This situation continues unabated and
is encouraged by the government, the opposition parties and the media who turn
a blind eye to the effects of this phenomenon, the report added.
The report entitled ‘Cross Sectional Studies of Crime and the Criminal Transfer of Wealth in Guyana’ was done by
Dr. Ramesh Gampat and Dr. Somdat Mahabir.
The report, which was presented by Leelamatie Chaitram,
found that violence erupted in epidemic proportions following the escape of five convicts from the
Camp Street Prison in February 2002, resulting in the terrorising of Indians.
Crime has roots in politics
The report states that the epidemic is a symptom of a national duel between the African-dominated PNC and the Indian-dominated PPP, neither of which admits to being racist, with crime as one manifestation of the “duel” for the control of Guyana.
Using crime data collected from the reports carried by the Stabroek News, Guyana Chronicle and Kaieteur News and based purely on names, the analysis found that between
February 2002 and February 2003,
155 persons were murdered in the crime wave, an average of one death every 2.5 days.
Thirty of those murdered were civilians and policemen
. Twenty-one policemen, including two CANU officers, were killed.
Eight of the civilians murdered were women: two Indians; three Africans; one Chinese and two of mixed race.
Of the 48 bandits, thieves, suspects, and ‘phantoms’ killed by policemen or gang warfare, 44 were Africans and four Indians, i.e. 92% of the bandits killed were African Guyanese.
Those killed by policemen, including the two protesters on July 3, numbered 28.
Two of the 155 persons killed were non-Guyanese: 1 Trinidadian and 1 Brazilian.
According to the report’s findings, from February to August 2002, the number of killings per month remained relatively low albeit higher than previously - but took off suddenly in September when the number of people murdered jumped from 7 in the previous month to 20 and then peaked at 31 victims in January 2003.
Seventy-four per cent of all victims murdered during the entire period were killed between September 2002 and January 2003.
During these six months, someone was killed by violent crime every 1.6 days.
Additionally, there were ten incidents of kidnapping during the February to February period, and a total of 18 persons were abducted.
Three of them were females, one being a 13-year-old girl.
All kidnapped victims during the period were Indians and all the perpetrators were Africans, the report noted.
Two of the kidnapped victims were murdered; six escaped; nine were released on the payment of some $85M in ransom; and the fate of one, Heeraman Sahadeo, is still unknown.
According to additional figures provided by GIHA from its ethnic violence report, out of 460 cases of assault, robberies and kidnappings over the last year, 330 were directed at Indian individuals, families and businesses.
1.7 violent incidents per day
Meanwhile, geographically, 88% of the reported violent criminal incidents occurred in Georgetown and on the East Coast, an area of about 15 miles. Of 631 incidents of robberies, assaults, carjackings, kidnappings, rapes and murders - 1.7 incidents per day - 273 occurred on the East Coast and 267 in Georgetown, a total of 540 incidents. There were 30 incidents on the East Bank, 18 in the Linden/Wismar area, and 16 in the interior. Corentyne and Berbice had 14 incidents, and the Essequibo, 13.
On the basis of the data, approximately 20 persons have been killed for every 100,000 of Guyana’s population during the past twelve months, the report found, jumping from the rate of 6.6 per year in the period between 1994-96, to 19.9 between February 2002-February 2003.
“Crime in Guyana has reached epidemic proportions...” particularly violent crime which graduated to a new phase “marked by features unknown in the past,” Chaitram said. These features include: carjackings, kidnappings, open calls on public TV to overthrow the duly elected Government and liberate Africans; and the use of sophisticated equipment, including computers, cell phones, tracking devices and powerful weapons that outmatched those of the police.
“Modern Guyana has now entered its killing age: The co-existence of democracy and the deadly dance of ethnic violence perpetuated by one ethnic group upon another,” Chaitram quoted from the report, adding that the Government appeared to be no more than a spectator as this phenomenon unfolded.
It was also noted that the perpetrators of the crime wave mainly used guns in the commission of the offences and compared to the past when revolvers were common, the weapon of choice today was the AK-47 assault rifle.
High powered weapon - AK-47 assault rifle.
While a large share of the weapons was stolen from the police and civilians (22 handguns were stolen from police, security and civilians), all were not, the report stated.
“This implies that criminals have other sources for obtaining weapons, that the heinous crime wave is an organised business, and that at least part of the loot is probably invested in the business,” Chaitram said.
AK-47 assault rifles from the Army
Meanwhile, the data collected also found that as a result of the crime epidemic there was a substantial transfer of wealth from Indians to Africans, totalling 84% of the $176.8M which was stolen last year.
The report rejected the view it says is held by leading African intellectuals, activists and politicians who justify the criminal transfer of wealth on the grounds that the PPP government favours Indians and marginalises Africans.
“There is little truth in this. Instead, we posit the view that the current spate of crippling violence has a political motive and invokes economics as its justification.”
Holding that the current crime wave has not occurred in isolation but was an ongoing epidemic, the report noted that for the period December 1997 to December 1998, $159.5M in cash and valuables were stolen, of which $13.2M was looted on January 12, 1998. Some 84.7% of the stolen assets belonged to Indians; 1.8% was stolen from Africans; and 13.5% from people of other ethnicities.
