A Closer Look at Granger’s Comments on Arming CPG’s
and the Army Role in Civil Society
by Seopaul Singh

Three very traumatic incidents shook the nation and fuelled a frightening crime culture in Guyana. Crimes have been on a remarkable upsurge since the February 23, 2002 ‘Mash’ breakout of inmates from the Georgetown prison. These criminals referred to themselves as ‘Freedom Fighters’ and held sections of the population hostage as they robbed and wantonly shot their way to the fortunes of targeted citizens. Some columnists even claimed they were motivated by “sophisticated political leaders”. Then there were reports of an alleged gang war (as in Bel Air), purported to be the action of drug dealers, following the kidnapping of Brahmanand. This was followed by an alleged death squad extermination of the first batch of criminals. This is compounded with the repatriation of criminals (deportees). Most of the break out criminals were since killed. A new breed of younger criminals surfaced, and these are now on the rampage sometimes in broad daylight. The proliferation of weapons and the training of criminals have been traced to men who have been in the business a long time.

The foregoing reveals the spawning of armed bandits equipped with sub-machines, AK47’s and handguns. The promoters of such violence get their supplies of weapons regardless of the authorities’ action. For none of the incidences could ‘guns in the hands of undefended citizens’ be blamed. Illegal gun-running is commonplace in every country, where the state machinery is overwhelmed by crime, as had happened in Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Suriname and Guyana. On several occasions, linkages were established between former soldiers and policemen, as with Blackie and his gang. I may identify with several voices vocalizing legitimate fears that are plaguing thousands of citizens who are still apprehensive. In the light of the Police and Army failure to immobilize the criminals, the citizens are exposed to the wanton terror of the criminals without any form of basic protection; therefore, the call for Arms.

The Expert Comments
This issue re-surfaced in the Stabroek News of November 30, 2004 with David Granger being quoted again, under such concepts of "Easy guns – deadly violence. Police grapple with "greatest threat." The experts, including Commissioner of Police Winston Felix, Deputy Commissioner of Police Henry Greene, MMC ex-Security Advisor Carl Morgan and Edward Boyer of the GCCI, spoke at the unveiling of the Police Christmas crime fighting plan. However, with all the advocacy of the experts to disarm the citizens, there was marked silence on the ratio of gun-violence caused by criminals to those caused by armed licensed private citizens.

I am amazed at the detached way certain ‘experts’ sit back and voice solutions to the crime emergency on the East Coast of Demerara. The trouble with one such expert (David Granger) is that he had the best opportunity to finding solution for the crisis, but was resistant to the course of army intervention, as in Buxton. Since David Granger could not find a solution, it is logical to conclude that he might have unwittingly helped the criminal activities. I, therefore, advisedly suggest that he rethinks his position on the issue of arming Community Policing Group (CPG’s). This was the person who objected vigorously to the army intervention at Buxton when the Police failed to deal with the open activities of the criminals, during the roadblocks on the East Coast, citing military protocols as an excuse. Yet, he is cited lavishly in the Stabroek News of September 5, 2004: “More Guns will fuel violence experts... call for amnesty, buy-back scheme.” Where the guns are toted by opposing gangs, this prescription holds, but the conflict goes beyond two opposing gangs and has virtually immobilized entire defenseless communities, with no police or army help.

The unanswered questions are manifold, as David Granger seems to continue to shield military inaction behind ‘protocols’ conveniently. Readers should be reminded that perhaps David Granger, after years of military practice and retrospection, has conveniently arrived at a very sobering realization about soldiering according to the ‘archaic guidelines’ of the military manuals. I am aware that many individuals do show a change of heart with time, but advocating a certain position on current issues, that runs counter to one’s past practices, must be done with great caution. One has to read between the lines, to see that much more was implied, than what was quoted. It may be that I am reading too much into Granger’s statements, but the signals are there loud and clear. Otherwise, I stand to be further enlightened.

