Declaring GUYEXPO open on Thursday, President Bharrat Jagdeo acknowledged that it would be difficult for the society to make rapid progress if people have to worry constantly about their personal security and property.
His statement came in the wake of heightened criminal attacks over the last few days that have seen several people killed and others injured.
The President also voiced concern that some Guyanese suffer from schizophrenia since they call for the government to tackle crime and then condemn new crime-fighting legislation.
Jagdeo who was speaking at the opening of the fifth biennial trade and investment exhibition, added that political stability and good order were absolute requirements for national development.
The four-day exhibition dubbed as the largest trade and investment exposition ever in Guyana is being held at the Sophia Exhibition Centre under the theme, "A Call to El Dorado."
Jagdeo said: "It bothers me that at times we all agree that national security is top of our agenda, but as a nation and as a people we can be so schizophrenic to, on one hand,... complain that the government is not doing enough, then as soon as we have tough legislative actions to support the law enforcement agencies the same people turn around and complain about the human rights of the criminals and they are not concerned about the human rights of the victims." This was a reference to four crime-fighting bills which were passed in Parliament on Thursday but were bitterly opposed by a number of political parties and other groups because of certain provisions they contained.
The President stated that the Guyana Defence Force would continue to support the work of the police within the laws of the country. He said again some people are schizophrenic in that they try to divide the work the GDF is doing in support of law enforcement. He said the army's deployment is legal and the GDF would continue to play that role in the future. Jagdeo asserted that his government would have to strengthen its relations with private security forces and to get citizens more involved in crime fighting activities. Commenting on the killings of four persons on Wednesday night at a bar in Kitty, Jagdeo said the causes of such a crime are related to some extent to the people's values which have to be changed. "Because when people can so callously take the lives of others without showing any remorse then it speaks a lot about our society."
Speaking to a packed audience at the opening ceremony, and surrounded by a display of handicraft and other indigenous products, the President reminded the audience that GUYEXPO is a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit of the citizens: "The many exhibits on display tell of the creative powers resident in our people and which we must do everything to propel rather than restrain."
According to Jagdeo the exhibition reflects the realistic hope that our society can grow and develop and that our private sector is prepared to compete in the globalised world. The president observed that the many booths on display depict the journey the country has embarked upon in search for modernisation and development. He commended the entrepreneurs' imaginative spirit in the face of global challenges and socially unacceptable behaviour locally. To assist the private sector, he said that the government has already secured project loans of over US$400 million which would be disbursed over the next four years. He acknowledged that his job was to accelerate the disbursement of these loans, which he said would generate thousands of job, accelerate economic growth, reduce poverty and provide the infrastructural basis for private sector growth.
"While we have made some progress as evidenced at the exhibition it would be difficult for a society to make rapid progress and motivate its people if they are compelled to worry about the security of their person and property." He suggested that this perhaps explains why some countries have been making real economic progress while others are marooned in the past. He said the complexities of criminal activities have been on the rise in the Caribbean and for the past few years have blighted the region's landscape. He said national security is first on the agenda of his government and will continue to be first on the agenda. "I want to promise you that no budgetary resource would be spared to support the law enforcement to ensure that people are secured in their homes and communities."
Meanwhile, in brief remarks Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manzoor Nadir whose ministry is responsible for the GUYEXPO, said the government had spent over $26 million on physical site preparations with extensive repairs to the fence, the main auditorium roof. Thirteen buildings were rehabilitated on the site and a new entertainment area, including a stage and grounds, were put in place along with new sanitary facilities. Nadir noted these works have laid the foundation for the "glory and limelight" of the show. He said over 130 booths are occupied and the exposition is enriched with delegations from Korea, Canada, the USA, Brazil, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Israel.