Police (Change Of Name) Bill 2013 – Bill No. 14/20132833 13 Jun, 2013
POLICE (CHANGE OF NAME) BILL 2013 – Bill No. 14/2013
Rev. Dr. Gilbert: I wish to lend my support to this Bill presented by the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs, the Police (Change of Name) Bill 2013 – Bill No. 14/2013. I presume that this is a non-contentious Bill and I rather suspect, contrary to what we have seen earlier, that we are going to see the collective support of this National Assembly given to this Bill, in particular.
The principle of legislative drafting articulates that in drafting the piece of legislation, a requisite question which may be proffered is what mischief the Bill or the legislation is seeking to address, or correct, and in this instance a name change is proposed, which is to change the name from the Guyana Police Force to the Guyana Police Service. One may want to, for the sake of contention, argue that there is no consequential or material impact, or difference, that name change would have on the broader scheme of law enforcement, but I want to differ because this Bill - the Hon. Minister went in a great details in outlining the framework and even the historical background that this Bill comes upon - is seeking to address, to correct, some mischief, indeed, and the name change must not be seen from a pejorative perspective but from a transformative perspective. A name change speaks of a new identity of a new persona. Those of us who are people of faith would how important and significant a name is to the identity of a thing or a person. The Guyana Police Force has historically functioned within a certain context of law enforcement for as long as we can remember. For as long as we could remember, by virtue of the conflict between the execution of its mandate and the public perception, there has been continuing tension in the relation. This is not germane to Guyana.
In 2011, I had the opportunity to observe law enforcement and community policing in about seven cities across the United States of America. I also had the opportunity of riding along side police officer patrol in city street and troubled neighbourhoods. I can say that Guyana is not the only place where there is tension between law enforcement and communities. What was very clear and visible was that there was a continuing and sustained efforts, in the various precincts, to have policing or law enforcement be community-based and service-oriented. I believe that there is that commitment also by this Government to transforming the tension, which I referred to earlier, into wholesome working partnerships for the creation of safe neighbourhoods. That is evident by the many initiatives that we have seen. One just comes to mind and that is the Community Action Component of the Security Programme and there are many others that seek to bring community and law enforcement into some degree of cohesion as we worked to create safer neighbourhoods.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has presented to the nation a five years strategic plan, 2011 to 2015, which seeks to bring the Guyana Police Force into alignment with international policing standards and best practices. The Minister, in the forward of this strategic plan, intimated, and I want to quote:
“The new strategic plan for Guyana Police Force heralds a new chapter in policing approaches in Guyana, whereby the Guyana Police Force will continue to provide all the current policing services that are delivered daily but will give added emphasis to those crimes and activities that adversely affect the lives of citizens and communities in Guyana.”
This gives recognition to the fact that in order for the Guyana Police Force to be able to function effectively, within a modern framework, there must be a shift from the traditional enforcement schema to a service-oriented paradigm.
All modern police forces throughout the world need the support of citizens to assist in making communities safe and secure, and by taking actions to reduce the opportunities for crime and disorder in our communities, and to provide information about the crimes and the possible suspects and to build effective partnerships with their local police. This is only possible when there is a service-oriented approach. I think the very use of the word force gives the very wrong connotation. I believe if we are seeking to build partnerships and if we are seeking to create an image of the police department that places a greater emphasis on it motto, which is “To serve and protect”, it is important for citizens to have that sense that we are a part of the process and therefore the word service gives a better field than the word force. I believe, as we move in creating that cohesion between the Guyana Police Force and the communities, even our language needs to change and the language needs to be a bit more endearing.
This recognised need is one that we are aware of. The continuous efforts and initiatives by the Ministry to build bridges and partnerships are something that we all have a part and a stake in. It is so easy for us to give in to the temptation to be political about every issue. I heard recently, I think it was the Chief Whip saying earlier today, that once you are in Parliament, you are politician, even if you say that you are not. It is so easy for us to give into the temptation to be politicians and to be political in almost everything we do. The issue of national security and the issue of citizen security and building safe communities and safe neighbourhoods are issues we need to give serious consideration to. If we can resist the temptation to be political on such an issue, it would be a good thing for us.
If we were to examine the mission statement, Sir, of the Guyana Police Force, it states:
“The Mission of the Guyana Police Force and its Auxiliaries is to serve all citizens and communities of Guyana in a professional, pro-active and accountable manner.”
We recognise that the mission statement itself establishes that the fundamental raison d’être of the Guyana Police Force is to provide service. It further adumbrates that to achieve this we will work in partnership with communities, public agencies and private bodies to enhance and support an environment where all our people are preventing crime and helping to build a safer and secure Guyana. That makes it very clear that it is a collective engagement that is required. Again, one may say: what does the name have to do with that? Again, the name, I believe, creates a better sense of service and community.
If you ask a child what emotions are provoked with the use of the word ‘force’ as against the word ‘service’, I believe even a young child will tell you that service sounds more friendly. That is the idea. The essence, therefore, is that our mission establishes that the partnership in public service is the focus. Partnering in public service is the focus of the Guyana Police Force. The Guyana Police Force cannot do this on its own; citizens are critical in this whole process.
The image that we are seeking to recreate is one where our people do not see our policemen and policewomen as people that they should abhor an engagement with, but persons that they can partner with in service and protection. So, this change of name is just another important and necessary step in moving our Citizen Security Programme closer to its ultimate objective, which is to have a Guyana where all our people not only feel safe, but are truly safe.
If we have to start with the name, then let us begin with the name. Ultimately, it is our hope that the name will then translate and transcend into an ultimate manifestation of what the name is intended to achieve, which is a service-oriented police department.
I commend this Bill to this House and ask that we receive, from all sides of the House, support, not for the People’s Progressive Party, but for all of Guyana.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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