SYSTEMIC VIOLENCE AND CORRUPTION IN THE POLICE FORCE


This article below was first published in June, 2014, in a different political era. The recent shooting by the Police of three men on the seawall demonstrates the continuing relevance of the issues discussed at that time. I wrote as follows:

Violence and corruption in the police force can no longer be classified as allegations. They are real and are now an integral part of the culture of the Police Force and policing in Guyana. The sooner the authorities accept that these are chronic and systemic problems in the Police Force, the quicker there will be a serious attempt at a solution. No such attempt has yet taken place, even though modest efforts at ‘reforms’ have been made. But these have been attempted only reluctantly, after much public pressure and as an attempt to soothe public opinion. When public rage overflows, such as after the shootings in Middle Street, the public is offered the creation of a SWAT team. But the danger now exists that the Police Force will become so enmeshed and so entrenched in violence and corruption, that systems to protect these will take on a life of their own within progressively higher reaches of the Police Force.

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THE GUYANA BAR ASSOCIATION


The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) had its annual general meeting on Wednesday last and elected a new Bar Council, the name of its executive. The large turn-out of lawyers at the meeting was a positive indication of reviving interest. The nominees for office, clearly identified beforehand, were unanimously elected, underlining the unity which prevailed and which was expected to continue.

For the first time in many years a senior lawyer, the distinguished Robin Stoby, Senior Counsel, the Secretary of the GBA in the 1980s, agreed to serve and was elected as First Vice President. It was a generous commitment of time by Mr. Stoby, as well as by Mr. Rajendra Poonai, a leading lawyer with decades of practicing experience, who was elected to the Bar Council, to an executive comprising the younger generation of lawyers, although most of them have had more than ten years of practice. The dominance of ‘youth’ in the Bar Council, who have wisely sought out the guidance of the ‘seniors,’ appear to have now set the stage for the rejuvenation of the GBA.

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THE SEASON OF ADMISSIONS


Unlike any other profession, law is practiced in the glare of publicity and this is the season of admission of lawyers to practice their profession in open court. Lawyers obtain their Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad in September every year after two grueling years of study. This course of study is preceded by an additional three years in exhausting pursuit of the LL.B. degree at the University of Guyana. By October, they are ready to be admitted to practice.

The admission ceremony is a major event in the lives of newly qualified lawyers. It represents the successful culmination of five years of study and sacrifice. It allows them, albeit briefly but memorably, to thank and give public recognition of all those who helped them along the way – their parents, family members, teachers, the Almighty – and to pledge their commitment to uphold the high traditions of the Bar. There is a great sense of anticipation in a new and challenging endeavour and environment.

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