Monday, July 14, 2008

Essential truths

Essential truths
Stabroek News Editorial. Monday 14 July 2008

It usually takes crises to hammer home the essential truths. As we pointed out in an editorial of June 30 there have been three mass killings in six months that have claimed the lives of 31. Such carnage has not been seen in recent decades, not even in the aftermath of the 2002 jail-break.

Another essential truth that came to the fore last week was the recourse to forensics assistance from abroad. Guyana first tried with the United States. That as it turned out was a non-starter. Had it materialized it would have spared our blushes in more than one way. Having been turned down by Washington, Guyana then sought help from within its fellow Caricom countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica. The requests to these three sister countries have been well received and Trinidad has already sent three investigators here. It must have dawned upon many here that the fact that these countries had within them the necessary capacity was an indictment of Guyana and the degradation and internal collapses that have pockmarked this country after decades of internecine political conflict. Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica have the capacity and expertise to thoroughly investigate crimes like that at Camp Lindo. Guyana does not. Who would have thought that in 2008, with the relatively superior education system that Guyana boasted compared to its fellow Caribbean countries during the 60s that we would be in this situation today?

The PPP/C government, in particular, has to answer inconvenient and uncomfortable questions about why Guyana is in the state of deprivation relative to forensics and pathology skills.

A new forensics lab for the local law enforcement agencies is on the cards but like with many other things the rate towards completion is pedestrian and the everlasting question is whether the relevant human resources can be trained and retained to run it and produce the desired results.

As far back as 1993 – months after it won the historic 1992 elections – the PPP/C had been advised by many following the horrendous murder of Monica Reece that it needed to revamp the police force, restore professionalism and provide it with the forensics and other tools needed for it to discharge its obligations.

It paid no heed to this. As a consequence, the quality of policing continued to deteriorate over successive PPP/C administrations and policing methods retained brutishness and brutality in many forms. Those features do not solve crimes like those of Reece much less Lindo Creek.

The well-received Symonds Report which was presented following a strategic review of the police force commissioned by the UK in October 2000 was not acted upon with any intent by those in authority. The Disciplined Forced Commission report which also comprehensively addressed many of the problems of the police force and law enforcement in general has been shabbily treated by Parliament and the government.

There has never been a more dire need for excellent forensics, pathology, investigative and intelligence-gathering skills than now. None of the three massacres this year has been adequately explained by those in authority and while several persons have been charged in relation to the Lusignan and Bartica mass killings doubts persist over the quality of the evidence that will be brought to bear. At the rate at which preliminary inquiries proceed, it can be many months before the evidence will be in the public domain in the High Court. Even committal to the High Court is not a guarantee that there will be a hearing. The quashing of the case last week in the High Court against two soldiers in the death of cadet Amar Rajcumar is a prime example of this.

The gruesome Camp Lindo killings and the possibility that elements of the security forces could have been involved have raised even more troubling questions which the law enforcers and the government have been hard-pressed to answer. Given the time that has elapsed and the weathering of the camp site one wonders what could possibly be retrieved from this investigation. If, however, this investigation does not yield answers, the security forces will be enshrouded in a pall of suspicion that will not redound to the interest of law and order.

As grateful as the country has been for the assistance from Trinidad and the others, it is about a month now since the eight men were killed at Camp Lindo and there is still very little in terms of elucidation.

It is to be deeply regretted that despite the unremitting pressure that the security forces have come under since 2002 that there is still to be a modern forensics lab, that there are inadequate numbers of skilled investigators here to handle events like the Camp Lindo probe and that after three massacres we are no closer to recounting with clarity and conviction who the perpetrators were, their motives and bringing them all to justice.

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