Minister Gajraj assures...
Crime, security issues loom large on agenda
--- increased violence attributed to last year's crime wave by Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
December 20, 2003

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HOME Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, has disclosed that from January to the end of November this year, 193 persons were murdered in Guyana compared to 142 in 2002, an indication that the spiraling crime wave that gripped the country last year has continued unabated this year, despite valiant and committed efforts by our law enforcement agencies.

Gajraj also indicated that there were 580 reports of robbery involving the use of firearms compared to a total of 494 in 2002; 96 firearms were recovered compared to 118 in 2002; and 35 incidents of armed confrontation with the Police so far for this year.

Speaking at an end-of-year news conference at the GTV Channel 11 studios on Homestretch Avenue yesterday morning, Minister Gajraj said crime and security issues loom large and have to be addressed continuously in order to progressively alleviate the fear and anxiety experienced by citizens.

He said even though much resources and efforts have been expended in the fight against crime, Guyana, not unlike some of her sister CARICOM states has witnessed some worst manifestations of inhumanity meted out to some innocent people by criminal elements.

"Notwithstanding Government's best efforts and achievements, the positive activities of the non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the church, in seeking to spread goodwill and cheer during this season, there is always the possibility of serious crimes being committed," he asserted.

He said these nefarious deeds of the country's criminal sector may involve drug trafficking, child molestation, abduction/kidnap, domestic violence, robbery, rape and murder, all supplemented by the destructive forces of road traffic accidents and fires.

Gajraj, however, stated that whatever the season, there is no room for complacency. "Security considerations should not be left to any one Government Ministry whatever its legal or constitutional responsibility. Crime and Security is everyone's business and therefore, every citizen must share in the task of confronting and overcoming crime in the interest of personal safety and internal security."

Gajraj also reviewed some of the developments since his last news conference in June this year.

Noting that the Guyana Police Force is the premium law enforcement agency, Gajraj said national concern for security has again catapulted the role and responsibilities of the GPF into sharp focus and continuously into the national limelight.

"Security is the biggest challenge facing us today; every sector and every region is affected resulting in massive economic disruption. It has therefore become everyone's business and is no longer the sole responsibility of the security forces, particularly the Police," Minister Gajraj declared.

"No doubt, from your consistent reportage, you would be aware of my submission before the Disciplined Forces Commission, my position on such current issues as the apparent resurgence of criminal activities on the East Coast of Demerara and even my observations with respect to certain responses from the Courts after the police have prosecuted suspects," the Home Affairs Minister told reporters.

According to him, "the nature and execution of criminal enterprise have been a daily challenge as it keeps changing its ugly modus operandi through the growing sophistication of the criminals".

He said for the latter half of this year, the criminal landscape has undergone marked changes in trend, nature, frequency and location. These changes have to some extent reduced the level of fear and anxiety among citizenry and have allowed them to resume and pursue their daily business albeit still with discretion and caution and some degree of anxiety.

Gajraj also expressed concern about recent reports of masked armed bandits claiming to be policemen roaming the Sophia and other neighbourhoods by night robbing the poorest of the poor of what little cash and valuables they possessed.

Despite this, Gajraj said there has been an abatement of criminality in Guyana. "This state of relative calm and security is in no small measure the result of the hard work done by members of our security forces, who have been engaging the criminal elements on several fronts," he added.

"We lost some brave officers in the process and their names shall be indelibly inscribed in the memory of grateful Guyanese. While they have made the ultimate sacrifice, their colleagues are continuously working towards protecting our society against chronic crime, " Gajraj said.