04 August 2005

PSNI must change: South African cop

Daily Ireland

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click to view - Robert McBride

A senior member of the South African Police Service last night told an audience of 800 people in west Belfast that the PSNI will have to change to become “impartial” and “accountable”.
During the apartheid era, Robert McBride served time on death row as a commander in the people’s army Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress.
Mr McBride emphasised that ANC and MK members were “amalgamated” into an entirely new and accountable police service after a political settlement was concluded in South Africa.
Mr McBride was speaking at the Féile an Phobail ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ seminar, in association with Daily Ireland. He is now police commissioner in one of the largest urban districts of South Africa, serving over four million people.
“Your police have been, from my observations, a political police service. It will have to change to become a police service to serve the people – impartial, accountable. Now that can be done,” Mr McBride said.
“When there was a political settlement our people were amalgamated into the new police service. In fact a whole new act was established that did away with the old police service,” Mr McBride said to loud applause.
Explaining that he now trusts and socialises with former security police who plotted to kill him, Mr McBride continued:
“Of those people who I serve with, who were my enemy before, there are very few of them who I don’t trust.
“The majority of them are professional police in a different environment, with retraining, a different emphasis, and to a large extent I trust them with my life, and I think the question you guys must ask yourself: ‘is there a time in the future when you would be able to work together from your different communities as one police service, serving people - not as a police force, as a police service - serving people, so that people can walk in the night unmolested?’
“That is our dream at home and our problem is much bigger than your problem. Its ten times bigger,” Mr McBride said.
Listening to Mr McBride’s intervention from the floor was a panel consisting of Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey, Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy, SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly and Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Arlene Foster.
Mr Murphy stated that Sinn Féin would “not have a mission” asking the nationalist community to consider the issue of policing unless major changes are brought about by the British government.
The Newry and Armagh MP highlighted that considerable concerns exist in the broad nationalist community over issues like the British government’s failure to devolve policing and justice powers, the enhanced intelligence role being given to MI5 and the ongoing use of plastic bullets.
When questioned about her party’s meeting in London yesterday with secretary of state Peter Hain, Arlene Foster refused to divulge the detail of the DUP’s current position.
However earlier in the day, the DUP threatened to delay devolution for at least two years.
The threat came when a large DUP delegation led by Ian Paisley strongly attacked secretary of state Peter Hain during a meeting at the Northern Ireland Office in London yesterday morning. Mr Paisley’s delegation will meet prime minister Tony Blair in Downing Street later today.
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said “the prospects of a return to devolution have been damaged very considerably by the actions of this government”.
“The community in Northern Ireland is outraged at what government has done,” Mr Robinson added.
A Sinn Féin delegation will also meet with Tony Blair in London today. Party president Gerry Adams will be joined by chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, party chairperson Mary-Lou McDonald and equality spokesperson Caitríona Ruane.
Ahead of the meeting, Gerry Adams last night said that the DUP strategy is to delay the re-establishment of the political institutions.
“If the DUP’s objective is to delay, delay, delay, then the British government’s should be to implement, implement and implement all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and to tell the DUP that they can only have a say in the peace process by sharing power with Sinn Féin,” Mr Adams said.

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