Reforming the GPF’s composition

Reforming the GPF’s composition
Photo : Ravi Dev

ROAR of Ravi Dev

As he appointed the new Commissioner of Police, President David Granger declared, “The police force has to be reformed and you can’t build a new house with old wood. You have to select new materials, people with a new vision, people with a new commitment to break from the old bad habits and to return to the principles of good policing.”  It would appear, he forgot to mention – or deliberately chose not to mention – that a new house also needs a new plan or else the old house will simply be recreated with all its defects, since form affects function so profoundly.

Such a new plan was crafted back in 2003-04 by a Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) on which then Brigadier (retd) David Granger sat, and which held extensive hearings from a wide cross-section of the Guyanese populace. The hearings were conducted during the heat of the crime wave during which the 2002 Prison Outbreak Five held off the Guyana Police Forces and the Army from their redoubt in Buxton. One of their main targets was policemen and before the gang was defeated, more policemen had been murdered than in any other period of the history of the GPF.

David Granger, when discussing “police reform”, has - for good reason - referred many times to the DFC Report, which had been laid in Parliament in 2004 but only finally approved in 2010, since of the 164 recommendations 71 concerned the GPF. But he has studiously avoided the one that addressed the vexed issue of “ethnic imbalance” which had been brought up even before Guyana received independence from Britain. In 1965, the year David Granger entered the armed forces as a 2nd Lieutenant, an ICJ Commission, (invited by the British as a condition for awarding Guyana Independence) suggested a programme of accelerated recruitment of Indians into the Police and Armed Force until their numbers were roughly in proportion to the population. Nothing came of that recommendation.

During the hearings on constitutional changes in 1999 – precipitated by PNC riots in the streets after 1997 - one of the unanimously adopted constitutional recommendations adopted in 2000, was for the President to establish a Commission to investigate and recommend resolving the ethnic imbalance in the Disciplined Forces. During the aforementioned “troubles” - as since labelled by Granger -, intriguingly, it was the Opposition PNC under Robert Corbin that called upon the PPP government to establish the Disciplined Forces Commission. ROAR supported that call.

On the matter of ethnic representativeness, the DFC declared: “The Commission…is of the view that the allaying of ethnic security fears which stem from the predominance of Afro-Guyanese presence in the GPF must be addressed…but to ensure, in so doing, that no similar insecurity fears are caused in the Afro-Guyanese community.” More specifically, it recommended: “It should be an aim (of the GPF) to achieve a Force representative of the ethnic diversity of the nation without employing a quota system.” To achieve this, ethnically-diverse recruitment teams should be employed as openly and extensively as possible. The report also suggested that a study be conducted on how to address the ethnic make-up imperative.

While in Opposition, both the PNC – including the one led by David Granger - and the AFC trenchantly criticised the PPP for burying the DFC Report for seven years in Committee. In 2010 when it was finally passed (unanimously) by the house, AFC leader Trotman said dramatically, “We shudder to think that if it took seven years to consider the recommendations, how many centuries will it take to implement them?”

When as an MP I made my submission to the DFC in 2003, I remember David Granger asking whether I favoured a fixed quota in the recruitment of Indians to rectify the imbalance in the armed forces. Using the terminology made popular by the US Supreme Court in that country’s affirmative action programme, I told him I preferred “targets rather than quotas”. Especially with the armed forces one must insist its members are “fit and proper” to perform their duties.

Today, I once again remind David Granger, who is now President of Guyana, to insist that targets be established for Indian Guyanese in those armed forces and teams fan out to sensitise the community about the importance of serving their country in these institutions.

Much as being rightly done by the government for African Guyanese to enter businesses, as we have long also advocated.