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Guyana's new 'strategic security' path

BY RICKEY SINGH

Thursday, January 10, 2013    

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THE Guyana Government has announced its readiness to discuss and implement far-reaching recommendations for the restructuring of the country's 'security sector' with a primary focus on the 173-year-old Guyana Police Force (GPF), which is to be renamed Guyana Police Service.

The name change, to emphasise 'service' as distinct from 'force', is intended to promote better understanding and relationship between the public and the police in the context of an educational thrust for active co-operation to beat back the scourge of criminality and strengthen a rule of law environment.

The proposed reform, also to involve the Guyana Prison Service and Guyana Fire Service (GFS), would be based largely on wide-ranging recommendations located in a strategic security plan associated with the work of technical experts provided by the United Kingdom-based firm Capita Symonds, and funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Announcement of some aspects of the security reform processes came last week from Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee. Holding that Cabinet office since 2006, the minister expressed appreciation for the contributions received from various private sector and civil society stakeholders during a long consultative process.

He pointed to a unique feature of the strategic plan that would involve "civilian oversight" in the management of policing service in response to suggestions made by the business sector and civil society representatives in the consultation process.

The minister has also spoken of his readiness to discuss with the parliamentary Opposition details of the strategic plan prior to presentation of the document in Parliament.

Local politicking

This gesture is undoubtedly intended to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the Opposition coalition -- A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) -- which has a one-seat majority (33 to the governing People's Progressive Party's 32) in the 65-member Parliament.

But having already used their one-seat majority to pass a "no-confidence" motion against the home affairs minister last year, the APNU/AFC coalition have quickly declared "non-co-operation" with implementation of the strategic security plan.

Reason? They have branded the project as "an initiative" of Mr Rohee, the Cabinet minister they love to hate but against whom no proof has been forthcoming of any specific wrongdoings.

It would be noted that the parliamentary coalition is a result of the November 28, 2011 general election and Minister Rohee has been responsible for the national security portfolio since 2006.

Further, the constitutional dispute over the minister's parliamentary obligations and the non-recognition to date of the "no-confidence" motion by the head of state (Donald Ramotar) whose executive powers are linked with the parliamentary process, is currently engaging the attention of the Guyana High Court on an application from the attorney general (Anil Nandlall).

Allegations of Rohee's "interference" with police actions during the political crisis that developed last July in the bauxite town of Linden when three persons were shot to death amid violent protest, were to remain unsubstantiated during public hearings by a high-level commission of enquiry by distinguished regional legal personalities.

Police Commissioner Leroy Brummell has himself distanced the minister from any "instructions" to the GPF in relation to the 'Linden crisis'. Headed by the former Chief Justice of Jamaica Lensley Wolfe, the commission's report is expected to be shortly discussed in Guyana before being released to the Government and made public.

At this juncture of party politicking in Guyana, it seems as if the Opposition parties may well be boxing themselves into a corner that could prove quite embarrassing, given the apparent goodwill for the proposed significant reforms recommended for the vital security sector.

Public support

Within days of Minister Rohee's announcement of the Government's readiness to deal with the report on strategic security plans, various segments of the Guyanese society, including the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, chose to appeal for national co-operation, including the parliamentary Opposition, to "support the plans".

In welcoming the publicly expressed support for transforming the national security infrastructure involving the police, prison and fire services, the home affairs minister said it was "a pity" that the Opposition parties should adopt such a "non-co-operation stance" when what is at stake "is not my political future but their own... It's better that we co-operate in the interest of the future of our security services and the overriding interest of Guyana..."

With this in mind, Rohee has decided to share the strategic plan with not just local but regional stakeholders, among them the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police with the hope of benefiting from further "diversified inputs" and in keeping with his Government's "commitment" to co-operate with Caricom partners in enhancing national/regional security and a rule of law environment.

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