PRESS STATEMENT - Friday 6 May 2011

The daily crime situation in this country is truly frightening. It was brought into focus by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Report entitled Guyana and the IDB: Partners for Progress. The Report stated that, of businessmen surveyed, “30 per cent considered crime to be among the top constraints to business. Thirty-eight per cent [of the participants in the survey] had been victims of theft or vandalism.” The annual survey published by Ram & McRae – Business Outlook Survey 2010 – rated the Guyana Police Force and the Ministry of Home Affairs “poorly” in terms of effectiveness in the public sector.

President Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Mr. Manniram Prashad who is responsible for the Tourism sector complained some time ago about the negative impact of crime on this country’s economic development.

President Jagdeo complained that: “For a country like Guyana where there are large expanses of unprotected borders and uninhabited regions, the capacity of law-enforcement agencies is severely stretched.”

Mr. Manniram Prashad, similarly, lamented the deleterious effect that crime has had on the local tourism industry and declared that much more had to be done to improve security. Prashad said “We can have all the resorts; we can have a good product; we can have all the marketing strategies in place; we can have the airlines bringing down their air fares but, if the crime situation in Guyana is escalated, then it affects tourism.”

Head of the Police Criminal Investigation Department, Mr. Seelall Persaud some time ago confirmed that, on average, there were about two armed robberies every day. Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry Greene himself has frequently acknowledged that the rising rates of armed robbery with violence and robbery with aggravation were “worrisome.”

The commercial community has been hit hard. Soon after Mr. Greene expressed his concerns, six armed masked men stormed a grocery store and liquor restaurant at Albion, Corentyne and escaped with more than $5M in cash and jewellery. A group of men dressed as policemen robbed a delivery truck of about $10M on the Bee Hive Public Road on the East Coast of Demerara. Five armed men robbed a businessman of Hogstye, Corentyne, of more than $ 7.6M in cash and jewellery. A gunman robbed employees of A H&L Kissoon Limited of a $2M payroll which they had just withdrawn from a bank as they sat in a car on Camp Street in heavy traffic. Armed men robbed employees of DeSinco Trading of $2.4M on North Road while in a car on their way to a bank. Gunmen robbed a Bartica businessman of $9.5 M at Good Hope, East Bank Essequibo.

Even small-scale businesspersons have not been immune to the epidemic of armed robbery. In broad daylight one fine Sunday, armed men robbed a female vendor and two policemen of $200,000, jewellery and phone cards at the Plaisance Village Market, East Coast Demerara. A sales girl at a lottery sales booth on Orange Walk was robbed of $61,000 and Lotto and mobile telephone cards at her workplace. Two armed youths robbed the driver of a Banks-DIH beverage truck of $80,000 in East La Penitence and four bandits raided the home of a spray painter at Number One Village, Corentyne. At Bamia on the Soesdyke-Linden highway, two armed men robbed two lorry drivers of Kumaka Mines, Linden, of $75,000 and two mobile telephones.

Armed bandits have been robbing private households at will. Victims include an overseas-based family at Albion, Corentyne who lost almost $2M in cash and jewellery; a couple at Golden Grove, East Bank Demerara who lost $250,000 and jewellery and two families in the Diamond Housing Scheme, East Bank of Demerara. Three men, two of whom were armed with handguns, robbed five Brazilians and a driver at the residential Fulton Court in Georgetown. Two hours later, two armed men robbed the supervisor of Sam’s Service Station at Anna Catherina on the West Coast Demerara.

Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee has attempted in the past to assure members of the Private Sector that, in spite of the “perception” that there was an increase in crime, “the big picture remains the fact that national security remains intact.” Mr. Rohee told a meeting of the Private Sector Commission that, regardless of the ravages of armed gangs “the Guyana Defence Force, Guyana Prison Service, Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Fire Service are all up to speed to deal with any threat to the stability of the state.”

The public perception is that there is a surge in crime and that perception is derived from the Police Force’s own daily bulletins. The Force seems to be clueless about formulating a plan to stanch the influx of illegal firearms and about how to identify and counter the mushrooming of numerous amateur gangs. It is public knowledge that the Police Force is severely under strength. Its weakest division – embracing the huge hinterland – is both a major source of gun-running and the scene of many armed robberies. Yet the Administration has done nothing to deal with the Force’s human resource deficiency and to reorganize and reinforce the command and management of the hinterland.

Small gangs of two or three young men armed often with only one rented pistol among them frequently pounce on internet cafés, petrol stations, Chinese restaurants, vendors, visitors from overseas and any other vulnerable targets.

Crooks who carry out armed robberies frequently seem to be very young; they enter the premises pretending to be customers; they do not bother to conceal their identities by wearing masks; they are armed with hand guns which they are prepared to use without provocation.

Their booty is often no more than a single day’s takings - surprising low in relation to the high risk of taking or losing life. Their escape, normally unhurried, is on easily identifiable motor cars or motorcycles on long roadways with little traffic.

After nearly nineteen years in office, a period which included the ‘Troubles’ on the East Coast – the worst crime crisis in this country’s history – the PPP/C Administration should be well aware of just how bad this country’s public safety record is and what needs to be done about it.

The PPP/C Administration, over the years, received numerous well-reasoned recommendations from several UK-funded consultancies and local commissions. It rejected the best of them and failed to act decisively against the causes of crime. The PPP/C Administration seems content to roll out a number of fake policies which everyone knows simply don’t, won’t and can’t work.

Who suffers from gun crimes? Why should Guyana wait for foreign aid to control or close the frequently traversed illicit routes through which guns enter the country? Who in the Corentyne, Pomeroon or Rupununi can be unaware of the locations of illegal crossing points on the borders? Who can doubt that a proper Defence Force Coast Guard, Police Force Marine Department and Guyana Revenue Customs enforcement unit are needed to deter smugglers, traffickers and pirates?

The PPP/C Administration can achieve much by embracing the recommendations of reports of experts and commissions such as the Disciplined Forces Commission and the Border and National Security Commission. The administration can make the country safer by enforcing existing legislation and energizing law enforcement agencies.

People’s National Congress Reform

Congress Place, Sophia

Georgetown, Guyana

Friday 6TH May 2011