Police to fast track firearm allocation for Coldingen residents
Community points to need for electricity also By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
December 14, 2003

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THE Police Force has said that it is fast-tracking the allocation of firearms for the Coldingen Community Policing Group to defend the community from attacks by bandits.

But while this step is being taken, residents of Coldingen, East Coast Demerara, plagued by constant armed attacks by bandits prowling in the area, seem somewhat divided over what should be the priority to bring relief to their predicament. They are dithering between the importance of the allocation of guns and as against the provision of electricity to the community.

This question arose yesterday when Prime Minister Samuel Hinds paid a visit to the community, following a flood of complaints by the residents who are fearful for their lives.

Prime Minister Hinds was warmly welcomed and taken on tour of the community by the aggrieved residents who continued to pour out their concerns over problems facing them over the 15 months since the community was settled. The problems include lack of electricity, telecommunication and the need for improved security to beef up the service being provided by the Community Policing Group there.

The housing scheme which has about 70 families, has suffered at the hands of bandits on numerous occasions. During last year, Prettipaul Brothers Construction Service which constructed the housing scheme, suffered two major robberies - a payroll robbery and the virtual 'clean out' of its hardware bond. Individual households continue to suffer as well, being robbed of cash, jewellery and household items among other things.

The most recent robberies were staged last Monday night and a daring daylight attack on Thursday, when bandits broke into the home of a resident, ate her food, then took away clothing, cash and jewellery.

But while a segment of the community put forward a case for beefed up security measures, others were of the view that providing electricity for the community should be the priority, since even with guns, they are still vulnerable to attacks on any darkened night.

"We want lights, so we could see and know who the prowlers are," they argued. Some also contended that guns should not be placed into the hands of persons who cannot use them properly.

Responding to progress being made in relation to security, Divisional Commander of Cove and John, Superintendent Ivelaw Whittaker reported that following the robberies last week, the force had increased its security presence, and is now patrolling the area both by day and night. He reported that the police had intercepted and foiled robbery attempts made on Wednesday as well.

Expressing satisfaction with the performance of the Coldingen Community Policing Group, Superintendent Whittaker stated: "The Community Policing Group has been very active in this area, and we are fast tracking the allocation of firearms." He confirmed that the force was also addressing the need for training of persons to use the firearms, adding, "so we are pushing ahead, helping the community - not only with our patrols, but also to defend themselves."

This disclosure prompted Prime Minister Hinds to caution that, the allocation of guns would bring with it, the need for training in the proper use of authority that would be vested in firearm holders. He urged the residents to ensure that there is a proper balance governing the use of the weapons.

On the matter of electricity for the neighbourhood, raised by Community Development Chairman, Vanessa Baker, and strongly supported by residents, Prime Minister Hinds said he appreciated this. He, however, told the residents that the provision of electricity to the 220 communities comprising about 40,000 to 50,000 households nation-wide, would require significant resources.

The delivery of electricity supply to each household, he said, would cost some $80,000, and Government is attempting to access monies through a loan from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB). For this reason, he said, there is a policy of ranking, and communities will have to wait their turn.

Whilst being appreciative of the residents' need for the service, the Prime Minister would only offer that they would have lights as soon is it was possible and insisted: "I won't make promises I can't deliver."

He reminded them that there was visible progress made in the community since it was settled some 15 months ago. These include: roads, water, culverts, and telephone poles now being installed. He said that Government is taking into account of all the needs of the various communities, but resources are in short supply, and these must be allocated carefully.