Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan on Thursday could not tell the National Assembly when the security reform plan done by British expert Lt Col (ret’d) Russell Combe would be available to parliamentarians for scrutiny as he explained that the answer lies with President David Granger.
PPP/C Parliamentarian Harry Gill asked Ramjattan when the report, which he described as a strategy that was “touted to end all crime in Guyana and which was handed over to President Granger some seven months ago, would be made available to the House and when it is expected to be presented to the Parliamentary Oversight Committee for Security to be scrutinised.”
“I will communicate to the president in relation to the answers to those questions and as fast as possible communicate the answers to you,” Ramjattan said in response.
Days after receiving the report in January, the President provided few details about the areas the proposed reforms focused on.
When he addressed the Annual Police Officers’ Conference, Granger had said the reforms would entail crime prevention through improved intelligence and proactive deployment, protection of victims and vulnerable groups from criminal behaviour or disorder, and the promotion of greater public confidence in officers through ethical conduct, and the promulgation of measures aimed at building the force’s capacity and capability.
Combe has since returned to Guyana to continue advising the government on security sector reform, on a contract which will end in March next year.
Meanwhile, in answer to questioning by PPP/C Parliamentarian Clement Rohee, Ramjattan denied that there has been interference in the operation of the Guyana Police Force. “Absolutely no interference,” Ramjattan said in response to the direct question. The minister also declared “Absolutely not” in answer to another question posed by Rohee as to whether there is a lack of confidence in the administration by Guyanese.
In his oral questions posed to Ramjattan, Rohee noted that the latest figures on crime provided by the police showed an increase in robberies, robberies with firearms and rapes and then asked about the precise plans and measures the minister intended to implement to reduce the incidents of robberies and rapes. He also asked about the plans the minister has to address the “growing drug trade,” which was recognised as a major threat in the US State Department’s 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. This has been the position of the annual report for several years now.
Rohee also asked how the minister intends to address money laundering, which the same report had addressed and which cited government corruption as a major source of money laundering. Ramjattan later denied that the latter claim was listed in the report and said the reference to government corruption was in reference to the past government in light of the investigations done by Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
In relation to the increase in rape cases, he said more persons are making reports, which would not have happened in the past. He suggested that the increase in reporting was due to the “new confidence” by the public in the police force that their complaints would be investigated and the accused brought to justice.
The minister also pointed out that there is an ongoing strategy to fight the drug trade but noted that because of the country’s porous borders, the illegal trade continues to thrive. However, he noted that a number of persons have been arrested lately due to the intelligence gathering and surveillance strategy being employed by the various units in the drug fight. Assistance has been requested and received from countries, such as the US and Suriname, he also noted.
Rohee, a former Home Affairs Minister who himself would have faced the same questions during his tenure, also asked Ramjattan about measures and methods his ministry would put in place to build trust in the capacity of his ministry to address crime.
Ramjattan spoke of the use of intelligence to conduct covert and overt operations to get to the persons committing the crimes and these are inclusive of sting operations and roadblocks. He also mentioned a social crime prevention initiative, focusing on at-risk youth, which has been happening at all police stations.
Rohee also spoke of “buckets of ammunition” being brought into Guyana and Ramjattan asked him for specific information so that the police can investigate. He acknowledged, however, that there is greater use of firearms and he attributed this to porous borders and guns becoming far more accessible to criminals.