Our young adults of Lethem and other parts of the Rupununi district, are now becoming vulnerable to trans-border criminal activities, and have links to organized gang members in Brazil. They are influenced very strongly by their coastal counterparts, because of the language barrier and their knowledge of the terrain. Recently, a gang of young high-profile criminals were intercepted by Brazilian authorities on the frontier, heading back to Guyana, where they were being harboured by known characters in Lethem. One of the fugitives, a woman from Boa Vista, Roraima, was implicated in a murder where she stabbed a rival female gang member fifty-five times.
Our remote airstrips remain poorly monitored, we have intricate river networks, our borders are porous and there is weak regional security capacity. Guyana continues to be a transit country for South American cocaine destined for West Africa, Europe, USA, Canada and the Caribbean.
I am not privy to the crime statistics in ‘F’ Division, but evidence suggests that there has been a sharp rise in juvenile delinquency and serious crime since the year 2000, which is a matter of grave concern to many of us here in the Rupununi.
In recent times there have been some new developments in the form of the discovery of turbo-prop planes by our security forces. These were in close proximity to our savannah road networks. They were nothing new to the locals living here, where these clandestine operations were unhindered. At present some efforts are being made by our security forces to make a dent in these covert activities that are suspected to be carried out by a well organized crime syndicate.
Our level of preparedness to repulse this current crime trend in our region must be stepped up, since the advent of oil production in 2020, and the proposed construction of the Lethem-Linden highway will bring a security challenge to our government. The stakeholders and guardians of the Rupununi district must come up with a formidable security plan to assist the government in maintaining law and order in our region.
The main focus must be on our youths who will be the future leaders of tomorrow, and who without education and employment will turn to some other activity to satisfy their needs. The end of the GNS has had a long term effect, since there are many hopeless youths living in difficult and disadvantaged geographical locations, such as the Rupununi.
Hence, we are calling on Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan to introduce the much touted Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP) to our region. It was launched in Georgetown last August 2016, and funded by a US$15 loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. An article in the Kaieteur News (August 25, 2016) made mention of the fact that 4,400 school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 25 will be trained and eased into the working world under the programme over the next four years. Community action specialist, Mr Mark Ross, who co-ordinates the programme in the Ministry of Public Security, went on to say, “each of the 4,400 youths will be provided with a stipend of US$70 a month to cover transportation costs.” This went with a promise to provide a level playing field for all the youths from different geographical locations, and an undertaking that 300 of them will be given the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills and will be provided with US$1,500 to establish their own businesses.
Apart from the HEYS programme that is co-ordinated by the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, there is need for a lifeline to take our vulnerable youths out of murky waters and place them on firm ground. The CSSP may be the answer to their cries, rather than have young, jobless Amerindian men and women, finding little to do for their personal upliftment, other than idling around their villages and communities creating problems for their village councils, and then venturing further into more serious antisocial behavioural patterns. They will become potential perpetrators who will be easily recruited into a criminal enterprise on our border locations, and who may one day come back to haunt our peaceful villages and present government.
Mark Anthony Rodrigues