Members of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee for Social Services on Friday urged more collaboration between the Guyana Police Force and other stakeholders to curb the illegal sale of alcohol and its consumption by minors.
The call was made when Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, Commander of ‘A’ Division Marlon Chapman and Senior Superintendent Royston Junior made a presentation to the committee on the enforcement of the existing law as it relates to the sale of alcohol to minors at the Public Buildings.
The committee had previously written the force requesting information as it relates to the fight against the illegal sale of alcohol and the consumption of alcohol by minors.
PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Vindhya Persaud, who is the Chairperson of the Committee, said that the information is to help the committee to better understand what is happening in the fight against illegal alcohol vending, the consumption of alcohol by minors and other issues surrounding alcohol and its consumption, all with the aim of ensuring a more informed perspective for crafting legislation and putting policies in place.
In terms of the illegal sale of alcohol and unlicensed bars, Junior explained that the force usually conducts raids on shops when it receives information about illegal operations. He added that the Guyana Revenue Authority is also mandated to do enforcement as it relates to illegal shops and bars.
In relation to the prosecution of persons for selling alcohol to minors, Junior explained that currently the force does not have any special activities targeting the situation. However, he added that when business owners are observed engaging in such transactions, they are instructed to desist.
With respect to data collection, he said the force has no method to collect data to show the consumption of alcohol by minors per region and systems must be put in place.
After the short presentation, the police representatives were faced with questions and also given suggestions by the members of the committee.
APNU+AFC MP Valerie Garrido-Lowe pointed out that because of capacity limitations, the police force cannot do it alone and there must be collaboration between all the stakeholders in the fight, especially the battle to curb the sale of alcohol to minors.
PPP/C MP Indra Chandarpal also pointed out that there needs to be a thorough awareness programme to educate shop owners and the general public that it is unlawful to sell alcohol to minors. She also suggested that when persons uplift their licences to sell alcohol, it should be mandatory that they purchase a sticker or sign that says it is illegal for alcohol to be sold to minors. “You can’t right away start locking people up. You have to educate them and need to raise awareness. Educate the shopkeepers along with the public,” she said.
The committee also highlighted the importance of having data on the various issues and said that there needs to be a proper data collection method, which would aid the fight against curbing the sale of alcohol to minors.
At the end of the discussion, Junior said that the forum gave the force the opportunity to review its position and to proceed in a more deliberate manner in tackling the issues. He added that the force also acknowledges alcohol abuse as being one of the major problems that contributes to other social issues, including crime.