A uniformed soldier was among four persons held in a car with two unlicensed guns yesterday morning and army Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Mark Phillips says that he will have to face the full brunt of the law.
Police, in a statement, said around 10.30 am, ranks stopped a vehicle with “obscure” number plates at Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic, Georgetown, and conducted a search that uncovered an unlicensed sawn-off pump action shotgun and an unlicensed .38 revolver with six matching rounds.
The vehicle, police noted, was “being driven by a Lance Corporal of the Guyana Defence Force who was dressed in uniform and a hood.” He and the three other men who were in the vehicle were arrested and are in police custody.
The interception was made as part of the recently launched Joint Services operation—dubbed “Operation Dragnet”—which is aimed at enhancing national security.
In an invited comment to Stabroek News, Phillips confirmed that the soldier is a serving member of the army and he stressed that the matter is in the hands of the police and the soldier has to face the full brunt of the law.
Phillips emphasised that the rank will be treated like any suspected criminal and will go through the system and face the law. He said there will be “no special treatment” in this case, while adding that no serving member of the army is supposed to be the company of people allegedly partaking in illegal activities. He added that on all fronts he will be dealt with condignly.
The army protocol in such cases is for the rank to go through due process and if found guilty of wrongdoing he will face whatever penalties are imposed by courts in addition to the Defence Board.
Law enforcement sources said that it was interesting to note that two members of the Joint Services apparently involved in illegal activity were caught just days apart. The other rank being referred to was a policeman, who has been identified as one of the persons who robbed a taxi driver last week.
One source said that such incidents cast law enforcement in the wrong light and drive a greater wedge between the institutions involved and the public. It was pointed out that over the years the public trust in the police and army have been dwindling and these occurrences will further deteriorate it.
Over the years there have been calls for the corrupt ranks to be weeded out. Army ranks have already been placed before the courts for serious offences, including murder.
The source said that yesterday’s case was evidence that respect for the “uniform” has been lost. “How can you defend being in your uniform and a hoody in high day time with three civilians and guns?” the source questioned, while adding that hoods are used by criminals as a way of concealing their identity.
The source said it was hard to imagine that a uniformed officer was planning to carry out a robbery during day light hours. “Not only was there no respect for the law but there was an attempt to hide the number plate,” he said, while adding that this occurrence will not only raise eyebrows but leave persons wondering if this is a part of a widespread problem in the army.