Between February 2002 to February 2003, the spoils of crime were estimated at $176.8M, 84% of this amount was stolen from Indians; 9% from Africans; 2.9% from other ethnicities and 2.9% from organisations and businesses. Total losses, including property damaged and destroyed, between February 2002 and 2003, amounted to $231.9M, 80% of which was suffered by Indians and 15% by Africans.
Meanwhile, according to the analysis it was estimated that a 10% increase in violent crime drove economic growth down by 0.6% due to the withdrawal of investment, psychological and emotional impairment of the willingness to work and migration to other countries.
Chaitram added that ... “One other aspect of the current crime epidemic should be noted: its profitability...
“Excluding damages to property, the average loot was $327,391, which is 1.7 times the country’s per capita GDP in 2002, which was about $188,000. If only crime against Indians is taken into consideration, then the average would be $341,522 or 1.8 times the country’s per capita income. Put simply, crime pays,” she said.
The report concluded that the simultaneous triple effects of the crime epidemic are large-scale killings, accelerated migration and depressed economic growth, which place Guyana on the precipice of chaos.
Shah blames self-censoring media
Meanwhile, discussing the “Failure of the Media to report Ethnic Crimes as Race Hate,” President of GIHA, Ryhaan Shah said that the media in Guyana continued to collude to hide the ethnic nature of the attacks in its reports of crimes, in the end encouraging its continuation.
This is in spite of the fact that the majority of the victims of crime in Guyana were Indian while the perpetrators were to a majority, African, in what Shah said was clearly ethnic violence.
In scathing criticism, she said the unwillingness of the media to report hate crimes negated the existence of the “pervasiveness and viciousness” of its existence. She noted that editorials had confirmed the existence of race-hate, hate crimes and ethnic strife. However, there were still to be news reports to support these statements, she added, drawing contrasts with happenings in Rwanda, the Congo and Bosnia, where she noted that ethnic violence was faithfully reported.
You would read no report in Guyana’s media she said that “African Guyanese political protestors who resent the political supremacy of the majority Indians stripped and robbed Indian women in the streets of the city and burned the properties of Indian businessmen,” or that “African bandits went on a rampage in an Indian village and robbed, assaulted and raped Indian villagers.”
Expressing her disapproval at this self-censorship practised by the local media, Shah declared that the failure to report on ethnic violence as ethnic violence, had long-reaching repercussions and because there were other types of crimes such as drug related and gang warfare, there was a greater imperative to report these crimes. Another shortcoming she highlighted was the failure of the media to enlighten the public as to the rights which existed to offer redress for hate crimes. Also coming under fire was the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and Amnesty International, who Shah suggested had ignored the ethnic violence perpetrated against Indians.
“Who is our media guarding?” she asked ...”In the end, it is the criminals and our political minders. If it is all just crime, it is not ethnic or political. The media help government with its lies that there are no ethnic problems in Guyana. In the final analysis the media stands guard against Indians.”
Expressing the hope that the media would both fairly and accurately report the deaths, robberies and rapes, she concluded by noting that it was the belief now that Indians lived at the fringes of the national consciousness, where the media colluded to keep them.
‘Police stations are like foreign territory’
Meanwhile, in his presentation titled “Manufacturing Docility: Black on Indian Violence in Guyana and Why Indians Don’t Respond,” Swami Aksharananda said there was a deliberate attempt to create a feeling of docility among Indians which had been engineered chiefly by the government.
Noting that this had dated back to the days of indentureship, he said a similar situation continued today and had gone on to leave in Indians a fear of greater reprisal when seeking the help of the security forces. Moreover, he considered that this had created in the Indian mind a feeling that police and more recently the Guyana Defence Force were not only unsympathetic but hostile to Indians, a mindset of “you step out of line, you will be dealt with.”
And he added that this perception is further compounded by the shortage of significant arrests or detention, citing the police response to the January, 1998, protests in the city.
“When going into police stations it is like going into a foreign territory,” the Swami said, while relating several firsthand experiences he had witnessed where the response of the police had been sometimes indifferent, insensitive or even gross.
“These are not isolated cases... and I think Indians have a very good reason for not wanting to go to the Police Station... And what is the government doing about it?”
He cautioned that the denial of the existence of an ethnic problem in Guyana was a clear denial of the Indian cries of suffering.
Leader of the Rise, Organise and Rebuild (ROAR) party, Ravi Dev, shared a similar view in his presentation on ‘the Violence and the Armed forces Against Indians in Guyana: The Ethnic Security Dilemma.’
Dev said that although Indians were a majority they felt they were a minority in power and had “an existential fear of being wiped out.” This, he perceived, was responsible for the Indian need to huddle together under the PPP party for protection. Though he observed that “Ironically, the PPP has not been able to deliver that protection.”
Dev concluded that it was the political system in the country that had contributed to the ethnic security dilemma and it was the political system which needed to be changed to solve it.