 General Elections in the then British Guiana. The PPP, although it enjoyed majority support from the Guyanese electorate, was removed from Office through the machinations of the Western powers.
Without an electoral plurality and
without an economic base, the People’s National Congress’ term in
Office had to be maintained through coercion. The history of Guyana during the
period of 1964 to 1992 was remarkable for a number of reasons.
The records would show that during those years of the PNC Administration, Guyanese were subjected to racial discrimination, repression and recurrent election fraud in the 1968, 1973, 1980 and 1985 General Elections and the 1978 Referendum.
It was during this period that the PNC used the reins of Government and the control of the Security Forces to maintain its undemocratic rule in Guyana. Through electoral fraud in1973, the PNC achieved the two third majority, which it needed in Parliament to allow enactment of Constitutional Amendments that consolidated their hold on Government. Party paramountcy was introduced and Government was subordinated to the ruling Party. The Disciplined Forces all swore allegiance to the ruling party.
Since Afro-Guyanese formed the backbone of the PNC political support, they were encouraged to become part of the rapidly expanding security apparatus in Guyana. The Security Forces then acquired an ethnic composition that accorded with the political support base of the PNC.
Political repression of the Opposition became State policy and the PNC was able to direct state resources to that end. The politicisation of the Police Force and its use against the political opposition was most evident during that period of PNC rule.
In spite of the report of the International
Commission of Inquiry in the early 1960’s
that had recommended ethnic balance in the Police Force, no action was taken by the PNC after the PPP was removed from Office in 1964.
On the contrary, the politicisation of the Police Force, in regards to its specific composition at that time, seemed to have resulted in near congenital ethnic suspicion of Indo Guyanese by the security forces.
The politicisation of the Police Force, was demonstrated by the open involvement with police officials in the sale of the official organ of the ruling PNC, the New Nation, the distribution by the Police of People’s National Congress party literature and the presence of the leadership of the Security Forces at political functions of the People’s National Congress declaring their political support for the regime.
The period under the PNC fostered ethnic imbalance in the Disciplined Forces by promoting actions that discouraged entry of Indo Guyanese into the Disciplined Forces and also by not discouraging actions that prevented their recruitment and retention.
The ethnically insensitive conditions of services within the Disciplined Forces were maintained, the visible racial discrimination in the provision of goods and services were institutionalised, the use of the Disciplined Services to intimidate Indo Guyanese was made permanent and the use of a PNC party card or PNC connections in order to secure employment became standard fare for young Guyanese.
The PPP has, from time to time, commented on the need for adequate resource allocation to the Disciplined Forces.
The PPP supports the view that greater resource allocation to the disciplined forces must be an ongoing process, having regard to the question of affordability and the need for balance in addressing the competing needs of the economy and other sectors within our society.
(c) Terms and Conditions of Service
The conditions of service in the GPF are not beyond the consideration of this Commission. The observations on the conditions of service in the Police Force, made in the 1965 ICJ Report has served as a basis for some redress. It is the PPP’s view that the Administration should critically examine again the conditions of service in the Police and equally, the ways in which those conditions are administered so that, once and for all, the notion that those conditions contribute significantly to ethnic imbalance in recruiting can be dispelled.
The terms and conditions of Service must be in keeping with accepted universal norms, which allows for greater efficiency, an orientation towards service and enhanced people- and community-centred relationships.
(d) Rules of Engagement
The PPP recognises that the rules of engagement governing operational activities of the Police Force are substantially matters of a technical nature. However, the PPP holds that it is not only the rules that matter. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ways in which those rules have been, and are being enforced, have created concerns in the citizenry.
While co-ordination of efforts have brought positive results generally to the Joint Services, the PPP nevertheless feels that the Joint Forces are dogged by weakness which surfaces from time to time. This weakness comes to the fore when politically instigated violence and crimes are largely directed against Indo-Guyanese. Such strife and conflicts tend to reduce the effectiveness and affect the performance levels of the Joint Services.
In turn, the actions of the Joint Services are perceived in a partisan manner, which served to undermine public confidence. Loss of confidence in those times by a major segment of the population must be viewed seriously. It has the potential to give rise to dangerous situations of an ethnic character; it threatens the stability, unity and the very fabric of the society.
