Interdiction of Col. McPherson:
No threat—Luncheon

The Army "Misused" in Buxton-Retd. Colonel McPherson

The army was misused as an “occupational force” in Buxton, and poor intelligence-gathering, further limited its effectiveness, says retired Colonel Godwin McPherson.

Addressing members of the Disciplined Forces Commission last month at the Supreme Court Law Library, McPherson severely criticised the joint campaign, during which he suggested that the army had never been given operational independence. The National Assembly set up the commission to review the operations of the Disciplined Services and is to give priority to the activities of the Police Force.

Justice of Appeal Ian Chang is chairman of the commission which comprises former Attorney General Charles Ramson SC, former National Security Adviser, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, attorney-at-law, Anil Nandlall and Irish human rights activist, Maggie Beirne. Speaking as a consultant on behalf of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), McPherson said the army’s occupation of Buxton had left them merely as “window-dressers”.

“It was not a joint operation. The army was sent as an occupational force. The army is still sitting there right now,” said McPherson, who considered that “no military commander worth his salt would have gone and sat in Buxton.”

“Wouldn’t you agree that crimes were committed virtually in the presence of the army?” Nandlall asked McPherson, pointing to the numerous accounts some of which were reported in the media. “Let the commander go in... Get in. Do your job. And get out! People were robbed, people were pulled out of their cars. That is true. Everybody knows that. But what I’m saying [is] you didn’t help me to cause that not to happen,” McPherson replied.

He had earlier told Ramson that the failure of any soldier to respond when a crime was being committed before him could only be attributed to an absence of training and the soldier would not be worthy of the army uniform. Asked if the death of the army private in Buxton had finally activated the army, McPherson conceded that it had, noting that this was the “eye pass” that the army could no longer accept.

Another aspect highlighted by McPherson was the failure of both the army and the police to gather proper intelligence to carry out their operations. “Intelligence should point to where criminals are and probably how they are operating...” he said, adding that another problem lay in the fact that it was not clear who had ultimate responsibility for the operation. He was also of the view that the army was poorly equipped, specifically in the areas of surveillance and transport, and he used the Buxton situation to highlight failings in these areas.

He explained that it was known that the criminals were operating under the cover of darkness, while the army was left virtually blind, despite the technological advances in nighttime surveillance. But when asked by the Commission’s legal advisor, Bertlyn Reynolds to weigh the benefits of surveillance against an individual’s right to privacy, he said he was in the favour of the latter. Poor transportation was also an area that could compromise operations. He explained that without enough vehicles of its own, the army was forced to hire vehicles, a development which did not guarantee secrecy and security. The GPSU has also recommended that firearms be revoked for average police ranks, who it says make wanton use of their guns.

[Editor's Note: Report taken from Staborek News, October 14, 2003, titled, "Army misused in ‘occupation’ of Buxton."]

December 22, 2005
© 2001