Crime fight remains Government priority, suggestions welcome
- President Jagdeo
Guyana Chronicle
October 13, 2002

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THE Government remains committed to treating the fight against crime as a priority in the wake of the upsurge in criminal attacks witnessed in Guyana following the February 23 jailbreak at the Georgetown Prisons, President Bharrat Jagdeo has stressed.

In a special interview with Editor of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation, Ms. Jasminee Sahoye, he renewed the unswerving commitment and pledged all available resources to the campaign, which remains a number one priority of the Administration.

According to the President, the upsurge in crime locally can be attributed to several factors, including the inflow of deportees, who bring with them a proclivity for modern weapons and a sophisticated nature of crime, the drugs trade and the jailbreak.

He said while it is believed by some sections of society that poverty has a direct link to crime, this can be argued, because a higher level of poverty was present in Guyana before and such a crime upsurge had not been evident.

He noted that regional and international crime (transnational crime) has also had an effect on Guyana.

However, he maintained that the Government is steadfast in its resolution to combat this new undesirable development and is willing to meet interested groups on ways to solve the problem.

Mr. Jagdeo pointed to the many meetings held with civil society and religious groups with the aim of soliciting their views on the situation and briefing them on what the Administration is doing to fight crime.

According to the President, the Administration is cognisant of the fear experienced by Guyanese.

He strongly urged the business community and other groups to assist in the anti-crime drive, since the fight against crime is not for the Government only, but every citizen has a role to play.

Commenting on the shutdown called by sections of the business community last week, the Guyanese Leader said he supports any business person who wants to close his/her business, but defended strongly the right of those who wanted to keep their doors open.

The President also took objection to advertisements that called for school children to stay at home last Wednesday and Thursday. This was very disturbing since education is the only way for a better standard of living for many citizens, he said.

He urged the business community and other groups to continue to engage the Administration on the crime situation.

President Jagdeo maintained that the Government was working strenuously to provide all the support and resources needed by the law enforcement agencies to combat crime.

On the issue of better preparing the law enforcement agencies, he noted that $200M was allocated to the Guyana Police Force to purchase weaponry. The same amount was also set aside for the acquisition of vehicles.

The Government is also in the process of soliciting armoured cars for the Force and helicopters, he said.

In response to calls for tougher legislation to deal with crime, the Administration also presented four pieces of anti-crime legislation in Parliament and quite surprisingly, the President noted, only the People's Progressive Party/Civic Members of Parliament supported the passage of the legislation.

International assistance has also been sought and received from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canadian governments and this will continue, he said.

President Jagdeo is in disagreement with the call by People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte for a $250M socio-economic plan for the Buxton, East Coast Demerara community.

He described it as a "ransom" and pointed out that there are many other communities countrywide that are under the same infrastructural conditions as Buxton.

He said that while the Government has spent more than $200M on developing Buxton since 1997 and remains committed to continuing that process, that community has equal and not greater right to the country's resources than any other village.

In the interview, which will be aired on GTV Channel 11 this weekend, the Head of State called on politicians who are destroying the community with their personal grievances, as it only results in harm to law-abiding citizens, to desist from such practices.

Speaking about efforts to eliminate criminality from Buxton, he referred to the Army's legal presence there, as a form of security for citizens, and said this will continue.

Asked about his Administration's views on the implementation of the death penalty, President Jagdeo expressed support for this.

He pointed out that four death warrants have been signed since he took office, but these are still held up in the courts.

The Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy has been asked to advise the Head of State on persons who are on death row, he said.

Declaring a state of emergency in Guyana may have to be a course of action in the future, but it is not being considered at present because law-abiding citizens will suffer the consequences of such a declaration, he said.

The Administration, he noted, will also have to be prepared to fully implement such a move should it be called.

Meanwhile, the President is calling on all Guyanese to support the maintenance of law and order and the fight against the crime scourge locally and to desist from any practice that could endanger the society.

He noted that given the racial overtone of the crime situation, the Government is working assiduously to avoid a civil war in Guyana.