Ahead of Venezuela’s parliamentary elections this weekend and the busy Christmas shopping season, government yesterday announced that it had launched Operation Dragnet, a massive countrywide anti-crime and counter-terrorism operation.
“It is a Joint Services operation which the joint services … [and] other agencies will be conducting with effect from December 1 to June 2016,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon told a post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday.
He explained that after briefing Cabinet on his recent visit to Malta, President David Granger reiterated the need for the preparedness of Guyana’s citizenry as regards security from a holistic standpoint. Harmon said the populace should not consider Guyana as a territory that is exempt from terrorism threats and made reference to recent attacks in France, Mali and Russia. He also homed in on the region pointing to “terrorist influences” in nearby Trinidad and Tobago.
“Terrorism has no defined borders. Terrorism can occur anywhere … I believe that we are not immune from that and therefore it would be remiss of a government if it does not put into place arrangements which will secure its citizenry. So we are not waiting for something to happen,” he said.
The Minister of State pointed out that all statutory security operations will be incorporated into the countrywide operation and it means that on the borders there will be enhanced presence of security forces. “…There will be intensified scrutiny by the immigration services. In the towns and in the villages, there is going to be an increased presence of police ranks.
“You know that there is an election that will be taking place in the month of December in Venezuela and, therefore, we always have to be on the alert for these things that are occurring on our borders,” he stated.
In addition, Harmon informed that Operation Dragnet was in part government’s response to concerns raised by the business community and reiterated by Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin. As such he said it was government’s way of assuring the business community that their concerns did not fall on deaf ears while at the same time allaying the crime fears of the populace.
“You know at Christmas time there is always an increased presence of ranks on the streets because there is an increase in economic activities…The Minister of Business has been asking that we put in place some kind of special arrangement. We needed to put some additional measures so people feel safe as they go about their business, school, homes and in their communities,” he asserted.
Meanwhile he also announced that government was given the assurance by Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud that all persons not engaged in core functions will be deployed for a robust police presence countrywide.
Last month, following the invasion by bandits of the home of former Crime Chief Leslie James, former President Donald Ramotar called for the army to be deployed to assist the police. His call was met by a rebuff from President Granger.
The President was reported by the Guyana Chronicle as saying he had given instructions to the army and it would be better if Ramotar kept away from that matter. He was reported as going on to comment that his instructions to both the police and the army were in the best interest of the nation. “I meet the Chief of Staff every week and I am fully aware of what needs to be done in order to deal with the defence situation… and also the crime situation,” Granger was quoted as telling reporters.
Ramotar, in his statement has said that the attack on James illustrated how crime is “spiralling out of control” in the country.
“This is a blatant and brazen attack on one of our most senior police officers,” he said. “It is a slap in the face of the Guyana Police Force and the government as a whole,” he added, while voicing his disappointment at the “casual” approach the government has taken towards handling the situation.
Ramotar pointed out that during the PPP/C’s time in office, the army was called out to do joint patrols with the police during times of heightened criminal activities and it worked well. In particular, he noted that during the Christmas season there were joint patrols to minimise crimes. “This needs to be continued now,” he said.
“I am extremely disappointed that the mentality of the APNU+AFC regime is to keep the army in barracks. The trend all over the world is for the army to come out and work with the police in combatting crime, as in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, [and] Mexico among others in the world.” He added that as the nature of crime evolves, the role of the disciplined forces must also evolve.
“If Mr Leslie James’s home was so wantonly invaded, no one is safe from criminals,” he added.