Minister Gajraj reaffirms security commitment
--- elated at improved crime situation in Berbice
Guyana Chronicle
December 24, 2003

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GINA - AT a press conference in the ancient county yesterday morning, Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, gave a commitment that his Ministry will ensure that sufficient security measures are put in place in Berbice.

The Minister said that significant measures have been put in place to deal with what appears to be an increase in crime in Berbice. He said there has been an increase in the number of vehicles designated for the Division, and no less than 15 motorcycles assigned. He noted too that the Commander is in the process of renting boats for river patrols.

On arrival in Berbice, the Minister held discussions with senior members of the Guyana Police Force in B Division when a number of issues were dealt with. A petition by a number of concerned citizens of Berbice was also examined. The petition outlined allegations made by citizens against shortcomings by members of the force in the Division.

Police failure to respond or late responses, police beatings, bribery and corruption, unfair investigative practices, misuse of police vehicles, on-duty police ranks drinking; the inability to secure the identity of witnesses, cattle rustling and difficulties in obtaining passports, birth certificates and death certificates are just some of the allegations outlined in the petition,

Minister Gajraj slammed some sections of the media for what he terms sensationalizing. He said some media outfits sought to focus on negative aspects of issues, sometimes suggesting that nothing positive was happening in the fight against crime and in the economy as a whole.

The Home Affairs Minister said that the Force was faced with the change in the types of crimes as well as their frequency. He said in many cases, the security forces were trained to deal with new types of crime. He said the crime situation transcends religion, ethnicity and economic status.

The Minister noted that increase in resources made available to the Force is to better enable the Force to be more pro-active rather than reactive. He said confidentiality, not only in Berbice, but all across Guyana, has eroded public perception of and confidence in the Force.

He noted that the overall crime situation in Berbice has improved but some recent incidents have attracted the attention of the residents there. He therefore called on residents to cooperate with the police and to submit information in a more timely manner.

After the Press Conference, the Minister travelled to the Albion Sugar Estate where he held discussions with members of the Berbice Community Policing Group and Members of the Berbice Business Community.

One of the main concerns at both meetings was the issuance of firearm licenses. During the meeting with the Policing Groups, a number of other concerns were raised. The provision of subsidies for travelling to New Amsterdam for meetings, the establishment of a permanent office for the group and the possible provision of stipends for members of groups were the main issues discussed.

The Minister noted that there is need for members of the groups to undergo training and told them that the onus is on them to revive Community Policing in the Division.

At the meeting with the Business Community, the Minister noted that he is not enthusiastic; about the granting of upgrades for higher calibre weaponry for individuals as requested.

He assured the businessmen that there have been increased patrols in the area and there is greater need for the Force to assist businessmen in the use of firearms.

There was also a request for improved investigative capabilities of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the Division. Minister Gajraj alluded to the current training course for six ranks in India. He said these ranks are being trained in various areas. These areas include Information technology, Finger Print, Photography and handwriting.

The Minister' s busy one-day visit to the Region is expected to conclude late this evening with a live television broadcast on DTV Channel 8.