by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 09 November 2006)
I have been exceptionally tough on crime, on criminals and on the government for not being more vigilant in the apprehension and prosecution of criminals and the delivery of just sentences. Likewise, I have been an ever-vigilant advocate for crimes against women and children.
There is no one who can doubt my obstinate stance on the crime situation in Guyana. Having said as much, I also understand the position of a letter writer who disagrees with my belief that every criminal should have his or her day in court.
T. King wrote a letter to the Editor in Wednesday’s edition of the Kaieteur News explaining another point of view – a view in which many people share. King does not believe certain criminals should be afforded the right of a trial to determine their fate and has no problem with law enforcement officers taking the lives of such individuals.
It is not as though I do not sympathise with King’s position. In fact, there are times when I have wanted to take justice into my own hands. When I read the heartbreaking article in Kaieteur News about a boy who was molested by his own stepfather, I wanted to take justice into my own hands.
When a young girl was brutally gang raped by men who invaded her home, I wanted to take justice into my own hands. When four colleagues from this newspaper were murdered in cold blood, I would have loved to have found a way to ensure justice for them outside of the law enforcement and judicial system.
But who am I? I have no right to decide the fate of these murderers and rapists. The judicial system has been entrusted with this responsibility by the community and for me to act as judge and jury would make me no less culpable than the criminals themselves.
What King is suggesting, that it is better to kill these criminals before they can find a way to escape justice, positions every Guyanese to become the very criminals they hate. If a person murders a murderer outside of the law, that person becomes a murderer as well because he or she is subject to the same laws of the land as the criminal.
It is chilling to think of what could happen to the nation if everyone assumes the same position as King. I know the frustration is exasperating. I know the crime situation seems insurmountable. I know the righteous fury to see justice burns inside every good and upright citizen.
Every single nation on earth has the right to expect justice and it is the responsibility of their respective governments to deliver that justice. Still, it is difficult to trust this profound responsibility to Guyana’s current government, especially when its pathetic corruption index just released by Transparency International clearly proves once again that it cannot be trusted.
However, if the law of the land is treated with such contempt and dismissed by even the decent, then Guyana is truly lost and chaos will reign as the lines of right and wrong become less distinguishable.
Decent folks must continue to demand that the law be upheld, even when frustration and righteous fury abounds. The law of the land must remain the rallying point upon which Guyanese band together to stave off the rampant crime and build a democratic nation.
King posited this question to me, “Do killers and drug dealers respect the laws and constitution of any country?” No friend, they do not, which is exactly why we must - and why we must insist that our law enforcement officers do as well.