US may open DEA office here
-- Charge d'Affaires tells training seminar

by Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
June 22, 1999

The United States Government is ready to assist the Government of Guyana in drafting counter drug measures and may open a permanent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office here.

Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy, Sheila Peters, in her remarks at the opening of a two-week DEA training seminar at Le Meridien, Pegasus yesterday, said that the two countries would work together to successfully disrupt the drug trade.

Speaking to an audience which included senior personnel and members of the various law enforcement agencies, Peters said the US and Guyana governments were committed to living up to the commitments agreed to under the Barbados Plan of Action on Justice and Security. Peters noted that Guyana, according to the plan, had promised to pass legislation, to support its counter-narcotics agencies, and to enter into appropriate regional agreements to support counter-narcotics law enforcement throughout the Caribbean. The plan also provided for a firm US commitment to assist Guyana, where it could in these efforts.

She said the US Government was pleased that Guyana had placed money laundering legislation before parliament. According to the senior embassy official, the US had assisted Guyana in the preparation of the money laundering Bill which met all of the Organisation of American States model anti-money laundering recommendations and which when enacted would provide an important tool for the law enforcement community.

Peters declared that the US stood ready to assist government as it looked towards drafting other counter drug legislation, including assets forfeiture and seizure and plea bargaining, as well as a mutual legal assistance treaty as short-term measures.

In the longer term, the US was looking to continue training programmes, increase its training budgets and maybe open a permanent DEA office in Georgetown. The US had been and would continue to provide opportunities for Guyanese officials to travel to regional training events in the Caribbean and the US. The two-week seminar was one such event.

In remarks directed at the participants of the seminar, Peters said that they were participating in the best counter-narcotics training in the world. She noted that the participants were taking part directly in a struggle against elements that could, if allowed to, corrupt societies and cause harm to children. Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, in his presentation to the participants who were drawn from the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, said the discovery of 6,940 pounds of cocaine on board the MV Danielsen in October last year, was evidence that Guyana was becoming a trans-shipment point for drugs to Europe and North America.

He said the training seminar in Guyana was timely. Referring to the recent arrest and conviction of a Suriname national who had expelled over 135 capsules of cocaine which he had ingested, Gajraj said law enforcement officers must keep abreast of the methods of shipment used by drug traffickers.

The minister outlined several measures taken by government to combat the drug trade in Guyana. The Joint Anti-Narcotics Operation Committee, the Joint Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee, the International Relations Committee and the National Co-ordinating Council for Drug Education were among agencies in the fight named by the minister. He also alluded to the amendment to the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act, the tabling of the money laundering bill and the implementation of the drug demand and drug supply reduction plan as some of the measures adopted by government. He said that in addition to these measures, public education, youth development, health promotion and rehabilitation were also being considered.

Bilateral and multilateral agreements to deal with the drug scourge had been established with countries including Brazil, Suriname, Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, the US and the United Kingdom and CARICOM member states, Gajraj said.

Among the audience were Attorney General, Charles Ramson, SC; Chief of Staff of the GDF, Major General Joe Singh; Police Commissioner, Laurie Lewis; Crime Chief, Floyd McDonald; Director of Public Prosecutions, Denis Hanomansingh; Head of CANU, Lambert Marks and a number of US and government officials.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples