Use of river by bandits increasing
Army says aerial reconnaissance necessary
Stabroek News
July 12, 2002

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During this past week, bandits went on the rampage again, killing one businessman from the island of Leguan in the Essequibo River and terrorising a family from Mahaica. In both instances, the attackers used the river as a mode of escape. This has raised the question of how the Coast Guard unit of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is dealing with the situation.

One army official told Stabroek News yesterday that it was difficult for the Coast Guard to conduct regular patrols of the country's coastal communities. According to the source, for these patrols to be successful, they would have to be done jointly with aerial patrols by the Chinese Y 12 plane. This newspaper understands that only after receiving a report of the attack and mode of escape, could the coast guard get into action.

"For us to conduct these patrols, it has to be done jointly with the aerial [reconnoitering], by the Y12, which will [scout the area] then convey the message to the Coast Guard. It is very expensive to do regular patrols and we don't have enough vessels... We are more reactive than proactive," the army official said. The GDF has four motor boats which it obtained from the United States, as well as a reconverted minesweeper, GDFS Essequibo, sourced from the United Kingdom.

On Sunday night, 38-year-old Mohan Singh was shot and killed when seven bandits landed on Leguan. Several other men were reportedly beaten and tied up before the attackers fled by boat.

However, Stabroek News understands that the coast guard did not deploy a unit from its Lusignan base to Leguan, until Tuesday morning.

Then on Monday, four heavily armed bandits terrorised a family of Belmonte, Mahaica, before making off with a quantity of cash and gold jewellery. Reports yesterday said that those men, after escaping by car, might have taken to the river.

Questioned about what efforts were being made to locate the bandits' river hideouts, the army official said that was the mandate of the police's intelligence unit, and not that of the coast guard.

Just last month, the army admitted that a lack of coordination between it and the police might have contributed to the getaway of a gang of bandits who stormed the home and business premises of a Vergenoegen sawmiller, killed his wife and escaped by river.

At that time, the army and police had announced that they were working together to combat the current crime wave.

Recently, too, there have been reports that armed bandits have been spotted in boats at West Coast Demerara and Bartica. After one such report, the police and army turned out in full gear and scoured the coastline along several villages, but failed to locate the bandits. (Kim Lucas)