That weakness must be addressed. The Disciplined Services, in particular the GDF and the GPF, must seek to erase such perceptions in order win public confidence and support if they are to discharge their security function fairly and without favour.
(e) Firearm Licenses
The PPP holds that the issuance of firearm licences is governed by statute, regulations and administrative procedures and is enforced by the competent authorities.
It is to be noted that the number of licensed firearm holders has been increasing and this in itself has increased the need for monitoring. The efforts of the Administration to increase the ability of citizens to protect their lives and properties are laudable. However, the need for greater transparency cannot be denied. The PPP feels that there is need for greater public awareness of issues involved. The populace must be convinced that, at the end of the day, it is the security forces that must be the basis for law and order.
It is known that through various means firearms are in the possession of Guyanese illegally. The large cache of illegal arms and ammunition found in the hands of criminals is cause for alarm. The PPP believes that a comprehensive approach must be designed to arrest the illegal entry of arms and ammunitions and steps must be taken to remove the illegal possession of firearms.
(f) Powers of Arrest and Detention
The Laws of Guyana pronounce definitely on the powers of arrest and detention that are exercised by the Guyana Police Force. The PPP calls for citizens to be more informed about their rights, duties and obligations under those statutes. It is also obligatory on the part of members of the security forces to abide strictly with these laws so as not to infringe of the rights of citizens.
(g) Coroner’s Act
With regards to the application of the Coroner’s Act, the PPP would want to focus the attention of the Commission on the difficult situation in the Justice Administration System in Guyana and posits that attempts to critically examine any aspect of the system should take into consideration the state of affairs of the system as a whole. Calls for the Coroner’s Act to be reviewed is deserving of consideration especially since the present legislation has been there for some time and may need to benefit from modern practices.
(h) Origin, Course and Development of:
(i) Extra judicial killings, summary executions and the involvement of sections of the Guyana Police Force in illegal activities
The PPP contends that allegations of extra-judicial killings by the Police have surfaced decades ago while the PNC was in office. After the PPP won the seat of government in 1992, the political opposition, especially the PNC, began to attack the Police for extra-judicial killings. Taken against the backdrop of the rejection of the results of the elections by the PNC and organised street violence, this issue has been aggressively politicised.
The PPP would now like to introduce its positions on the origin, the course and the development of those allegations of extra judicial killings, summary executions and the involvement of sections of the Guyana Police Force in those illegal activities.
Guyana has not recovered from the decades of PNC misrule. One aspect of this failure to recover has been the issues of public morality and disrespect for the law.
Its origins, the PPP contends, lie in the consequences of the increased authoritarian rule during the PNC years that saw the following:
1. economic degeneration,
2. growing corruption,
3. the banning of food items,
4. the shortage of basic necessities,
5. absence of foreign exchange,
6. the presence of price control,
7. compulsory imprisonment for wide range of economic offences,
8. disregard for the law.
Criminal conduct, particularly economic criminal conduct began to flourish and huge numbers of Guyanese became involved in smuggling and trading in banned items.
Those developments inevitably led to efforts to secure official protection for both those directly involved and for the proceeds made through such activities. Corruption in public office became institutionalised and the rapid increase in violent crimes and the wanton killing of victims became evident. It was during those latter days of the PNC regime that Guyanese saw the appearance of the phenomenon of kick-down the door bandits. The victims of those bandits were mostly Indo- Guyanese.
It is the PPP’s contention that emerging out of those developments, the Disciplined Forces began to build a capacity to respond. Those efforts were overtaken by the elections of 1992 that saw the PPP returned to power.
The PNC soon instigated demonstrations and street protests, claiming that the elections were rigged. Violence, as usual, followed. Violence has always attended the efforts of the PNC to achieve their political ends. The violence directed against their political rivals has, in the context of Guyana, been directed at Indo-Guyanese.
Indo-Guyanese has been the usual victims of that violence and has developed a near congenital dread of PNC inspired violence. The PNC leader vowed to make Guyana ungovernable and called on their “kith and kin” in the Guyana Police Force to support the demonstrators. The police began to confront demonstrators who broke the law and those who were engaged in beating and robbing Indo-Guyanese.
It has been in that context that the allegations began to surface. The PPP would like to point to a number of factors that have contributed to public perceptions about extra-judicial killings. Such factors include weaknesses in the Justice Administration system, reluctance of witnesses to appear, media sensationalism and political opportunism all of which have conspired to make the issue of extra-judicial killings gain the publicity it has achieved currently.
