Private sector pledges support in crime fight
Guyana Chronicle
April 19, 2002

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PRIVATE sector officials yesterday pledged full commitment and support to the ongoing national anti-crime campaign at a meeting with President Bharrat Jagdeo at the Office of the President in Georgetown.

The closed-door meeting, which started shortly after 11:00 hrs, lasted some 90 minutes during which the President, accompanied by Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, and Police Commissioner, Mr. Floyd McDonald, briefed the private sector on national anti-crime measures, crime fighting and the intensive round-the-clock efforts by the Joint Services to recapture the five prisoners who escaped from jail on February 23 last.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) said President Jagdeo assured private sector representatives that the Guyana Police Force and Guyana Defence Force are working feverishly to apprehend the five, who killed a young Prison Officer and shot another in the head in the jailbreak.

The five - Troy Dick, Dale Moore, Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser and Shawn Brown - have been linked to several car hijackings and robberies since their escape from the Georgetown Prison and the Police are offering a $10M reward for information leading to their recapture.

GINA said the spread of fear among Guyanese was among issues the President discussed with the private sector yesterday.

"I know that a lot of people are fearful because of this situation and I explained what is being done. We have to basically urge people to go about and do their business.

"I know the fear element is there, but we cannot allow five criminals to hold this country to ransom. People have to go about their business," GINA quoted President Jagdeo.

He described the meeting with the private sector as "excellent".

"I shared with the private sector ideas on the crime situation and what we are doing, a number of initiatives we have been engaged in. Many of these issues we cannot speak about openly, but the Police and the Army are both working together on strong initiatives to apprehend the five persons," the President told GINA.

He noted that the private sector shared ideas with the Government and "we agreed to work together."

According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, the private sector made a number of suggestions that were noted by the President, and pledged its cooperation and support for the current anti-crime campaign.

President Jagdeo urged the community to continue its support for the fight against crime and the maintenance of law and order, the statement said.

Among those present were Private Sector Commission representatives, Mr. David Yankana, Mr. Brian James, Mr. Chris Fernandes and Mr. George Jardim, and Mr. Manniram Prashad, Advisor to the President; Mr. Mohamed Safiq, Head of the West Demerera/Essequibo Islands Chamber of Commerce; and Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, President of the Guyana Manufacturers Association and former President of the association, Mr. Norman McLean.

The private sector was well represented at the meeting with officials coming from all three counties - Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice

Contacted yesterday afternoon, James told the Chronicle by telephone that the meeting was "very cordial" and "everybody had their say".

"The meeting was a start, something we had wanted and hoped would have taken place sooner; it was conducted in a very cordial manner, everybody had their say and everybody had their chance to give their bits and pieces of advice and suggestions," he said.

He said, too, that President Jagdeo made note of the suggestions and advice given by the private sector, but pointed out that "no definitive plan of action or timetable has been set regarding the recapture of the escaped prisoners".

James said the meeting was informed that "the Police are working on this and they are following certain leads in the hope of a speedy resolution to this matter".

He, however, noted that "a lot was not revealed" so as not to compromise the ongoing efforts to recapture the armed and dangerous criminals.

James also stressed that the officials from the business community are "on the side of law and order" and are of the view that "we need to work within the framework of a legal society".

"Our main concern was the seemingly deteriorating situation that is fast developing in and around the Georgetown and Demerara area, and the consequential and rippling effects that this situation has on people in Berbice and Essequibo...", he said.

According to him, people from all parts are scared to travel, especially in the problem-prone Demerara area, and this is due to the "mindset of the people" in terms of several reports of kidnappings and car-jackings.

Two law enforcement officers also died over the past two weeks in the line of duty and many have been physically threatened day by day.

Detective Sergeant, Harry Kooseram, 37, was shot six times as he was bicycling to work early Monday morning. He died shortly after he was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital.

And top anti-crime fighter Police Superintendent Leon Fraser was shot dead on April 2, last.

James noted that yesterday's meeting decided that the "events and activities" of the current week are "criminal activities" and not politically motivated or fuelled by one political party or parties.

"In light of this, we are saying that all political parties should be involved in a dialogue to resolve this current deteriorating situation in our country," he told the Chronicle.

He also reiterated that the business community underscored the need for the resuscitation of dialogue between President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte.

"We would be prepared to assist in any way, form or fashion in getting the two together and continuing the dialogue process because during the time that the dialogue seemed to be going on, there was a relative peace or calm in society...

"I don't know if it's coincidental or what, but it seems that with the breakdown in the talks between the President and Mr. Hoyte, the situation in society has deteriorated and there is also a breakdown in law and order and this is an issue which concerns all Guyanese and we are prepared to assist," James said.

The dialogue process, which was initiated by President Jagdeo, was put on `pause' by Mr. Hoyte last month based on a decision at the Central Executive level of his People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) party.

According to James, the business community was also of the view that the Police PR (Public Relations) "needs to be improved".

"...they're not helping matters by remaining mum on the subjects because you hear different versions of a story and the society is ripe with rumours, so their PR needs urgent improvement," he contended.

President Jagdeo also urged people to desist from making crank calls to the Police, saying they put unnecessary strain on limited resources.

"This uses up a lot of their resources. They have to check things out and it slows down the response time they may have when responding to real situations because they have to respond to so many situations that are fabricated," he said. - (MARK RAMOTAR)