Recent statements by leaders of the People’s United Party avowing to disband the Gang Suppression Unit when the party comes to power were made on impulse, we believe, and do not reflect the broad-based opinion of the members and supporters of the PUP.
Even though the GSU has stepped on a lot of toes and angered many gang members and their families, it is still the only effective crime-fighting organization we have that is able to deal with insurgent street violence and calculated gang warfare.
The GSU was created, as its name implies, to suppress gangland activities which had reached the point of endangering innocent civilians in their homes and sapping the productive energy of Belize City. Our streets had become unsafe, and a desperate cry for relief had gone up from among the populace.
We remember the prayers and the supplications and the demonstrations of citizens desperate to find relief from the tyranny of precocious young men willing to use the guns provided to them by older gang leaders, on their fellow human beings.
The considerable success of the GSU has shown us that Belize does not have to live with the tyranny of abusive street gangs. Unfortunately, the GSU has created its own brand of tyranny by being itself abusive and heavy-handed with persons taken into custody or with people falling under suspicion.
When a person becomes sick from AIDS or TB, the patient is not put to death. So with the GSU, killing it off is not the answer! We need to find out what is wrong with the GSU and cure the illness.
Twenty years ago the PUP leadership killed off another promising organization- the Security Intelligence Service, SIS, because it’s leaders were opposed to the work the intelligence service was doing. The result was an intelligence vacuum which continues to haunt Belize to this day!
Political leaders should be wary of making the same mistake again. It is easy to tear down and dismantle an organization, but building one requires time and training and special effort.
If the GSU has become abusive, it is the duty of the Minister of Police to bring it back into line. He is the person constitutionally responsible for police and security affairs. The place to deal with this kind of problem is our National Assembly through informed debate and questions directed at the designated Minister.
Many times the Opposition loses valuable opportunities by failing to ask the right questions in the House, and by using precious debate time for grand-standing and giving vent to their personal frustrations.
In thirty-three years of independence Belize has made substantial progress, but our parliamentary system has not. On the contrary, it has been allowed to stagnate; used as a safe forum for hurling abuse at one another across the aisle instead of rational discussion and probing questions.
Being on the Opposition Bench is not an easy matter for any political party, but the opposition from both sides make it more difficult for themselves, by resorting to heated rhetoric and not operating the system the way it was designed to work.
Under the parliamentary system which we inherited from Britain, both the Government and the Opposition have important roles to play. These roles are different, but they both call for discipline and restraint, and keeping always in mind that parties come and parties go, but the well being of the state must remain our top priority at all times.