More Recent Developments
Much more recently the new Chief of Staff, Edward Collins, differed immensely with David Granger, in advocating a reverse (positive) role for the army in intervening in the crime situation in the nation. Both the Stabroek News and the Chronicle reported on Thursday November 4th 2004, the Chief of Staff’s address on the 39th Anniversary Celebration of the Guyana Defence Force:

Collins noted, "The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has to embrace new paradigms… it has no other choice than to remain ready in the face of new threats... the act of rendering assistance in the maintenance of order must never be translated into any task that has the tendency of again reducing our combat units into a state of inertia. This appears to be a reference to the participation of army units in a much criticized anti-crime operation on the East Coast during the 2002/3 crime wave… the country is now confronted with the emergence of new threats from non-state actors and private,
corporate and criminal interests.

Though these activities differ in form and visibility from the more robust con ventionally organized threats of the sixties, seventies and early eighties as envisaged by the framers of the Defence Act, they are nonetheless real,
present and potent dangers to our society, its freedoms and way of life… ignoring these threats is certainly not an option for the Guyana Defence Force."

Prior to this address, another quite quizzical happening had greeted readers when the Deputy Chief of Staff Ramsarup was on his way to a Terrorism Conference in the USA. What and whom did he represent and in what capacity?

Now it is apparent that the army’s recent reluctance and Granger’s stance on military intervention have become archaic army protocol in the light of modern counter terrorism measures. I hope Mr. David Granger’s business at the conference was for his better understanding of the army role to intervene when civil law enforcement agency fail the polity. A look at David Granger’s position on military intervention during the crime crisis on the East Coast leaves much to be desired in his reasoning. I have selected a few statements cited by the Stabroek News in which David Granger argued against army involvement in the terrorism crisis and arming of Community Policing Groups:

On the Mission of the State Machinery
Mr. Granger was cited as saying: “I do not believe that individual groups should be armed in order to fulfill any mission that really is the …duty of the State.” That is politically correct. David Granger glibly spoke of the mission of the State (which is accomplished through the State machinery – including the Army and Police), in what could be assessed in a normal situation. Even if the capability of the Law Enforcement body was up to par, it could be overwhelmed in any country by heavily armed terrorist action. Nevertheless, when civil society is overwhelmed by emergencies, natural or man-made, as with the hurricanes or the Peoples Temple tragedy, the army has always been the pool from which manpower is enlisted for response. The situation in Guyana tells of the latter scenario. When gangs are on the rampage, cowering civil society and overwhelming the law enforcement agency, the Government has no other option but to turn to its army.

Dereliction of its Mission by the State Machinery
While Granger now focused on the mission of the state machinery and its duty towards its citizens, not so long ago he irresponsibly advocated the dereliction of that mission by the Army in the Buxton fiasco. Men like Granger were vocal. They decried the involvement of the military in a civilian matter. This is untenable since the situation was not like dealing with a common rum-shop brawl or a night-club shootout. It sounds hypocritical, gauging from the Army and Police activities since back in the sixties, seventies and eighties, as cited in the current GDF Chief of Staff Collins’s address of November 4th 2004.

Party politics and commercial activities of the citizens are supposed to be outside the domain of the army. The army is supposed to be the bulwark of a nation’s security at all times – in peacetime conditions and during war. But the army did not abide by protocols in the past, and David Granger should know this quite well. The precedence are numerous in a host of activities which fall outside the ambit of protocols. What kind of military or security manual this former security adviser lived by during his military career, and were they strictly adhered to?

As a consequence of the continuing failures of the Police and the Army, and until it can properly address the protection and security of its citizens, the State is obligated to heed the citizens’ call for help (arms) to protect themselves against the scourge of kidnappings, ‘terrorism’, murders, rapes and robberies in undefended communities. To do otherwise is to give the terrorists a free hand and sentence the citizens to a life of perpetual terror.

In passing let me state that many are unaware that CPG’s were originally under the administrative structure of the Civil Defence Commission and therefore an acceptable part of the State machinery. Because of this unawareness, the CPG’s were detached from the national ‘state machinery’, the Civil Defence Commission. This was a mistake, since no autonomous body could have clout enough to deal with the ‘crime emergency’ unless it is given special legislative powers to do so. Nevertheless, what we have now is a deliberate effort by the people to acquire the tools of defense in the light of overwhelming terrorism in their communities, and the utter failure of the law enforcement and military agencies to act.

