Brigadier (ret) David Granger
A.P.N.U Presidential Candidate
Friday 26th August 2011
Presidential Candidate of A Partnership for National Unity (A.P.N.U), Brigadier (ret) David Granger has issued a warning that Guyana is fast becoming a ‘surveillance state’ under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration. Mr. Granger referred to the recent introduction of the Interception of Communications Act and the implementation of the closed-circuit television cameras system in Georgetown.
President Bharrat Jagdeo had told Annual Police Officers Conference that there would be widespread use of closed-circuit television cameras in the new National Intelligence Centre. He said that “The police will have available to them all of these images [from the CCTV cameras]. They will be able to analyse the data coming in and then create actionable intelligence not only to solve crime but also to prevent crime.” A.P.N.U has asked who will be directing and staffing the new Centre.
A.P.N.U has noted that the PPP/C administration has introduced several controversial security measures since 2002. The most significant are The Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2002 that provides for the admissibility of documents generated by the computer as well as other documents including disc, tape, sound track, or other mechanisms. Another was an order by Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee allowing for ‘wiretapping’ under The Interception of Communications Act 2008. A.P.N.U fears that these two measures could be misused for political purposes.
Mr. Rohee earlier this year announced that the installation of the CCTV cameras had started in certain locations in the Georgetown. He explained that “the police will be able to apprehend criminals more effectively as a network will be established to ensure prompt response by patrol squads.” A.P.N.U feels that the effectiveness of the CCTV surveillance system in curbing crime, however, is doubtful.
Most violent crime does not occur on the streets of Georgetown. Banditry in mining areas in the hinterland; piracy along the coastland; domestic violence in villages and rural areas and relentless narcotics-smuggling are the greatest threats to public security. The planned CCTV system cannot deter or detect such crimes. A.P.N.U has raised several other concerns:
- Cost. The system is costly. The acquisition, installation, maintenance of equipment and the recruitment of skilled personnel for monitoring, analysis and storage of millions of hours of ‘footage’ are bound to be expensive. Yet, the sum of only G$ 15 M was voted by the National Assembly and this was supplemented by only G$11 M later.
- Effect. The effectiveness of CCTV as a tool and its ability to it reduce overall levels of crime, are difficult to determine. Recent research suggests that the technology is far from a panacea for the type of violent crime prevalent in Guyana.
- Misuse. The surveillance programme, however well-intentioned, will allow the state to abuse information. A.P.N.U is concerned that the viewing and recording the activities of the everyday behaviour of citizens will intrude into their privacy.
A.P.N.U recalls that a cruder form of citizens’ surveillance was practised during Ms. Gail Teixeira’s tenure as Minister of Home Affairs. The police in October 2005 arrested and transported 140 innocent residents of the Buxton-Friendship village to Eve Leary where they were “processed” by being photographed, fingerprinted and having their personal details recorded as part of the notorious ‘Operation Stiletto.’ During Mr. Clement Rohee’s tenure, similarly, policemen pounced on Agricola, Bagotville, Eccles, Houston and McDoom and rounded up 72 young persons in August 2008. Both police operations were aimed at gaining information which could be used to supplement the state surveillance system.
A.P.N.U is concerned that the state’s capacity to monitor and detain people is a dangerous thing. Citizens want to know whether the introduction of the CCTV system will be used for “spying on citizens of Guyana, including the political opponents of the government, under the guise of increasing its security efforts?”
A PARTNERSHIP FOR NATIONAL UNITY (A.P.N.U)
Friday 26th August 2011