(ii) Political Interference in the
administration, management and conduct of
the Guyana Police Force
With regards to the claims about political interference in the Administration in the Force, the PPP would like the records to show that it has seen no evidence that the government has demanded the political loyalty of the Police Force nor has there been evidence provided to the public of successive Ministers of Home Affairs attempting to suborn the Commissioner’s superintendence of the Force.
On the contrary, there is glaring evidence of the PNC subjecting the security forces to the dictates of the political directorate and the PNC as a political entity. Guyanese would recall the doctrine “Paramountcy of the Party” which effectively brought all Government business under the direct rule of the political directorate and the PNC.
Symbols of this Paramountcy included:
• The creation of the Ministry of National Development and Office of the General Secretary of the PNC;
• The hoisting of the PNC flag
in the compound of the Supreme Court;
• Regular public expressions of loyalty to the PNC by heads of constitutional bodies, including the Disciplined Forces.
The PPP posits that the propagandists of the PNC had advised that a political posture that seeks to transfer all the ills perpetrated in the past as characteristics of the new government was worth pursuing. In keeping with this approach, the PPP was being accused of rigging elections, extra-judicial killings, political interference in the security forces, etc.
The PPP wishes to point out to the Commission that it views the attacks on the Police Force, the shooting and killing of members of the Police Force as the culmination of the convergence of a number of factors operating in Guyana.
The most significant of these and the most lethal for the Police has been the political touch. The stance taken by the PNC on issues of public safety and public order, the virulence of the PNC against the Police Force, the public rationalisations provided by the PNC to criminals and their activities, reference to criminals as freedom fighters, and resistance fighters, overt and covert identification of some politicians with criminals, were contributory factors that led to the wanton killings and shootings of members of the Guyana Police Force and from the Joint Services. The political extremism of the PNC soon generated an equal amount of criminal extremism that mirrored the PNC’s contempt of the law and law enforcers. Attacks on the Police were inevitable.
The socio-economic decline under the PNC Administration was relentless and evasive. The lack of accountability and the rampant corruption furthered the economic decline and led to mass immigration.
The development of smuggling in the border Regions of Guyana where Indo Guyanese communities predominated provided a lucrative diversion for Indo Guyanese youths and others from gainful employment.
These outcomes of the years of PNC rule in Guyana and specifically with regards to public confidence in the Security Forces have had an impact that has endured even to today. The consequences have been long lasting and pervasive in the Guyanese society.
Public confidence in the Disciplined Forces had to be restored rapidly during the years of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration and the return to democracy in 1992.
The return to democracy in 1992 allowed the Administration to rekindle professionalism in the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force and to encourage their desire to discharge, without fear, their responsibilities in a fair manner.
Widespread fears that the Disciplined Services intended to destabilise the PPP/C Government and support its overthrow remain unfounded
Having been released from the need to pay obeisance to, declare support for and obey the commands of the political directorate, professionalism began to return almost immediately in the conduct of the Disciplined Services.
These sentiments have been aggressively cultivated by the civil society as all sought to overcome the legacy of the PNC years in Office.
2. Ways in which increased public support can be achieved
The People’s Progressive Party would note for the benefit of the Commission, the steps taken by the PPP/CIVIC Administration to restore public confidence in the Disciplined Services whilst recognising that the conduct of the members of the Disciplined Forces was equally critical in achieving that end.
It is the PPP’s abiding conviction that bringing ethnic balance to the Police Force was one of the surer foundations on which public confidence could be built.
The Administration must be congratulated for its consistent work with the leadership in the Disciplined Forces to adopt, introduce and sustain the implementation of measures to achieve the objective of improving public confidence in the Disciplined Forces through striving for ethnic balance.
The PPP’s convictions were substantiated, when as an outcome of the Constitutional Reform process, Article 197 of the Constitution was enacted making provisions for the creation of Disciplined Forces Commissions that among its remit nexuses Ethnic Balance with public confidence in the Disciplined Forces.
The Commission should note that the
PPP support the interventions that have been made by Central Government in this
The PPP welcomed the Administration’s move to standardise conditions of service across the entities in the Disciplined Forces.