Selective Suspension of Military Protocols
Who ever advocated that the army has no business in civilian affairs or disorders? After all back between the 1960’s and 1980’s no one was bounded by military protocols. What military protocols did the British invoke to intervene in Guyana after they subtly divided and set the people against one another? David Granger ranked highly in the very army which intervened and helped to rig ‘civilian’ general elections during the years of the PNC dictatorship. Some of his erstwhile colleagues had seized ballot boxes and shot dead three civilians (the ballot box martyrs) who objected to their military intervention. I cannot remember any dissent from him (or the Army) on such army actions. What protocols did the GDF invoke then? Were they blindly following orders (protocols)?

(Note: Later to his credit, David Granger penned a masterful piece on “Politics and Administration” possibly for the education of those who continue to blunder in the name of governance. This was long after his former bosses were thrown out of office through free and fair elections. It was the best short piece I have ever read on the distinction made between those two very closely related disciplines. I still wonder how many of the political operatives in the opposing parties know the crucial differences. Unfortunately such a masterpiece did not come during the heyday of the dictatorship. Many such experts after years of silence, while their masters ruled with an iron hand, now like to be seen as politically correct to the younger generation, at the expense of the citizens who are being sacrificed.)

Precedence Set in 1964 Conflicts – Terrorism
It appears from several letters in the press that former army cadres are all against the army intervening in ‘civil strife’. This mindset, therefore, begs for Government to do something about the ravaging of the undefended communities. Maybe the time has come for setting up of a New People’s Militia or National Guard, to be trained and coordinated by Officers drawn from the army and based in the targeted communities, to protect the citizens from internal terrorism. Undoubtedly, in every country, the army is the final resort for restoration of peace and disarming the violent, be they criminals, insurgents or political activists. The precedence was set ever since 1964 with the British soldiers’ intervention in Guyana. This was followed repeatedly during the seventies and eighties under the PNC, with the GDF intervening in ballot boxes seizures during the general elections and strike breaking operations on the sugar estates. The army also responds to natural disasters, as was the case with Dominica before, and now Grenada.

David Granger wants the army to be guided by archaic protocols of the protection of national borders, anti-smuggling and incursions in mining. Since the Army would not respond to acts of terror, the government resorted to putting together a SWAT Team. This is no doubt a good idea, but there has to be a diffusion far and wide of such teams to properly stymie attacks by armed gangs. Would the SWAT Team/s be so large and widely deployed? Herein is the will of Government tested; and those who wield power could show their resolve to do something more tangible for the prolonged spate of robberies and murders, which have plagues communities over the past four years. The Community has to respond immediately during the actual attacks. SWAT Teams would never get there on time during the holdups and murders.

Intervention was Rampant During the PNC Dictatorship
It may be too late and perhaps irrelevant for the best advice from those who were once ‘tongue tied’ on blatant intervention of the military in civilian life. Some people only apply the protocols when it suits them. They closed ranks in camaraderie as they turned blind eyes to the victimization of citizens, breaking strikes, and pre-dawn terrorizing of several unarmed communities during the seventies and eighties. Was it coincidental that coordinated army maneuvers would find soldiers in homesteads of unarmed citizens who had no one to whom they could complain? Later kick-down-the door bandits in military fatigues invaded the very communities which were targeted for maneuvers.

Yet the army, which was always around the homes in these communities, never arrested anyone for the impersonation and banditry. One is quickly led to conclude that there was a sort of collaboration between renegade soldiers and the bandits. Let us also remember the armed Peoples’ Militia of the PNC regime and their invasion of unarmed communities at break of day in make-believe maneuvers. The kind of banditry, which rocked the East Coast for the past three to four years, is deja-vous for many, reminiscent of the seventies and eighties.

So when public figures like Granger warned of ‘Civil War’ as a consequences of arming CPG’s, he was silently acknowledging that criminals would not take it lightly when government arm the citizens – all of this knowing that the Army would not intervene to stop the open advantage taken on citizens by armed thugs. Remember the army is still standing by (as they did with the kick-down-the-door bandits) and watching the terrorists commit atrocities in Buxton/Annandale. In the current situation, Granger feels there would be open declaration of war against the peaceful citizens by armed criminals as a consequence of government helping the citizens to protect themselves against these gangs. (It is alleged that some gangs are comprised of some police and army personnel.)

