Task force steps up search for gang of five
Guyana Chronicle
March 31, 2002

Related Links: Articles on Mashramani Day Jailbreak
Letters Menu Archival Menu

A JOINT task force set up to coordinate the search for the gang of five armed and dangerous prisoners that escaped from the Georgetown jail more than a month ago, has stepped up its efforts, Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj said yesterday.

He noted that the escapees would obviously still be on people's minds during the holiday weekend and said a task force comprising members of the Guyana Defence Force, the Police Force, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and the Guyana Prison Service will be working collaboratively to capture the escapees.

"The search is on - we've put notices in the papers calling on these escapees to surrender to the Police and we've since moved further than that where a reward of $500,000 is offered for information leading to the re-arrest of any one of the individuals; in other words it's $500,000 per person (a total of $2.5M)," Gajraj said.

The five, Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser, Shawn Brown, Troy Dick and Dale Moore, broke out of the jail on February 23, killing Prison Officer Troy Williams and shooting Roxanne Whinfield in the head. Whinfield is still critical in hospital.

The minister yesterday also had a word of advice to the public at large during this holiday weekend: "Fly kites but stay away from dangers such as electric wires and go about your business peacefully and in a law-abiding manner."

He said the Police are out in the fields and have intensified their operations and will take appropriate action in instances where there might be infractions of the law or situations that can be inimical to the maintenance of law and order or peacekeeping.

Meanwhile, one of the four senior officers from the Police Force who completed the six-week Senior Command Officers course in England during the latter part of last year has been "identified" as the possible candidate to succeed to the office of Police Commissioner, Gajraj said.

"...it is from this lot that the possible candidate to succeed the office of Commissioner of Police has been identified," he told the Chronicle in an interview.

The person identified will be from among Deputy Police Commissioner (ag), Mr. Winston Felix; Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Edward Wills; Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Mohamed Jameer; and Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Leon Trim.

At the moment Felix is in charge of Operations; Wills is Head of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR); Jameer is Commander of `C' Division on the East Coast; and Trim is Crime Chief in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Gajraj promised to announce within the next month or two who will be appointed Police Commissioner from among the four.

Acting Police Commissioner, Mr. Floyd McDonald would, during the early part of next year have satisfied the statutory age for retirement, which is why he is currently acting Commissioner, he said.

Gajraj said he understood that Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) member, Ms. Debbie Backer was on television saying the four officers were told that whoever placed first on the course in England would be identified to succeed to the office of Police Commissioner.

"I deny any such representation being made by the Government and I did check with the Commissioner of Police (acting) and no such recommendations were made; and in any event, no such representation could have been made by the British, be it the High Commissioner or the officers involved in the training programme which was done in England," the Home Affairs Minister stressed.

"However, we are cognisant of the current situation within the Guyana Police Force. We have done interviews with those officers who went on the course and we have identified the possible candidate for succeeding as Commissioner of Police which will be during the early part of next year."

He, however, pointed out that the President is constitutionally required to have meaningful consultations with the Leader of the Opposition and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission after he (the Chairman) would have had discussions with the other members of the commission.

"...we are taking back the force to where it was in that officers attaining a certain age as described by statute, and the Commissioner in particular, as prescribed by the Constitution are required to vacate office by virtue of retirement," he said.

Gajraj said that he, President Bharrat Jagdeo and Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon met and "interviewed" the officers with a view to identifying a candidate that would allow the President to satisfy the constitutional requirement governing the appointment of the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioners.

The minister also announced that Mr. Royston King, currently Public Relations Officer with the City Council, has been identified as the person that will be giving advice to the Police Public Relations Department in an effort to boost the image of the Force and that of its members.

King is on long leave and "it's now just a question of ironing out the technicalities of whether he can continue with (the council) and give assistance to the Police or whether he has to retire", he explained.

Noting that King has already started to assist the Police Force, Gajraj pointed out that this is not a substitution for the Police PR network that is in place.

"...he will be there to give assistance and advice and to deal with certain issues from a PR perspective," he said.