Guyana: Déjà vu? – The Mysterious Police Station Fires in Georgetown- commentary

Stabroek News

Editorial By November 23, 2021

Last Saturday afternoon, a fire ‘of unknown origin,’ gutted sections of the building housing the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

In the light of this occurrence the collective public mind is bound to go into ‘reverse gear,’ back to the October 2 conflagration that flattened the Brickdam Police Station and after which we were served with a remarkable story as to how the fire started.

This time around, the Guyana Fire Service appears to have been adjudged to have acquitted itself much better than it did on October 2. The other pertinent fact is that since, as far as we are aware, prisoners are not usually housed in the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Force will eventually  have a different account to give with regard to just what might have been the cause of last Saturday’s fire.       

In retrospect, one of the surprising things about the aftermath of the Brickdam Police Station fire is that setting aside a relatively short burst of public chatter that came in its wake, the occurrence has not really ‘hung around’ in the public space for any length of time. True, the gouge that now occupies the section of Brickdam that used to house one of the capital’s iconic buildings still evokes a sense of emptiness to some of us who, over the years, have come to associate that space with a now non-existent Brickdam Police Station. Beyond that, there lingers an absurd sense of official quiet about what is, in fact, an enormous loss, as much to the country’s architecture as to its public security infrastructure.

Truth be told, even if we accept the amazing account of just how most of the Brickdam Station complex came to be razed to the ground it is more than a little surprising that, at any rate, the fire has not been deemed (or at least it does not appear so) to have occurred on account of an altogether inexcusable lapse in security for which the Force ought to be required to account.

In the absence of such a course of action public opinion can hardly be blamed for what, in some quarters, appears to be the view that further official interest in a scrupulous probe of the Brickdam Police Station inferno is not an official priority and that there appears to exist an eagerness to put that occurrence behind us as quickly as possible, never mind the fact that various other theories have been advanced as to the cause of the fire that may well be worthy of serious official consideration.

Coming close, as it does, to the Brickdam inferno, what last Saturday’s fire doubtless does is not just kindle public energetic speculation about its likely origins but also triggers fresh speculative chatter about the seeming official disinclination to ‘dig deeper’ into  the Brickdam fire, given the overwhelmingly  dismissive public response with which the extant official account of its origins was greeted in the first place. So that setting aside the considerable material loss resulting, first, from the Brickdam fire and now, this one, there may now be fresh credibility challenges facing the leadership of the Force arising out of what is now the need to properly account for two disastrous and so far ill-explained fires in sensitive Departments in a matter of weeks.

We live in a society where, truth be told, instances like the two fires, where the magnitude of the occurrence warrants clear and transparent official accounts, does not appear to be matched by a preparedness to comply with this obligation. Indeed, it appears that the authorities are not averse to tendering convoluted tales that not only insult the public’s intelligence but are often sufficiently incredulous in their delivery to warrant no more than outright ridicule. That, in the view of many, is what the account of the Brickdam Police Station fire deserves.

 We must wait and see whether, in the instance of this more recent fire, the Force will be more forthcoming or whether its leadership will immerse itself in further public ridicule.

As things stand both the Home Affairs Minister and the political administration as a whole must know, first, that the country is still owed a credible account as to just how, on October 2, the building housing the Brickdam Police Station disappeared into history and how, last Saturday, a section of the Eve Leary complex ‘went South’ as well. Until that happens the Force’s desperately sought after public credibility will remain at arm’s length from the institution.

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  • WIC  On 11/24/2021 at 1:01 pm

    It seems as if some very wicked individuals have declared war on the citizens of Georgetown, by using fire to destroy govt. property and important records.

    Hopefully moving forward, the competent authorities will ensure not only the adequate training of staff to suppress fires wherever, but also that hard copy records are digitalized and stored on the internet with adequate backup to prevent loss.

    If necessary, the laws of the land need to be amended so that the digitalized records are accepted as evidence in a court of law and not be challenged by some smart-assed defence counsel of which, there are many in Guyana.

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