Georgetown, Guyana – (December 2, 2015) The Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Public Security, has commenced its six-month crime fighting strategy "Operation DRAGNET" to clamp down on crime and to prepare Guyana to respond to any acts of terrorism or aggression at its borders.
In his post-Cabinet press briefing today, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that President David Granger has asked Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan to operationalise the plan.
"'Operation DRAGNET' is a joint services operation in which the joint services in coordination with government agencies and other law enforcement agencies will conduct intensified security operations in Guyana beginning from December 1, 2015 to June 2016. What that means is that all statutory security operations will be integrated into this operation DRAGNET with the end result that we will have enhanced national security and environment," Harmon said.
The operation aims to tackle crime and to prepare law enforcement agencies for any possible threats of terrorism.
"This means that on the borders there will be an enhanced presence; at our ports of entries there will be an intensified scrutiny of immigration services in the country itself and in the towns and villages, there will be an increase in the presence of police ranks. The Commissioner of Police has also indicated that all those ranks who are not engaged on core functions will be deployed to give an increased robust presence in the towns and villages," the minister said.
According to Harmon, government initiated "Operation DRAGNET" to reassure citizens and businesses that it was safe to conduct business.
"As you know, around Christmas time, there is always an increased presence of ranks on the streets because you have an increase in economic activities; businesses are opened for a long period of time, you have more people shopping and there is a lot of actual cash because of the type of economy that we have and so it was felt necessary to ensure that the businesses got the assurance that government is taking their concerns [into consideration] and putting some form of action in place. We have looked at [the matter] very carefully and decided that we needed to put some additional measures into place to ensure that people feel safe as they go about their business, people feel safe in their homes and their communities," he said.
While Guyana has not had any acts of terrorism or extremism, government is not taking lightly the matter of its citizens' safety, Harmon said. Further, in the light of the continued claims of Guyana's territory by Venezuela and Suriname, and with elections imminent in the latter nation, government will ensure that its borders are secured.
"...terrorism has no defined borders. We are not immune to that and it will be remiss of a government if it does not put into place arrangements which can secure its citizenry and so we are not going to wait for something to happen. We are putting in place arrangements which will secure and make our citizens safe. Additionally, we always have situations at our borders and so we always have to be on alert for things like this," the minister said.
President Granger's approval for 'Operation DRAGNET' follows closely on the heels of his announcement that significant changes will be made within the Guyana Police Force, many of which will be realised in the new year. Police are likely to benefit from salary upgrades and other measures in keeping with government's plan to reform the security sector.
The President has engaged Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), David Cameron on restoring the Security Sector Action Plan, which was rejected in 2009 by the previous administration. Speaking to Guyanese journalists in Malta earlier this week, on his weekly programme "The Public Interest", Granger said plans are in train to overhaul the local security sector. This includes providing better training, equipment and remuneration packages for police officers, most of which will be covered in the 2016 National Budget which is expected to be presented in January.
The President also asserted that the prevailing crime situation in Guyana is, in every respect, the legacy of the damage that was inflicted on the police force, particularly since 1999. He said the previous administration had "methodically and systematically ignored recommendations for over 15 years", underfunding and underequipping its members, demotivating them and that they are directly responsible for what currently obtains in the "badly damaged" Force.
The Head of State also spoke of the interventions offered by the British Government and the recommendations made by individual police organisations, commissions and consultancies to address the problems within the Force.
He noted that in recent months there have been some positive changes in the operations of the GPF, particularly with regard to crime fighting. "More crimes are being solved more quickly...by the GPF," he said, though he acknowledged that the Force needs more assets like aircraft and ATVs for coastland and Hinterland patrols.
The President also announced that Commander of 'F' Division, Senior Superintendent Ravindradat Budhram is being transferred from Rabbit Walk, Eve Leary to Bartica in an effort to clamp down on crime in the mining districts.
"We are aware of the problems affecting the security sector but if you look at those problems, the murder rate, banditry and piracy, these are problems which we inherited and which we are dealing with," he said.