OUR CARIBBEAN: When policing is more than name change in Guyana
Name changes to state institutions, agencies, schools and public facilities have become the post-independence norm in Barbados and other countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
But, curiously, names associated with the era of British colonialism, as well as some honours linked to a monarch in the United Kingdom still persist in some CARICOM states – including knighthoods and retention of “royalty” in names of police services.
At present, for example, with the exception of Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Belize, names of police services in the Eastern Caribbean and The Bahamas begin with the word royal. Now Guyana is moving to replace the word “Force” with “Service”.
Except that in the current initiative by Guyana, the name change may be more than symbolic than when first introduced in Trinidad and Tobago. As Guyanese were preparing on Monday to say farewell to 2012, the country’s Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, chose to announce plans for significant changes in the structure, management and operations of the proposed Guyana Police Force (GPF).
The far-reaching major reforms that, as reported by sections of the local media, could well change the national security landscape. The proposals are to be shared for discussion with the parliamentary opposition before presentation in parliament as a public document.
Further, Rohee, a minister the opposition coalition in parliament seems to love to hate, and currently robustly defending the integrity of the Police Force against allegations of corruption and abuse of power, is planning to share the plan to revamp the GPF with the Association of Caribbean Commissoners of Police (ACCP).
In what may be an unprecedented initiative within CARCOM, Rohee and his primary security advisers, sought to benefit from the inputs of leading private sector representatives and major non-government organizations in formulation of the plan to transform the character, mode of operations and public image of the GPF.
In a statement on Wednesday the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) urged the parliamentary opposition, labour movement and civil society stakeholders to support implementation of the strategic measures that could “ensure a safe and secured environment” to further enhance the country’s social and economic development.
The Chamber noted that its members have identified the prevailing security situation (that includes recurring deaths from gun violence and armed robberies) “as a significant barrier to doing business in Guyana and this timely intervention (the proposed transformation of the GPF), “places substantial focus on reducing this impediment . . . .”
It would be useful to learn of the feedback from the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police after receiving and considering Guyana’s proposed comprehensive restructuring of what would now be known as the Guyana Police Service.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.