Guyana: A COI is needed into our Driver’s Licence system – By Leonard Gildarie

A COI is needed into our Driver’s Licence system

Leonard Gildarie

As I get older, I worry about what happens next. More importantly, my pension seems to be growing in importance in what I may need. I realize now that my NIS and old age pension alone may not cut it.

I believe, and that is my personal thing, that many Guyanese don’t think that far ahead. In the past, we had our children and grandchildren. That was the time when our elders were treasured.

Today, times have changed. Many seniors are living by themselves, many of them scraping. I have written about this before.
As we move to oil, we are hoping that pensions become a priority to future governments. There is a debate raging now about whether the oil monies should be given as cash handouts to our people or be invested in infrastructure and other programmes.   

I have heard arguments of Guyanese who want to benefit now, before dying. There are others who express fear, having been burnt from the students’ breakfast programmes and old age pension, where monies were siphoned off using ghost citizens and other means.
There are legitimate arguments for and against. Personally, I would like some cash for our people. But as a layman looking at the figures, I don’t know where the monies will come from.

Let us say Guyana has 200,000 adults and we want to give a US$3,000 handout or whatever fancy name you many want to give it, that is US$600M we talking about.

We are estimated to collected about US$300M-plus annually, conservatively, in royalties from oil in the first few years plus our profit oil. We are talking therefore a huge chunk of oil money for handouts.

Even a US$1,000 annually to 200,000 adult citizens would not come cheap – US$200M. That is what we are talking about.
We have to be clear what we want and these must be grounded in our long-term plans for this country. We have to be careful and frugal and take our time. I want to return to this issue in another piece.

This week, my alarm bells went off. A sergeant of the Guyana Police Force was slapped with charges relating to a Driver’s Licence exams fraud.

The fraud was discovered back in April after a number of pastors who were invigilating a Driver’s Licence written exam, found that more questionnaires were handed in than the number of persons present who were writing.

If someone was attempting to make light of the affair, they could venture that ghosts were present for the exams. The harsh reality is that the incident is no laughing matter.

In fact, I would call for a Commission of Inquiry into the situation. The findings, I assure you, would not be for the faint-hearted.
It would point to deep wrongdoing in sections of the police force, and a populace which is accustomed to paying bribes. I will take criticism as normal for my stance, but that is okay.

The allegations are alarming, because of what is happening on our roadways.
The sergeant was placed on $1.2M bail. Two other cops charged last month were granted less than $200,000 bail each. It appears the court was not in a mood to hear anything.

It is alleged that on April 12, at Georgetown, with intent to defraud the public, the sergeant conspired with persons to commit a felony, to which he uttered 12 questionnaires, knowing them to be forged, in that it was not written by 12 persons, whose names they were in.
The man’s lawyer, Patrice Henry, in an application to secure bail for his client, told the court that his client had been part of the Guyana Police Force for the past 30 years and has an unblemished record.

According to information, on April 12, last, a total of 174 candidates were slated to write the theoretical exam at the Felix Austin Police College, Georgetown. On the day of the examination, a total of 106 candidates turned up at the training school to write the examination.
The court heard that on conclusion of the examination, it was discovered that a total of 207 examination papers were submitted to the invigilators.

The police sergeant must have been shocked at his high bail set by the court. He pleaded for a lower one, but the court refused to budge.
Sometimes, during a long day at work, I venture to the front of the offices of Kaieteur News, on Saffon Street, Charlestown.
At about 16:30hrs, the traffic is crawling. Saffon Street is converted to one-way traffic at peak hours to reduce the congestion. It is harrowing to see the minibuses that scream down, overtaking the long lines. Every so often, the taxi drivers would follow suit.
Driving home in the evenings, it is nerve-racking to see the undertaking and sudden switching of lanes by vehicles.
How many of us have noticed a minibus conductor, who we saw last week collecting fares, suddenly driving a shiny Pitbull minibus filled with passengers?

They would overtake you, pull into the corner suddenly, no indicators, just to pick up a passenger. They would even reverse into oncoming traffic. I have seen cars with private plates in Diamond, East Bank Demerara working as taxis. The drivers appear to be barely out of their teens.

According to hastily scanned figures, on average 100 persons die on the road annually.
These are lives that could have contributed to our development.
The police have been conducting breathalyzer tests, but we are not receiving stats on how many have been charged and placed before the courts.

The Police Force can do well to stake out the bars if they want to catch persons drinking and driving.
But back to that deeply worrying Driver’s Licence fraud. Nothing remains a secret in Guyana. Everybody knows who to go to if they want something done.

The Police Force has built tremendous investigating capacity in recent years, thanks to training. More cases are being cracked because of improved interrogation techniques.

They can find the crooked cops if they have the will. Some crooked cops have literally placed killers on the road.
We are not giving our youths a chance by giving them a break with a Driver’s Licence issued without the proper procedures being followed. We are giving them a weapon – a loaded gun.

We have heard stories of the police who are charged with conducting the driver’s practicals who make it so difficult that one is forced to pay a raise to be passed.

In all that is happening, the Ministry of Public Security and the Guyana Police Force have to pay special attention to the issuance of Driver’s Licences and also firearm licences.

The discussion on the latter is, however, for another day.

As of now, my call is that there should be no sacred cows. This is tantamount to murder. We have to treat it as such.

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