Gajraj notes need for quick, resounding breakthrough in crime fight By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
October 19, 2002

Related Links: Articles on crime
Letters Menu Archival Menu

THERE have been successes in the fight against the current crime wave, Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj said yesterday but noted that the need for a quick and resounding breakthrough is legitimate.

He also said that his ministry is confident that the nation's "hardworking and dedicated" law enforcement ranks and officers will soon restore a sense of safety and security for the citizens of Guyana.

"...the Ministry of Home Affairs understands the sense of fear and insecurity in our country.

"Be assured that the Government is providing all the necessary support to our law enforcement agencies. Their efforts are and will continue to bear fruit," the minister told a news conference at the GTV 11 studio and which was aired live on the television station and GBC radio.

He pointed out that while crime will never end, a desired level of security and safety will be restored for Guyanese.

With him at the news conference was Police Commissioner, Mr. Floyd McDonald.

According to Minister Gajraj, the ministry shares the deep sense of fear and anxieties that permeate the society, in light of the current wave of criminal activities which he added are being perpetuated by the February 23 prison escapees and deportees, given the evidence.

He said that following the jailbreak, the country has witnessed a wave of robberies with violence, burglaries, and sieges of peaceful communities, particularly Buxton, rape, terror and murder.

He stated that in spite of many challenges, the Government has responded in a most comprehensive manner but that there are factors constraining the effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies in grappling with the current crime wave.

He said that since the jailbreak, there was, and still is, an active campaign to demonise the members of the Police Force "by opposition protest marches, certain talk show hosts and odious handbills". He noted that since February, 10 Police ranks have been murdered, and many more wounded by the criminals and that in some cases, criminals and criminal activities continue to receive political cover and justification.

The minister further noted that the influx of deportees, some with frightening criminal records and exposure, has also put additional strains on the Police Force with a number of these, whether individually or with others, actively involved in some of the recent criminal acts.

He noted that the types of crimes committed show that Guyana is being affected by the changing nature of crime that has featured in several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states and developed societies and that the unpreparedness of the law enforcement agencies to deal with this phenomenon cannot be overlooked, although the situation is being seriously addressed.

The contribution of the narcotics trade is an added dimension to the crime wave that has further complicated the law enforcement agencies' response and capacity to deal with the upsurge, Gajraj said.

He said the President and his administration have recognised the realities and the seriousness of the crime situation and made the fight against crime a priority several months ago, noting that the role of the Government and in particular the Ministry of Home Affairs, is to ensure that the law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources and policy support to respond to the crime scourge.

At the same time, he said, the Government has sought to consult and involve the entire society in supporting the efforts of the law enforcement agencies as he referred to the President's initiative to engage representatives of the private sector, religious bodies and other concerned groups on the crime situation, and the national crime consultation which involved political parties, social groups and the wider public.

"The Government has made it clear that neither effort nor resource will be spared in supporting our law enforcement agencies, especially the Police Force, in their ongoing campaign to arrest and reduce the current crime wave," the Home Affairs Minister said.

Referring to a number of anti-crime initiatives announced, Gajraj said that following the President's announcement of the impending acquisition of armoured vehicles and helicopters for the Police, the Force is in the process of establishing an air wing while the marine capacity of the Force is being beefed up.

He said the ministry continues its programme to upgrade and rehabilitate Police Stations and outposts across the country.

He added that enhanced remuneration for Police and other law enforcement agencies has always attracted adequate attention of the Government, and that expenditure on equipment and facilities have been boosted with $500M being spent this year to purchase protective gear, weaponry and transportation and communication equipment.

"Every citizen has a role to play - no matter if you live in Buxton, Annandale, Georgetown, Rose Hall, Linden or Anna Regina," he stated.

He said the society is further harmed if a blind eye is turned to wrongdoings, offer sympathy, support, safe haven, and even martyrdom to the criminals.

"Also, it is very dangerous to provide historical and political rationale via the media to celebrate naked murderous, criminal atrocities," he said.

"How successful can any government's crime fighting be when several of our political leaders, who know better, refuse to reject crime and criminals, but are willing to attack and demonise our law enforcement agencies?

"I am aware that all the new pieces of legislation, all the steps, all the new techniques, weaponry and equipment will not solve the longer term problem of Guyana's criminal challenges," he stated.

According to Minister Gajraj, the Administration is aware that there are certain underlying factors which lead to crime which are both occasional and organised.

To date the Force has acquired in excess of 50 vehicles. The minister said some have been paid for and yet to be received and they are still in the process of acquiring a quantity of protective gear but not the full complement.

As fast as there is a sizeable batch, it is shipped to Guyana.

Orders have been placed for other items to be received shortly, the minister said.