Despite concern over the high incidence of criminal activities, government sees no need to further utilize the army in crime-fighting efforts, according to Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman.
Addressing reporters during a post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, Trotman informed that at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan presented a report on crime and security statistics as well as the plans to be put in place for year-end security, particularly during the Christmas period.
He said that in the report Ramjattan highlighted the situation by way of statistics about the number of types of crimes committed over the past week. Trotman said that among the highlights were that there were no incidents of piracy during the reporting period.
“This was attributed to ongoing collaboration between the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Defence Force and their Surinamese counterparts,” he said, while adding that the minister then briefed Cabinet on the security measures that would be implemented during the upcoming holiday period, and efforts to combat crime generally.’
He said members of the Cabinet expressed their “continued concern about the high incidence of criminal activities across the country and urged the honourable minister to intensify efforts to address the issue.”
Asked whether based on the statistics presented there was any proposal to further utlilize the army in the crime fighting, he responded in the negative. He said that the Defence Act Chapter 15:01 sets out the specific use and deployment of the Guyana Defence Force.
“It is only if the state is under threat—and sometimes that threat is as a result of criminal or other violent activity within the state—that the army should be deployed. We may see some confidence-building patrols where members of the army may go alongside the police but at this point in time we don’t believe that there is any threat to the state that should see deployment of the military,” he explained.
Government within the last week, announced the army’s collaboration with the police in security measures in light of a “potential domestic security threat.” It was stated that the police force and army would be conducting security operations that would include aerial coverage by helicopters, in targeted areas.
As part of the joint operations, the army was involved in joint services searches at the Georgetown and New Amsterdam prisons during which a large amount of contraband was found.
Turning his attention to that discovery, Trotman said that it could pose a national security threat if not properly handled. “The GDF was rightly and properly deployed for that operation and then again rightly and properly returned to barracks but the sight …of men and women in green in patrol, we don’t believe that should be a regular feature ….and though trends do show higher incidents of crimes with firearms we don’t believe that they pose a threat that warrants the use of the military,” he added.
According to a Ministry of the Presidency statement, last Saturday, 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 23rd, 2016.