Security comes to Guyana
January 27, 2007
With Cricket World Cup just around the corner, countries like Guyana that paid precious little attention to security must now come to grips with the real world.
In the not too distant past Guyana allowed just about anyone to enter the country, granting them three days.
The authorities never paid too much attention to visas, granting special permission to people from the region, in the process, giving reality to the principle of free movement of Caribbean nationals. And this continued even as Guyanese were getting a torrid time in some countries, notably Barbados .
In the wake of the terrorist attack on the United States in September 2001, reality came to Guyana when it became mandatory that we drastically improve security at the national airport and at the various seaports. The world had begun to look for bombs and other devices among ordinary passengers.
The Guyana Government spent millions of dollars on security equipment. A state-of-the-art scanner was installed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport to not only detect destructive weapons and articles, but also narcotics.
Of course, having grown accustomed to a relatively lax arrangement at the main port of entry, many resented the introduction of sophisticated equipment.
The Cabinet Secretary, when asked about the passage of cocaine despite the most sophisticated equipment, reported that he had conducted a tour of the facility and found that someone had switched of a part of the equipment that would have aided in the detection of foreign objects that have no place aboard an aircraft.
The government even added security cameras to track the movement of workers around the airport. These cameras were key to resolving several complaints, including one by a man who claimed that a Customs officer had assaulted him. The cameras revealed otherwise.
The cameras also helped detect a worker who attempted to steal or to smuggle a quantity of cellular phones from among the cargo. But any system is as good as the people who manage it.
It was a long time before people recognised the importance of enhanced security at the various offices and business places. The police had long advised them to invest some money on closed circuit television, but many baulked at the cost. Some tried to cut corners and bought cheap equipment that was little better than useless.
Today with crime taking on new dimensions, with the criminals adopting more sophisticated measures, many people are now beginning to recognise the importance of enhanced security. To this end, they are beginning to recognise that money spent on security is money well invested.
One business place is lauding its virtues. Its security cameras helped arrest some people who seemed to have knowledge of security systems and managed to short circuit an alarm system to steal large sums of money.
Cricket World Cup is going to bring all manner of people to Guyana. There are going to be those who would usually follow tourists because of the knowledge that tourists often have large sums of disposable income. These people would be the prostitutes, the thieves and even the con artists.
While it is a given that such a following is expected, the wider world expects the Caribbean region to do what some of the developed countries would not even attempt. They have made demands and many of the countries in the region have gone up to the stage where they have introduced machine-readable passports, designed to detect forgeries.
On Monday, Grenada will become the eighth member to introduce machine-readable passports. Trinidad did that on Thursday. Guyana is about to do the same. For the Cricket World Cup, Guyana will be putting in place measures to read the passports although it will not have such passports of its own.
It has already spent in excess of US$3 million on these passports, money that could be used elsewhere, but something that security demands.