September 25, 2016

Crime…

..and poverty
Seems like crime’s always in the news in Guyana. Of one kind or another. But based on our experience – and that of a whole lot of other jurisdictions – one thing’s true for sure – with the economy tanking and poverty rising, crime’s gonna go through the roof. The question is what’re we doing about it? Well, for one, you’d think the Government would be focusing on reversing the slide in the economy, wouldn’t you?
If you did think that, you just wasted a thought. All the money the Government’s been spending has nothing to do with increasing production in even a single sector – but rather aggravating a restive populace. This Eyewitness is not one to excuse crime because of poverty…but jeez…shouldn’t the Government and its Ministers set an example if some belt-tightening’s called for?
What exactly do you tell folks who’re being thrown on the breadline every day when to have the President pay taxes – which everyone else but the SG and the Chancellor does – the Finance Minister announces whatever money is deducted, must be taken right back and given to the President as a “raise”. Just so he can take home the $1.8 million every month he’s used to drawing.
But partisans of the Government will say the Government HAS been creating jobs. A relaunched People’s Militia will create…what?…1500 part-time jobs? Then we have the boosting of the Police and Army. Another 590 jobs? Then those 500 contract jobs in the Public Service – above and beyond the thousands the PPP had farmed out. Those are jobs, no?
Problem is…while those jobs may well be for the national weal, they don’t produce a smidgen of goods we could export and bring in foreign exchange for all the foreign things we just can’t do without anymore. (Like “Can Meat and Can vegetables”.) So what you end up with is the Government printing Guyana dollars to pay the bloated staff. And of course, with too much money chasing too many (foreign) goods, inflation takes off. Which further impoverishes the people at the bottom since their emaciated paychecks can’t even buy what they could yesterday.
So we’re back to the dilemma of the poor: do they follow the straight and narrow or do they take matters into their own hands and grab what they see others enjoying. This poverty-crime didn’t just arrive on the scene.
And whether we’re sympathetic or not to the argument that “structural factors” make some break the law…we’ll have to deal with the consequences.
Which ain’t gonna be pretty.

…and punishment
And we arrive at the other hot topic that just had its 15 minutes of fame – punishment of those who may’ve committed crimes. We can’t say “criminals” because, as we discovered (hopefully to our chagrin), a whole lot of people in jail aren’t convicted. They’re on “remand”…but are being punished already. So we come to the whole rationale for “punishment” of criminals.
We’d all agree there has to be some discouragement for people to break the law. And we’re not even going to get into the argument as to whether the law is stacked against the poor and powerless. Point of the matter is we can’t go back to the law of the jungle. But we gotta do something – especially for those folks on remand who have to be assumed to be guilty until proven otherwise.
We just heard night courts will be reinstated. We won’t ask, why only now. Just that it shouldn’t be a flash in the pan – but a permanent feature of our judicial system. Then there’s the matter of the family court.
Seems like a judicial family matter torpedoed it!

…and politics
It’s not only the Executive that’s getting directions from the Saffon Street Muckraker. The Judiciary’s now being instructed on what constitutes crimes, who committed them and what their punishment should be.
Shouldn’t the Legislature also hang up their gloves?

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