President addresses crime, other issues on Berbice visit By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
October 20, 2002

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday began a packed two-day visit to Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) meeting residents of the various communities at the grassroots, religious and administrative levels, in a committed effort aimed at addressing some of their imminent concerns and problems.

These include the escalating crime situation that has gripped the country, driving fear into the minds of Guyanese, including Berbicians, and problems affecting the Drainage and Irrigation (D&I) system in Region Six.

"I came here for a number of reasons - to open the Corriverton Market and meet with various communities since I've been getting reports that there are problems with the Drainage and Irrigation system in the areas...and I will also be meeting with members of the religious communities", the President told a news conference at State House in New Amsterdam on arrival in Berbice yesterday morning.

"I want to see the situation for myself on the ground, because the reports are telling me that things are getting well, but I've been getting different vibes from the grassroots level," Mr. Jagdeo said.

According to the President, there seems to be problems with the D&I system in some areas. Although the Government has allocated significant amounts of resources in this sector, it seems that the communities are concerned about the effective use of these resources, he said.

Immediately after the news conference, the President and his entourage went to the Albion Sports Complex where he had long and fruitful discussions with members of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities.

This was followed by a walkabout in Bound Yard, Port Mourant.

The President noted that crime is a major concern to most Guyanese, and Berbicians are not excluded from the problem currently plaguing the country.

"I've heard from the Berbicians about their concerns on the crime situation, and many of them are fearful because of this atmosphere in the country, and the criminal incidents that we've had recently," he said.

Although Berbicians might not be experiencing as many criminal activities as other parts of the country, they are fearful about going to Georgetown and the airport and doing their business, he noted.

President Jagdeo gave a brief synopsis of the anti-crime measures in place, and which were reiterated at a news conference Friday by Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj. (See page eight)

The President also noted that he has been asked on several occasions why there was this steep increase in crime over the last few months.

He felt this is a combination of the deportees, the drugs trade, the February escapees from the Georgetown Prison and a lot of political cover to persons (criminals).

"What I'm worried about is that while we are trying to make this big push for greater development and have some people who don't seem interested in wanting to see it happen for partisan reasons," the President said.

According to Mr. Jagdeo, "You can't complain that the young people don't have jobs, and then at the same time create a climate where investment will not come to create jobs for the young people. It means that you're not really genuine."

He also referred to the placing of demands or "a little ransom on the country", such as the one Opposition Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte made recently at a public meeting in Buxton where he outlined a $250M social development programme for the East Coast Demerara community.

"When you do that, then every village would think that the best way to get money would be to hold up a few people by the roadside, because you encourage that kind of anti-social behaviour," he said.

The Guyanese Head of State noted that this is the main reason why he has rejected Mr. Hoyte's proposal "totally".

According to Mr. Jagdeo, what the PPP/Civic Government has done in Buxton and for Buxtonians in recent years, is "ten times more" than what Hoyte did in that area while the PNC was in Government.

The President also clarified a media report on Friday that the Ministry of Local Government had said that it (the ministry) is considering the Hoyte proposal.

"The ministry is ill informed to think that way (since) I've rejected that proposal totally," the President said.

He also gave the assurance that he is prepared to work for the development of all the people of this country, including Buxtonians, because they are equal to any other citizen.

"Ninety five per cent of the people in Buxton are law abiding people, and many of them are fearful. They don't like what is happening in their communities, but are too fearful to speak out," he said.

"But we cannot be held to ransom by any proposal...and a responsible leader cannot...without condemning crime, put a price tag on peace," he added in response to Mr. Hoyte's recent proposals and address at Buxton.

While in Berbice, the President is expected to meet a group of bauxite workers from the Everton/Kwakwani location in the Berbice River.