Pubdate: Sun, 21 Oct 2007
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2007 Stabroek News
Author: Nigel Williams


As Guyanese mules continue to be held abroad and a  family was
recently granted asylum in Canada because of  threats from a drug
lord, the government's much-vaunted  drug master plan which promised
witness protection and  other innovations has barely inched out of the
starting  blocks.

Last month a Guyanese family of three was granted  refugee status in
Canada under the Canadian  Immigra-tion and Protection Act after
arguing that the  police here provided no protection when they had
been  threatened by a drug lord. The decision handed down on
September 28, 2007 in Toronto, Canada, by AC Knevel,  the tribunal
judge acting on behalf of the Immigration  and Refugee Board of Canada
said they were accepted as  refugees under the UN Convention based on
their claims.  The case was heard on September 21. The family was
represented by Guyanese immigration barrister and  solicitor living
and working in Canada, Balwant Persaud  who had told Stabroek News
from Toronto that the family  fled Guyana after the head of the
family, a former  wharf manager of a leading shipping company, was
asked  to turn a blind eye to shipments of mainly rice,  concealing
narcotics destined for Europe. Several  shipments of products from
Guyana - including rice and  timber - have been he! ld abroad after
cocaine was found  hidden in them. Several shipments have also been
found  at wharves here.

In recent months there have also been several cases  where drugs have
transited through the Cheddi Jagan  International Airport, Timehri
without being detected  by security apparatus. Heroin was also
recently found  on a passenger who left Timehri. In addition,
high-profile drug accused have evaded capture here and  the US, in
particular, has expressed concern over the  quality of the drug fight.

Meanwhile, Two years after the $650M drug master plan  was unveiled by
President Bharrat Jagdeo little or  nothing has been done to have it
implemented. Home  Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said that they have
appointed, Crime Specialist, Errol Vannooten as the  co-coordinator of
the National Anti-Narcotics  Coordinating Secretariat (NANCOS), the
unit responsible  for pushing the strategy ahead. Contacted last week
for  a comment on his work so far Vannooten said that he  could not
speak to the press without consent from  Rohee. The minister has since
been unavailable to this  newspaper.

Rohee had promised earlier this year that some of the  measures
outlined in the strategy were being put in  place, although admitting
that little progress has been  made with respect to implementing the
strategy. The  strategy was unveiled in June 2005 with much fanfare
and President Jagdeo had said at the launch that  funding for it would
come from donor agencies. Rohee  could not say whether the
administration has already  identified the funding sources, when
questioned about  this a few months back.

The drug plan was unveiled after a four-year hiatus  where
anti-narcotics master plans were concerned, and  amid international
pressure for Guyana to act against  the burgeoning drugs trade and the
growing influence of  drug lords. The plan was one of the documents to
be  studied by members of the National Commission on Law  and Order,
which is chaired by Rohee.


According to the strategy, the government will enact  legislation
establishing and empowering NANCOS to deal  with counter-narcotics
activities; to supervise the  implementation of the drug plan,
regional and  international drug agreements and to prepare monthly
reports for submission to the National Anti-Narcotics  Commission.

Further, it also seeks to amend laws dealing with  electronic
surveillance and wiretapping. Among other  things, such a law would
make admissible in the local  courts expert scientific evidence from
foreign  jurisdictions. Further, the intention is to make the
provisions relating to liquid narcotics/hashish seizure  and
forfeiture less cumbersome. Several security  experts had told this
newspaper that the wiretapping  legislation would help reduce the drug
problem and  could contribute in large measure to the arrest of many
drug dealers.

The plan also encompassed increasing the joint  enforcement presence
at the nine ports of entry, the  establishment of an enforcement port
in the vicinity of  the Orinoco Delta and other locations and
increased  surveillance at the Bartica, Anna Regina, Linden and
Enmore airstrips, none of which has materialised.

Moreover, the strategy had envisaged that in the first  year the
secretariat would be established and funding  sources - local,
bilateral and international would be  identified. The Joint
Intelligence Coordi-nation Centre  (JICC) was also to be
operationalised in the first year  and the Immi-gration and Criminal
Investigation  Depart-ment (CID) computerised. It was only recently
government set up an inter-agency task force on drugs  and guns. The
task force is comprised of members from  the Police Force, army,
Guyana Revenue Authority, the  Financial Intelligence Unit, the Custom
Anti-Narcotics  Unit and other bodies.

Additionally, the drug plan calls for the completion of  outstanding
legislative requirements covering  narcotics, money laundering and
food and drugs,  together with the relevant regulations. Work has
begun  in this area.

Year one of the implementation of the plan should have  seen the
development of a national policy on demand  reduction, the
strengthening of border controls and the  enactment of laws to allow
for law enforcement agencies  to be supported from the proceeds of

Also expected in the initial year were the signing and  ratifying of
international agreements and conventions,  the drawing up of a
Memoran-dum of Understanding by law  enforcement agencies and the
commissioning of a study  on the police forensics unit. Government
earlier this  year purchased several pieces of equipment to boost the
deficient police laboratory. However, the unit still  lacks the
capability to conduct DNA testing and other  assays. Training for
central bank and financial  institutions staff as catered for under
the Money  Laundering Act, the operationalising of the Financial
Intelligence Unit, the establishment of rehabilitation  programmes for
drug abusers and the fostering of prison  rehabilitation and
counselling complete the measures to  be implemented within the first
two years of the  strategy.


The ruling PPP in a statement issued on Friday said  that it saw the
granting of asylum to the Guyanese as a  clear contradiction in
Canada's policy, noting that  Ottawa is one of the countries that has
deported drug  dealers to Guyana on a regular basis, most of whom have
  lived a greater part of their lives in that country.  "Guyana had
protested this policy of some of the  developed countries, including
Canada in extraditing  drug dealers and other criminals to us," the
PPP said  in its statement. It added that indeed the party had
mentioned before that while the developed countries  have a policy to
attract our brains away to their  shores, at the same time they seem
to also solve their  social problems. "It is immoral for Canada to
send  criminals back to Guyana, which is one of the factors  that have
caused crimes of this nature to be difficult  to curb, while at the
same time granting asylum to  persons who allegedly are threatened by
drug dealers,"  the PPP said.

The main opposition PNCR however, stated, that it came  as no surprise
to most Guyanese that the family had to  flee because their lives had
been threatened by a drug  dealer. "This situation clearly underlines
the extent  to which the drug lords, through their ill-gotten  wealth
and connection to the PPP/C political elite have  undermined important
institutions, like the police to  the extent that they can no longer
offer protection to  the Guyanese people," the PNCR declared.

The lawyer for the Guyanese family had noted that it  was the second
case in which he had to represent a  family which was forced to flee
Guyana because of  drug-related problems. The other involved a family
with  two children. The facts in that matter stated that the  family's
car, a white carina, was hijacked and used for  a number of criminal
activities. This case occurred  over two years ago. Persaud said that
the family had  also been threatened.
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