In light of information on a “potential domestic security threat” and increased crimes, the government yesterday announced that the police force and army will be conducting security operations, which will include aerial coverage by helicopters, in targeted areas.
“The Government of Guyana has received credible information related to a potential domestic security threat,” the Ministry of the Presidency yesterday. It did not provide any further information on the nature of the threat.
It added that this information, “coupled with increased criminal activity has resulted in the decision by the Administration to institute security measures in targeted areas, starting [today]. These operations will be conducted by the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).”
As part of the exercise, there will be an increased air and ground presence of the Joint Services and government wants citizens to cooperate with the security forces where needs be and not be alarmed.
“Citizens can expect to see helicopters providing aerial coverage and an increased number of police officers, along with members of the GDF on the ground in certain areas. Citizens are asked not to be alarmed but to cooperate with security forces where neces-sary. The safety of all residents and visitors to Guyana remains a top priority for the administration,” the ministry statement said.
It did not indicate how long the operations would last.
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan told Stabroek News yesterday that he could not go into detail of the operations or what the potential security threat is at this time, 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.
Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force Brigadier George Lewis explained to Stabroek News yesterday that the public would see the evidence of the operation and he too assured there was nothing to panic about.
“There is nothing for the public to be alarmed about …the operations will be conducted in several regions of Guyana. It is not a normal thing to see all this movement, so we don’t want that public to see the movements and be alarmed.
He also explained that “The Joint Services are at this time …unable to release the details of the operation” as they “have to try to maintain the integrity of the operation (and) at this time it may well compromise the entire operation.”
However, security sources say it is very unusual for the authorities to issue such a general warning without any specificity about the type of threat or the potential area.
President David Granger, in a recording of ‘The Public Interest’ on Thursday, suggested that there is an ongoing campaign to paint the government and security force in a negative light.
“I am suspicious… that there are some persons who are committing crimes to show that the police force and government are weak. We don’t know for sure what is taking place but many of these crimes have their origin in the weakening of the police force in the early days and so we have a very serious problem on our hands,” he said.
The announcement of heightened security operations comes after weeks of pressure on the government over the crime rate. Both the government and the police force had denied that serious crime was up, insisting that official figures showed that it was on the decline. The private sector and other voices had called for urgent action to tackle crime. The last few weeks have seen a range of daring and brutal attacks on several Chinese-owned businesses as well as on householders. The residence of former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee was also raided.