17 March, 2009

Military coup in Madagascar

Madagascan soldiers outside the office of President Marc Ravalomanana in Antananarivo on Monday. Photo:Alexander Joe/AFP

Military leaders in Madagascar have handed over control of Madagascar to the president's rival, opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

Associated Press story here.

There has been escalating social unrest in this Indian Ocean island country for months now.

11 March, 2009

Observation on police response to crime

A senior police officer advised members of the public to ‘lock their car doors while driving on the nation’s roads’ yesterday. Commenting to a close friend that is as good as throwing your hands up and admitting defeat to criminals, with the police missing a golden opportunity to finally arm the law-abiding population to level the playing field in the fight against crime, my friend made a poignant observation. She said that many police officers will be shot, and some may even be killed, especially the criminal ones, and those who just act like criminals. But this is exactly why the citizenry should be armed. When police officers are involved in violent crime, they should be treated exactly like criminals. Since we cannot wait for the police to police themselves, as we see when an officer is arrested–even for the most heinous crimes, such as rape, kidnapping, or murder–his colleagues play hide and seek games with media photographers and videographers, allowing the officer to use back doors of courts (usually reserved for judges and magistrates) and other tactics that effectively treats the officer as though he has done no wrong (it is almost always a male officer).

By arming the citizenry, the Police Commissioner achieves three successes almost immediately. First, the armed citizens are now in a more secure position to defend human life and property. Second, the so-called ‘few rotten eggs in the service’ can effectively be dealt with by the very citizens they prey on, which will help the Commissioner in his quest to rid the service of undesirable elements. Third, the relationship between the law-abiding public and the police service will improve dramatically, as both sides redevelop mutual trust and respect. After all, Sir Robert Peel was correct in his observation that “the police are the public and the public are the police”. He was illustrating that members of the police service came out of the community (public).

Commissioner, if you really want our help, don’t ask us to put our lives at risk by being de facto police informants (as the term ‘confidential’ will never apply). Instead, enlist our support by allowing us to arm ourselves legally, thus freeing up your human resources for other proactive duties, as opposed to always being in firefighting mode.

I submit to Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) Raymond Craig, that ‘fit and proper’ persons who should qualify for owning firearms should meet only the following critieria:

Must own land (or live in parents self-owned home)
Must not have any convictions for violent crime (someone who passed a bad cheque should still be allowed to defend themselves)
Must undergo a psychiatric evaluation
Must pass a gun competency training course
Must shoot at an approved range at least once per quarter (every three months)
Must be 25 years or older.

Self preservation is the first law of life. If our government through the police service cannot or will not provide security for all its citizens, then we will have to protect ourselves, by any means necessary. Should vigilantism develop organically, then the government and police will have to shoulder the responsibility for allowing the situation to escalate to that level, but we must survive.

01 March, 2009

81 Criminal Gangs

"If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed." (Exodus 22:2)

There are 81 criminal gangs in our little nation. Many are armed with “Uzi and Tec 9, assault rifles ranging from the AK 47, Galil and M 16, shotguns, pistols, grenades, sub-machine guns and revolvers” according to a report in today’s Express. Wow. And the Police Commissioner still refuses to sign thousands of firearm applications from law abiding citizens wishing to protect their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Speaking with a well placed source in the Police Service recently, I was told that the Commissioner was ‘very selective’ with his approvals of firearms licences.

Am I the only one who thinks something is wrong with this scenario? If the police are under-manned, under-resourced (their favourite excuse for not coming to help citizens is ‘no vehicles at this time’) and under-motivated, then it is only natural that citizens should be allowed to defend themselves with equal or more powerful firepower than the criminals.

I try not to be critical of police in general, as their jobs are hard enough as it is, but we have entered the realm of the ridiculous now, and it is becoming the norm. Let us stop pretending that there are “only a few bad eggs in the service” and speak the truth here. Every station has corrupt officers, with some more corrupt than others. Even if an officer has never accepted a bribe, nor rented out a gun to criminals for robberies, but he has refused to render assistance to a citizen when asked, then he is guilty of corrupting the level of service that is promised.

There is no way that 81 gangs can be operating with impunity, laying siege to entire communities without the blessings and active help of powerful police officers. Unarmed citizens make easy targets for these gangs. If the Commissioner really wants a reduction in violent crime–and is not just espousing platitudes, like his predecessors–then he only needs to begin issuing Firearm User’s Licences in quick order. A tip: issue them for three year periods, or even five. Former Police Commissioner Kenny Mohammed was wise and brave enough to issue more FULs than both his predecessor and his successor. No FUL holder went on a murderous rampage.

Another tip: allow corporals and most constables to be armed 24/7/365, but ensure their weapons ballistics data are captured through the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) presently in use at the Forensic Science Centre. That way, investigators will be ahead of the curve, should officers’ guns be used in a shooting.

Commissioner, you want the public to help you, so you can help us? Don’t put our lives at risk by asking us to report criminals who will know our identities within minutes (with a quick cell phone call from corrupt police officers). Instead, allow us to be on even ground, in terms of firefighting ability, with the criminals. Allow us to arm ourselves. There would be a dramatic drop in the violent crime rate after that. Communities will thrive once more, when it is possible for our women and children to walk our neighborhoods streets without fear. Community based activities, such as blockos, village fairs, sidewalk sales, sporting activities, etc., will increase in participation and regularity as people can once again live, instead of merely surviving.

Don’t be afraid Commissioner, try it. Your retirement will be that much sweeter, knowing you have taken the initiative and did something real to reduce violent crime, instead of merely talking (like the NatSec Minister). Real police officers and ordinary citizens will also be grateful to you.
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