Amnesty and Consequences
David Granger’s prescription for peace is amnesty or disarming citizens. If this were for the gangs only, it would be good. Such a course of action was also reiterated by PNC Parliamentarian, Raphael Trotman, across the board. However, Santayana’s advice comes to mind – we must remember the past so as to avoid its pitfalls. Disarming civil population had dire consequences as was reluctantly noted by Granger, not only in Jamaica, but right home in Guyana. First, a prelude on what really happened when arms are in possession of certain ‘groups.’ In April 1963, a diabolical terrorist plan (X13 Plan) was being executed by the PNC. It was unleashed against Indians in Guyana: (1) to counter their right to strike and (2) ultimately to destabilize and overthrow the PPP Government. Back then the Police and Volunteer Forces (and executors of the Plan) carried weapons. Following hereunder is a comparison of the two contemporary scenarios, of two different communities showing who were armed, who were not, and what happened before and after the Amnesty of 1964.

Scenario 1 – before the Amnesty of 1964: The Indians in Wismar had no guns. They experienced two phases of ethnic murders, rape and displacement in open view of the armed Volunteers Force who refused to help. Then the British soldiers came and were deployed to stop the massacres in Wismar. On the other hand Indians in Mahaicony had guns. They experienced their first phase of ethnic displacements from Perth Village with no killing of Indians in June 1964. Africans suffered from the counterattack by Indians. This was not unexpected affront to the agents of the X13 Plan. In their retaliation, however, Indians never went on to kill innocent mothers and fathers with babies in bed. A detachment of British Soldiers was deployed in Mahaicony, and based at the Mahaicony Cottage Hospital.

Scenario 2 – after the amnesty of 1964: Then Governor Sir Richard Luyt ordered the Amnesty in 1964 for the surrender of all firearms. What happened? Immediately, armed Volunteer and Police Force ‘vigilantes’ began to organize with African residents in the community. They began a methodical killing of unarmed Indian civilians. Two Sooknanans, four Allys and seven Jaikarrans – thirteen members of three families in Mahaicony alone were murdered in their homes without any semblance of protection or defense. The murderers of the Allys and Jaikarrans were identified and their names were given to the soldiers and police. No charges were instituted. It was not until after the British soldiers saw babies having their brains blown out in bed with father and mother shot hugging each other that they reversed their anti-Indian policy. However, with the presence of armed British soldiers, the killing of Indians was checked.

It does appear that David Granger would prefer the citizens to be unarmed, and the armed criminal elements (including the renegades of the army and police) be able to enter their communities and homes with free access, killing, looting and raping at will. Indeed disarming communities have its dire consequences for those who can defend themselves with firearms.

Criminals Attacking Citizens is Not a Civil War
Granger is reported as saying that “superimposing a proliferation of weapons onto a situation of ethnic polarization is a prescription for a civil war.” How and why should David Granger come to his predetermined conclusion – that arming CPG’s ‘is recipe for Civil War’? Is he already aware of the army resolve not to defend the undefended citizens against highly armed vicious criminals? More realistically it is a ‘criminal war’ declared on unarmed citizens through terrorist means as part of an indirect political attack against the government. Therefore, what is needed is a nationwide well coordinated and executed ‘war on crime.’

I am appalled at the frightening implications of David Granger’s apparent fore knowledge of what may be the outcome of arming CPG’s. Several questions immediately surface here. How and why should the conflict with criminals escalate into a civil war? If there is a civil war, who would be fighting against whom – the criminals against the citizens? Why should this be categorized as a civil war? Would the army sit by and do nothing or act selectively in such a situation as had happened during the PNC dictatorship, and more recently in Buxton? Would they actually take a side in favor of the criminals to wage full-scale terror against the citizens?

The Politics of Army/Police Partisanship
Does Granger mean that the targeted communities, mainly of Indians, fighting armed criminal gang, mainly of ‘Africans’, would result in a full-scale civil war? Is it because the army/police would be partisan? A real civil war in Guyana may connote a nationwide conflict. The situation now is pockets of ‘terror operations’ against targeted citizens.
A civil war can only happen if the police and army join in and proceed to take sides as in the sixties. In any case, Granger is telegraphing a subliminal message to everyone! The Army and the Police are professional bodies and are always the machinery of the state and not for a section of the population.

