Guyana's international prestige high despite recent crimes
-- Foreign Minister maintains Chelesea Jagdeo
Guyana Chronicle
April 26, 2002

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`There is a crime problem here, like in many other countries, but I don't know about us having an image problem on the international arena' - Minister Rudy Insanally
By Mark Ramotar
FOREIGN Minister, Mr. Rudy Insanally yesterday said that despite the recent increase in crimes here and the sometimes negative reports in sections of the media, Guyana's prestige and image on the international scene remains "very high".

"There is a crime problem here, like in many other countries, but I don't know about us having an `image problem' (negative image) on the international arena," he told a news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Georgetown.

Responding to a question about Guyana's image abroad in light of recent rising crimes and the consequential negative reports in sections of the media, he said, "I do not know that our image is that bleak (since) we still have very good relations and our prestige in the international world is still very high".

He, however, noted that "there is a crime problem" which the authorities are working to have resolved

But the Foreign Minister said this was a problem not peculiar to Guyana since the issue of crime and criminal activities affects the entire Caribbean region and it does tend to have a negative effect on a country's image abroad.

"Just yesterday (Wednesday) I met with a team from Time magazine which is actually here and one of them remarked that prior to coming here they had this image of a country `hostage to warlords' and to come and to find that the reality is different...," Insanally told reporters.

"I am not denying that we must be aware and sensitised of the crime problems; but I think societies everywhere are being plagued by this problem and it is very well known that the governments of small countries do not have all the resources (to combat this scourge to society) but I think that within the limits of our resources (in Guyana) we are trying to respond effectively."

Noting that other countries have "image problems", Insanally feels that "very often the picture is painted much darker than it should be" thus contributing to a negative image abroad.

"...sometimes we have to make sure that we don't reflect (too many negative things) because once that image goes abroad, it is difficult to control and one has to recognise that," Insanally argued.

Agreeing that Guyana can do "much more" to improve its image abroad, he pointed out that within his ministry "we are committed to sustaining a campaign where our arms abroad (missions and consulates) are sufficiently informed at least to make representations because sometimes you do have cases of misinformation."

He said what is written on "travel advisories" issued by some countries can affect the image of other countries.

"The impression I get is that we ought to improve the image here, first of all, and then it would be easier for us to project it abroad."

Insanally also noted that the issue of crime has been high on the agenda of recent regional and international meetings such as the Caribbean/United Kingdom Forum in Georgetown earlier this month.

In addition, the Foreign Minister felt that the recent influx here of criminal deportees from the United States has contributed to the increase in criminal activities in Guyana.

"Obviously, the domestic image is very important in terms of projecting our country's image abroad (and) we do have a crime situation here; but I think we are like other countries, not without problems..."

"...we know, of course, that our problems have been added to after the wave of deportees here and one would have reasons to believe that this has in a way fed to the increase in crime and criminal activities," Insanally said.

More than 100 Guyanese were deported from the United States late last year for breaching that country's laws.

Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, in assuring that Guyana "can deal with the influx of deportees", had said that some of the deportees might be hardened criminals who "have no shoulder to lean on" once they arrive here.

For those deportees, Gajraj said "the open arms of the local criminals are there to welcome them and they form unholy alliances".

There has been an escalation in criminal activities in and around Georgetown and specific areas along the East Coast Demerara since the dramatic daylight escape of the five heavily armed and dangerous criminals from the Georgetown Prison on February 23 last.

Police have offered a $10M reward for their capture and with the Army, have been maintaining an intensive search for the gang

The five escapees on the run - Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser, Shawn Brown, Troy Dick and Dale Moore - have been linked to a series of car hijackings, kidnapping and robberies.

Police said the gang was involved in the killing of well-known anti-crime fighter, Police Superintendent Leon Fraser on April 2 when he and other cops closed in on a car partly hidden in a clump of bushes at Yarowkabra on the Linden/Soesdyke highway.

Fraser, shot in the head, was the second murder victim of the band which also killed Prison Officer Troy Williams, 21, when it broke out of the Camp Street jail.

One of the five also shot Woman Prison Officer, Roxanne Whinfield, 36, in the head as they fled and she remains in critical condition at a medical institution overseas.