Establishment and Functioning of Community Policing Group
The PPP welcomes and strongly supported the development of community policing, which has been heightened by the PPP/Civic Administration. More importantly, the PPP called for, and strongly supported, the increased attention being paid by the administration to recruitment practices and the result of those recruitment practices by the Disciplined Services.
Police Complaints Authority/Ombudsman
The PPP recognises that a properly functioning Police Complaints Authority can go a far way in terms of building trust between the Police and civilian population. Such a “watchdog” role is necessary in an environment of alleged corruption and abuse of power levelled against the Police by members of the civilian population. It is the wish of the Party that the necessary personnel and resources will be made available to this authority to enable it to carry out its responsibilities effectively. We are supportive of the calls to put in place an independent investigative arm, which will increase transparency and objectivity in the investigation of allegations.
The role of the Ombudsman in dealing with complaints is also important. This body should be strengthened in terms of resources and personnel.
The resort to decentralised recruitment and training has also been welcomed by the PPP.
Importantly, the PPP has recognised that public funds must be provided to address the needs of the Disciplined Forces and equally important, political will would have to be demonstrated to justify the use of additional funds to correct those factors found to be contributing to the current state of Ethnic Imbalance in the security services.
With regards to public and financial accountability, the People’s Progressive Party would submit that the Disciplined Forces, individually and collectively, had benefited from the atmosphere of financial and public accountability created with the advent of the People’s Progressive Party Administration in October,1992.
The People’s Progressive Party expects the Commission to avail itself of those audited public accounts and pay particular attention to the aspects of financial accountability for the current and capital expenditure authorized by successive Parliaments during the term of Office of Presidents Cheddi Jagan, Samuel Hinds, Janet Jagan and the incumbent President Bharrat Jagdeo.
It is the hope of the People’s Progressive Party that arising out of this submission specific action will be taken to address, in a meaningful way, the several issues which over the years have militated against the professionalism and operational efficiencies of the Guyana Police Force.
This presentation is by no means exhaustive, having regard to the range of issues highlighted in the Commissions Terms of Reference. We do believe however, that the key issues are addressed.
The PPP is encouraged by recent attempts to improve on recruitment techniques to broaden the ethnic composition of the security forces. These efforts must be intensified and sustained. Moreover, a welcoming and inviting atmosphere must be created, having regard to ethno-cultural and demographic variables. It is the feeling of the Party that such an atmosphere should be improved. The historical alienation of Indo-Guyanese from the Disciplined Forces needs immediate corrective action.
The Party is not unaware of the difficulties
and the risks encountered by the Disciplined Forces in the fight against criminals,
especially in the context of politically motivated criminal activities. The
Party notes with deep concern the grievous losses suffered by the Police in
its confrontation with armed bandits. It is to the credit of the police Force
that they were able to overcome the threat posed to our society, despite the
overt and covert support given to the criminals. The PPP/C expresses its deepest
sympathy to all those who suffered at the hands of those bandits and to the
Guyana Police Force.
The PPP urges the Commission to recognize the advances made in the Police Force since the assumption to Office of the current PPP/Civic administration and the determination of the Government to support the Police Force in continuing to develop the processes of renewal.
We remain optimistic that these ongoing processes will enhance the Guyana Police Force as a vital component of our justice systems and in better fulfilling the goals as expressed in its Motto “Service and Protection”.
Finally, the PPP wishes to recommend for consideration that greater efforts be made to recruit Indo-Guyanese and other ethnic groups. Emphasis should be put as far as possible, on regional recruitment and training. Special efforts should be made also to address what is considered to be disincentives to joining the Force such as, cultural influences (food, separate cooking utensils), terms and conditions of work, levels of remuneration and so on. There should also be standardized training throughout the Police Force. As far as possible, there should be greater reliance on communities and non-governmental organizations in the recruitment process and mechanisms to monitor and assess progress in the pursuit of these objectives should be established.
We submit herewith the following documents for the consideration of the Commission.
a. The West on Trial
b. The Report of the Wismar, Christainburg and Mackenzie Commission
c. The Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Disturbances in British Guiana in February 1962 (The Wynn Parry Commission Report.)
d. The X 13 Plan
e. Statement by the Premier Dr. the Hon. C B Jagan
f. Appointments in the Public Service and the Police Force in British Guiana
g. The Report of the International Commission of Jurists