A large quantity of contraband items, including improvised weapons as well as cell phones and drugs, were seized during raids conducted at the Georgetown and New Amsterdam prisons yesterday as part of increased security measures.
The Ministry of the Presidency later said that the Joint Services conducted “Operation Safeguard” at the prisons as part of “heightened security activities” to ensure domestic security.
The raids were conducted a day after the government announced that the police force and army would be conducting security operations in light of information on a “potential domestic security threat” and increased crimes.
The operation, which began at both prisons simultaneously around 6am, saw members of the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Defence Force, Prison Service and Guyana Fire Service engaged in the removal the contraband items as well as inspections of the facilities.
According to a Ministry of Presidency statement, at the Georgetown Prison 21 improvised weapons and knives, 20 razor blades, 558 grammes of marijuana, 22 cellular phones and five gallons of homemade wine, along with a number of other banned items were found. It added that a lesser number of similar items were found at the New Amsterdam Prison.
The statement noted that the security forces are gravely concerned by the recovery of such a large haul of contraband at the Georgetown Prison, which was only last searched just under two months ago on September 23, 2016.
As a result, the statement said government will continue to work closely with the Guyana Prison Service and the Joint Services to address ongoing security weaknesses at the nation’s correctional facilities.
It also said that the Guyana Police Force along with the Joint Services, where necessary, will continue to scale up security activities in targeted areas to ensure the security of residents and visitors across Guyana as the country enters the holiday season and in light of the uptick in criminal activity.
In announcing the launch of the security operations on Friday, the government said it had received “credible information related to a potential domestic security threat,” although it did not provide any details on the nature of the threat or the length of the operations. It, however, asked that citizens not be alarmed and cooperate with the security forces where necessary as they engaged in security operations in targeted areas.
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan told Stabroek News on Friday that he could not go into detail on the potential security threat but asked that citizens trust that it is in the best interest of their safety and security that the special measures are implemented by government.
“It is a matter of national security and domestic security. I don’t think we desire to give any further details. That will be irresponsible.
We want, during the Christmas season, to have as much high alert and security around as possible, because during Christmas time, as you know, there is much more commercial activities and there is also activities of a violent nature too. That is as much as I can tell you at this time. We are taking into consideration that, and we are having that operation commence,” Ramjattan said.
“You don’t have to be worried. My message to you, with all the threats that we have at hand lots of violence… robberies inside of Main Street and all of that… we are taking into consideration these things and feel there is kind of a domestic threat. I wouldn’t go beyond that …I want to put everybody on alert. It is putting people on alert because Guyanese are still not being on alert. I am urging people to understand in this moment, be far more alert and concerned about themselves and neighbours and so on. We need to have a community effort and so on too…It is part of government’s crime fighting strategy in getting the community involved and making the community think about it a lot more . Knowing very well that if they are not alert they can have someone snatch their bags and run away. We want people to be alert,” he added.