Lack of suitable guns still holding up SWAT team
Stabroek News
July 20, 2003

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The Guyana government is still trying to source the weaponry that is to be used by the proposed police SWAT team, more than a year after President Bharrat Jagdeo announced that it would be put in place.

Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj told Stabroek News that the weaponry being sourced was that which was the weapon of choice of the British police who would be providing the training. The British government, Stabroek News understands, rebuffed the Guyana government when it sought to acquire AK-47s for the squad. The United Kingdom reportedly cited human rights concerns, as well as indicating that the weapon of choice was the M-20. The size of the squad, according to Gajraj, would initially be between 40-50 ranks with the possibility of it being increased. Identification of the personnel has also been going slowly, according to Gajraj, because of the criteria the members of the squad have to meet. He reiterated the intention to include suitable members of the Target Special Squad (TSS), the behaviour of some of whose members has tarnished its image and resulted in allegations of extra-judicial killings.

One senior member of the TSS, the late Superintendent Leon Fraser was identified as being implicated in the visa sale ring operated by convicted former US diplomat Thomas Carroll. A number of the TSS ranks were summoned as material witnesses in the criminal proceedings brought by the US authorities against Carroll.

Gajraj also disclosed that not all the logistical and other arrangements were in place for the training facility on the Soesdyke Linden highway. It would also be used for special weapons training for other members of the force.

The establishment of the unit was one of the measures President Jagdeo announced in the effort to improve the capacity of the police to respond to the wave of violent crime that swept Georgetown and the lower East Coast Demerara following the February 23, 2002 prison escape.

Most of the other measures have been put in place including the provision of safety equipment for the police, improved communications capability, more vehicles and the payment of $1M to the dependants of police killed in the line of duty. (Patrick Denny)