Moses Nagamootoo Interviews
Private Ryan Thompson
In the award-winning movie Saving Private Ryan,
the viewer is taken through the gory battle-scenes of World War
I being fought from trench to trench in Europe, as every effort
is made to find and save the life of an American GI. Thankfully,
the end finds the private safe in the arms of his family but not
before every horror of war threatens him and his compatriots.
On Saturday 23rd November, 2002, Private Ryan
Thompson of the Guyana Defence Force was shot in the head by a
bullet fired from someone's gun. To date no one knows what happened
and why it happened, except to say that a man believed to be a
foreigner and clad in military fatigues was also discovered dead
from multiple gun-shot wounds. Rumours of several others who met
a similar fate are rife. These rumours will no doubt continue
because of the reluctance of the authorities to supply honest
answers. It was most disappointing from a national security point
of view to hear recent government statements to the effect that
there is a possible "phantom force" operating and killing
people. No Government should make a public announcement that there
are forces at work over, and about whom, there is no intelligence
or control. It is an open admission of abdication, failure and
inability to manage. The one positive outcome of this sordid affair
was contained in the good news we received that our Private Ryan
is receiving overseas medical treatment as a result of the good
relations existing between the militaries of Brazil and Guyana.
We all wish him a speedy recovery.
Private Ryan Thompson has to be considered as
being representative of every non- commissioned and commissioned
rank of the GDF and our disciplined services, and this is why
the fact that he was shot and injured has to be regarded as a
very serious matter. A young man who volunteers
to serve in the army, who undergoes training in skill-at-arms
and jungle warfare etc. finds himself shot in a village-setting
on the East Coast of Demerara. He is caught in the crossfire as
phantoms wage battle against each other. It is time to stop, take
stock, and reassess the role and involvement of the military in
crime-fighting. The average soldier is definitely not prepared
for this new and evolving role, and in a sense, it is not what
he or she signs on for. Fighting to protect and preserve territorial
integrity, drug interdiction on the high seas and civil defense
responses, are what our military should be geared to; not fighting
cousins and countrymen in cane fields, streets and dams.
Our Private Ryan and all of his colleagues have
to be preserved and saved from the ravages of backdam conflict,
which is emerging in Guyana. Maybe it is time to develop a corps
within the GDF to deal especially with these matters, as for example
Trinidad and Tobago has done. Right now a significant portion
of the army's resources is taken up in various operations to curb
crime. As reported in the press, since February of this year the
GDF has launched operations: Plaster of Paris, Safe Guard, Tourniquet
and Saline Solution, all of which have had measured results. The
stark reality is that the function being carried out by our men
and women in green is really that of the civilian authority -
The Guyana Police Force. We Guyanese are not cowards who faint
and falter easily, we expect soldiers to die by the bullet but
it must be done for country and not for village.
It is imperative that a comprehensive programme
be worked out to address the plight of all depressed communities,
vis-à-vis crime fighting, so that our limited military
resources can be optimally deployed. In fact, there are recent
reports of calls being made by some confused and contemptuous
persons abroad for the re-possessing of the New River Triangle
as our defence forces appear to be consumed with internal crime
fighting! I am by no means suggesting that the job of formulating
this comprehensive programme is that of the Government alone and
I reiterate that the management of the affairs of Guyana must
be on a bilateral or multilateral basis where the various centres
of gravity have an input. Even Trinidad and Tobago, in obvious
recognition of this fact, has established a Joint Select Committee
of Parliament to review a raft of legislation meant to bring reform
and modernization to the Police Force. This is certainly an idea
that can be considered here as we slowly but surely return to
As things stand, the scenario taking shape is
one where the crime problem is obviously going to continue which
in turn means a continuing involvement of the military as the
police force is still incapable of encircling and suppressing
the problem. Secondly, the emergence of a third force, armed and
dangerous, is giving credence to the belief that we are heading
into a state of anarchy. In such an atmosphere, death and destruction
will become commonplace as fighting-gangs attempt to control geographic
locations and warlordism appears to be the new order. Thirdly,
there is an obvious inability, and/or refusal, and/or reluctance
of the government to address the socio-economic and etiological
causes of crime in Guyana. The recently concluded public consultations
on crime, even if well intended, cannot replace the need for an
expert review of criminality in Guyana with some projections as
to where it is heading and its likely effects.
At year's end there is always an irresistible
urge to make assessments of past events and to make predictions
for the new year which are always really a reflection of one's
deep desires for the future, and I will give in to the urge by
mentioning a few matters I would like to see addressed. Before
giving an outline of my own sanguine wishes, I must say something
of my disappointments of 2002.
Major disappointments of 2002
1. The breakdown of trust and credibility in
the political dialogue between the President and Leader of the
Opposition, which led to its eventual collapse.
2. The imminent closure of the Georgetown Legal
Aid Clinic that has been in operation for nearly a decade. The
Government and donor agencies must have some funds available to
keep this valuable service going. There has simply been too much
investment in keeping it running to turn our backs on it now.
Much mention need not be made of countless numbers who have benefited
and are poised to benefit from its services.
3. The rising electricity rates at a time when
people are stretched beyond all physical limits and, simply put,
can pay no more.
4. That fact that almost 90% of all murders and
serious crimes remains unsolved and the numbers are skyrocketing.
5. The refusal of the relevant authority to grant
permission for the Universal Airlines flight to give 100 special
children the treat of their lives. The look of disappointment
on the faces of those children was enough to tell a tale. What
is amazing is that the Ministry of Education was pivotal in the
identifying of the children when at the same time another government
department says no way. Does the right hand not know what the
left is doing? Keep at it Universal as the surest way not to fail
is to determine to succeed.
The year 2002 can only be described as an annus
horribilis. This has been the worst year in recent memory, and
we should pray that we have a better future. My hopes and wishes
for 2003 are many and all add up to a desire for us all to see
the good life, but, in summary, I expect:
1. That the work of the Social Partners and the
Commonwealth Secretariat would bear fruit and hopefully the process
of political dialogue would recommence leading to a wholesome
discussion on long-term problem-solving by critically examining
the winner-take-all form of governance which seems to be the mother
of all our problems.
2. That a nationally acceptable poverty-reduction
strategy could be found and implemented.
3. That the police force will be able to rid
itself of the image of being a demoralized and incapable institution
and begin to restore confidence in itself by not only capturing
offenders, but also by renewing its community ties.
4. That the legal and penal systems will aid
the police force in its hard job in restoring normalcy and the
rule of law in Guyana.
5. That there will be a break-through in dialogue
on the joint exploration of oil in the Guiana Basin.
6. That public servants, teachers, and all other
categories of employees could earn a livable wage.
7. That good sense prevails on all sides thus
preventing a war in the Middle East.
In closing, I wish to commend the executive of
the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club and those involved in
the investigation into the accident in November for taking timely
action and providing answers to the public promptly. These acts
have restored the confidence of many that there are people who
are capable of holding enquiries and giving answers.
Merry Christmas and a happy and blessed 2003
Editor's Note: Taken from Stabroek News;