The sixties saw grave communal conflicts which were widespread because of lopsided partisanship of the disciplined services then. The implications, in the context of Granger’s prescriptions of Amnesty, are untenable.
If the army cannot maintain internal security as a backup to the Police, what would the army be able to do in the defense of the territorial integrity against an invasion? The mere fact that Granger recommended a cutting down on gun-smuggling through our borders, indicate that the army is not doing an effective job on the borders.

Protection of citizens
David Granger, who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel, blindly accepted the arming of masses in the People’s Militia during the PNC dictatorship during a controlled calm. Now he opposes the arming of communities which have suffered unbearable terror, murders, rape and robberies at the hands of criminals. Granger has to modify his views in light current acceptable approach.

The criminal gangs, armed with AK47 and other weapons, invading communities, murdering unarmed citizens on the East Coast, is comparable to terrorism in every respect. The modern approach to counter-terrorism has enlightened everyone who appreciates the dynamics of the times. Community policing has come of age everywhere, and has undergone a vital transformation since September 11, 2001. USA has Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). This is a nationwide program promoted by the Department of State, and is now pushed by a newly constituted Department of Homeland Security with a budget that runs into billions of dollars.

The CERT in the USA also has the backing of a fully equipped National Guard. The move by smaller countries such as Guyana to equip citizens must be given greater priority. This is imperative, especially since there is no militia or National Guard.

Gang Warfare, Amnesty, and Emergency Response
The much highlighted gang warfare is a distraction from the violence against unarmed citizens in the nation. And quite rightly ‘Granger admits that the Police Force is very weak’ in confronting gangs. The record speaks for itself. But the security forces, planning for crime emergencies, should be subjected to practical and concrete approach. All strategies must be pre-empted by solid intelligence which is flowing over to the man in the street. Nevertheless, a look at Granger’s prescription for peace (‘amnesty’) is the most wishful thinking ever voiced by any informed citizen. Does David Granger expect that bandits would hand over the main tool of their trade – their guns – to him or anyone, in make-believe surrender? The Chief of Staff Edward Collins’s position on crimes and terrorism in the nation is quite practical and relevant in these modern times of threats against the security of the citizens.

All situations of emergencies consider the worst case scenarios for planning purposes. So also must a crime emergency. One cannot wish for cooperation from those who for too long declared their undying scorn for the Police and the citizens. What provision would be made for the surrender of criminals? By all means give the ‘exchange / buy-back’ a try, but this is an ineffective move, which would not bear the fruit of disarmament. What guarantees are there for them to live a productive life? Who would provide jobs and alternative opportunities? How would you rehabilitate elements of drug wars? Do drug dealers give up their lifestyle?

Such responses to amnesty apply to situations where criminals born out of poverty would be ready to give up a life of crimes for jobs. In the USA, criminals, who have to get their breakfast or next “fix” by holding up a deli, would quicker comply with Granger’s scheme, but the life of the mafia-style criminals in Guyana is far more lucrative, and has far superceded their drive for basic food and sustenance. These men are ready to commit murders at any cost.

Are Criminals Dying for a Cause?
In any case, if just a few would comply, what ideology would be fed to men who had made their life of crime a full time profession? Who would be able to reorient or reprogram those criminals after certain extremist Afro-Guyanese sated them with false notions that all Guyana belongs to them alone, and with anti-Indian venom of marginalization of Africans? In Guyana it does seem that criminals are fighting for some kind of ‘cause’. What about those criminals who are Indians?

Every hold up, kidnapping and murder brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars, running into millions. Where are the millions going? The criminals seem to be financing an armory of their own. What is their ulterior motive? Did not the ‘Mash’ jailbreak criminals of March 23, 2002 assume the title of ‘Freedom Fighters’? Considering this, to ask law-abiding citizens to give up their only sense of security or means of defense is sentencing them to sure slaughter by the armed bandits. In fact, it would be making the life of the criminals much easier if the deterrent is removed. The debate needs not go on without some considered immediate action to halt to the spate of murders.

[Editor's Note: Mr. Seopaul Singh, CEM, a former Deputy Executive Officer of the Civil Defence Commission in Guyana, is a senior member of the Association of Artists and Writers based in New York.]

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