Crime, national security top Govt. priorities this year
--- reform of police force underway
Guyana Chronicle
April 17, 2004

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HOME Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj says measures to deal with national security and the changing manifestations of domestic and international crimes are two priority areas the Minister hopes to address this year.

"It has become a prime responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs to constantly monitor developments in our internal and external environment and to create and implement policies which provide the greatest measure of security for our citizens, based on our assessment of the situations," Minister Gajraj said.

The reformation of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) is the main aspect of the ministry's programme for 2004. The process will include recommendations coming out of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) consultations. The Police Complaints Authority will continue to hold meetings at various locations across the country in efforts to improve the GPF and several police stations will be built and others repaired, and land and water transport equipment will be boosted.

Minister Gajraj during his budget debate presentation Thursday in Parliament bashed the opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) for levelling personal vindictive attacks against him.

Refuting allegations of his link to a "death squad," the Minister said his silence on the recent George Bacchus allegations that he was associated with a phantom gang does not mean he is guilty. He challenged the PNC/R and any person or organisation to produce evidence against him.

He disclosed that many criminals have claimed that they have connections with the PNC/R, referring to one instance when a criminal said, "when the place gets hot, he goes into Congress Place."

He cited another instance when a criminal was apprehended and was in possession of Opposition Leader Robert Corbin's cell phone number.

These, he said, are clear indications of a linkage between the criminals and the PNC/R. He contended, too, that several members of the PNCR went on several occasions to Buxton, which was seen as a haven for criminals, to meet with the criminals.

"They even seek to make the dead talk just to support their motive," which the Minister argued, is to "malign people and to get into character assassination ... with the hope of bringing down the PPP/C Government."

"This will never happen," he added.

In addition to enhancing internal security, the Minister said, the Home Affairs Ministry will focus this year on building capacity in various institutions under his portfolio and modernizing the sector through an information technology programme.

The Prison Service will also benefit from this year's budgetary allocations, through increased staffing. The Government recently approved this.

The building at the Lusignan Golf Club was purchased and will be used for training and a conference facility for prison officers, and training for prison inmates.

Additionally, vehicles, and equipment will be acquired during this year and several prison buildings will be repaired.

Meanwhile, the ministry will also focus on controlling the drug problem. But Minister Gajraj said the Guyana National Drug Master Plan, developed about nine years ago, needs to be revised to counter today's drug problems. To this end, discussions were held last year with the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), which offers technical assistance for its review.

A coordinator for the project was identified and preliminary work on this project began early this month. (GINA)