Armoured cars, copters for police - President
Stabroek News
October 13, 2002

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President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that the government is soliciting helicopters and armoured cars for the police force and he labelled a call by PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte for a $250M revival plan for Buxton as "ransom".

The President made the statements in an interview yesterday with the Editor of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation Jasminee Sahoye. The interview is to be aired on GTV 11.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) in a statement yesterday afternoon said that the President maintained in the interview that the government is working strenuously to provide all the resources needed by the law enforcement agencies to combat the rampant crime wave. He noted that $200M was allocated to the Guyana Police Force to purchase weapons and a similar amount for vehicles. He disclosed that the government is also in the process of sourcing armoured cars and helicopters for the force. Since the February 23 escape of five men from the Camp Street jail, a tidal wave of crime has swept the country and the police have frequently appeared outmatched and outgunned. There had been calls from several quarters for helicopters and armoured cars to be provided to the force.

The President said that declaring a state of emergency to deal with the crime situation "may have to be a course of action in the future, but it is not being considered at present because it is law-abiding citizens who will suffer the consequences of such a declaration". The administration, he pointed out, will also have to be fully prepared to implement such a move.

He attributed the spiralling crime to the inflow of deportees who come with knowledge of sophisticated crimes and weapons, the drug trade and the prison break. He expressed his willingness to meet with interested groups on ways to solve the problem. President Jagdeo declared that the administration is cognisant of the fear being experienced by Guyanese and strongly urged the business community and other groups to assist in the crime-busting drive.

The government, the PPP and the PNC/R recently met separately with the social partners on a crime-fighting strategy.

Reacting to a call on Thursday night by the PNC/R leader for a $250M socio-economic transformation plan for Buxton, the President said he disagreed with Hoyte. He labelled Hoyte's appeal as "ransom" and argued that there are many communities throughout the country that are labouring under the same infrastructural conditions like Buxton. He pointed out that the government had spent more than $200M on developing Buxton since 1997 and remains committed to continuing this. He said Buxton had an equal and not greater right to the resources of the country. Hoyte at a meeting at Buxton on Thursday had enumerated a list of things that the administration should do in the village and he added "these are the things they have to do if they want quiet and peace and contentment in the Buxton/Friendship area".

Since the crime wave began this year, Buxton has been the launching pad for numerous assaults on businesses and homes in neighbouring villages. In addition many bandits have fled to safety in the village and gangs have attacked vehicles on the public road. In the most recent incident two men travelling to the airport were shot dead.

According to the GINA statement, Jagdeo called on politicians who are destroying the community with their personal grievances to desist. He said the Guyana Defence Force will continue to maintain its presence in the village of Buxton as a form of security for citizens.

The Jagdeo administration has come in for strong criticism for not taking sterner measures on the crime wave which since February has claimed the lives of more than three dozen persons including 10 policemen. On Wednesday and Thursday, a group of citizens, the Association of Regional Chambers of Commerce and a group calling itself `Unite Guyana' organised a shutdown of the country to protest the poor government and opposition response to the crime wave. It was a roaring success in Georgetown and some parts of Berbice while there was a mixed response in other sections of the country.

Commenting on the shutdown, the President said that he supports any businessman or woman who wants to close their business but strongly defended the right of those who wanted to stay open. He also objected to advertisements which were placed by the organisers urging schoolchildren to stay home on the two days.