Pubdate: Mon, 12 Nov 2007
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2007 Stabroek News


Guyana Defence Force Brigadier (ret) David A Granger  believes that
narcotics and fuel smuggling are  corrupting Guyana on a large scale
and he is calling on  the security forces to spend time suppressing
these  rather than pursuing street criminals who are mere  products of
the more lucrative illegal trades.

Granger's approach, however, contrasts with that of  President Bharrat
Jagdeo who has been calling on the  security forces to root out the
small-scale drug  pushers and criminals. A security expert who asked
not  be named told this newspaper that it was evident that  the
authorities seemed to be regarding crime as only  the street robberies
and the periodic incursions by  gunmen, and this was reflected in the
aggressive  approach of the security forces in weeding out the
criminals in Buxton and Agricola and also beefing up  security in the
commercial zones.

The security expert observed, however, that the same  posture was not
being seen in the law enforcement  agencies' fight against narcotics
trafficking, money  laundering and fuel smuggling, and that this was
reflected in the amount of resources being allocated to  agencies such
as the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit to  fight the drugs' scourge. The
US has over the years  criticized the country's fight against the
narco-trade,  noting that cocaine shipments continue to pass through
the country's porous borders, while large drug dealers  remain here

Political will

During an interview with Stabroek News on Wednesday,  Granger posited
that Guyana could experience a better  level of public safety and
security, but this would  remain elusive once there was no political
will by the  administration to implement the recommendations of
several studies conducted to improve the security  forces. He said
lack of proper crime intelligence and  integrity among some of the
security officers were also  stumbling blocks, which if not removed
would continue  to negatively affect the performance of the police

Close to 100 persons have been murdered so far for the  year and armed
robberies continue to soar. The head of  the force has also been
accused by the United States of  profiting from the drugs trade and
his visas to that  country have been revoked.

Asked for his assessment on the work of the security  forces in
combating crime, Granger said to the extent  that persons continued to
be murdered regularly and  cocaine and other illegal substances were
getting  through local ports, the security forces were yet to  arrest
the situation. He observed, however, that it was  difficult for the
security forces to be successful  unless they established sound
intelligence systems  which would help them to anticipate when crimes
were  likely to be committed, and also to identify the  perpetrators
of crime.

The former army officer said that at present the  security forces'
crime intelligence was not  sufficiently strong to perform those
tasks. "The whole  idea of intelligence is that you should not only be
  able to know about a crime, but also to anticipate and  forestall the
actions of criminals," Granger declared.

He added that the police force had suffered in this  area over the
years because of the behaviour of certain  elements in the
organization whose conduct had been  dishonourable. "They have lost
the confidence of some  sections of the population, who could provide
information which could be used as intelligence...  their behaviour
has been damaging and as a result of  that, people who are aware of
crimes and the behaviour  of criminals are reluctant to tell the
police," Granger  said.

Britain through a UKP3M Security Reform Action Plan has  promised, among
other things, to boost the police  force's intelligence capacity.

In addition, Granger said that the training of  policemen had to be
tackled seriously if the security  forces were to make any inroads
into the criminal  underworld. He said that efforts must be placed on
ensuring that well-trained officers were in key  positions in the
force, noting that it was clear that  the level of training being
given to police officers  needed be revised and made more relevant and
up-to-date  to deal with the present level and types of  criminality.
"I don't know to what extent police  training has kept abreast with
the changes, but I think  the training that recruits get at the Felix
Austin  College must be critically re-examined to determine its
usefulness," Granger stressed.

The British plan also caters for training in an effort  to strengthen
leadership. The plan promises to develop  a leadership training
programme for the senior  management of the police force and also to
implement  and sustain leadership training. The police over the  years
have been receiving assistance in the area of  training from Britain.
"If you have a large  well-trained cadre of policemen then we will
have  stronger enforcement and criminals would be afraid to  commit
crimes," Granger said.

Alleged connections

He further stated that what was needed in Guyana was a  strong,
professional police service that would apply  the full force of the
law to everyone regardless of  their social and economic status. It is
the view of  many that the police have been reluctant to seek out
drug dealers and fuel smugglers, some of whom are  alleged to have
connections with government officials.  Several known drug dealers
were allowed to live here  comfortably until they were arrested by law
enforcement  officials in other jurisdictions.

Arms smuggling

Granger said that the drug traffickers and those  involved in
contraband who were the real culprits,  engaged in arms smuggling to
protect their business and  their activities, and this was responsible
for the  spiralling crime situation. He said the criminal who  robbed
a gas station or a cambio using a hand gun, did  not have the capacity
to import the weapon he used, but  often acquired it by way of rental
and other means from  the drug traffickers and gun-runners. The issue
of the  movement of illegal weapons across the nation's borders  has
been a problem over the years and despite many  promising statements
from the authorities underscoring  their commitment to combat this
crime, not much has  been done to stem the tide.

Earlier this year the Home Affairs Ministry set up an  inter-agency
task force to look at arms smuggling and  Minister Clement Rohee said
that the body would report  to him on their findings. It is not clear
what work has  been done by the body so far, as the streets are still
awash with illegal weapons, and save for intercepting a  few citizens
here and there with small arms the police  have had little success in
reining in these illicit  weapons.

Commissioner of Police (ag) Henry Greene back in  September told a
press conference that the illegal  weapons trade was a major problem
in battling crime. He  said that the trade was flourishing at present,
adding  that the police did not have the intelligence to stop  it
because the weapons were coming from various  countries, Brazil being
the major source. "We are  working on stemming the tide of illegal
weapons  entering the country, but they are getting here in  various
ways and from several countries," Greene said  then.

Granger agreed with the Acting Commis-sioner that many  of the weapons
on the streets today were coming from  Brazil, but he asserted that it
was a shame that  although the source of the weapons had been
identified  authorities had not done anything to seal it off. The
Brigadier (ret) said that Guyana's longest border was  with Brazil,
one of the world's largest exporters of  small arms. He said the
frequency with which .38 and  .32 Taurus pistols and revolvers - which
are  manufactured there - had been showing up in street  crimes
suggested that Brazil was indeed the source.  "The fact that there is
such a large influx of illegal  Brazilian manufactured weapons coming
here you would  assume that there would have been attempts to seal
that  border or conduct surveillance to determine to what  extent guns
are being smuggled across the border,"  Granger said.

During a visit to Lethem in September residents told  this newspaper
of the prevalence of arms trafficking.  One speedboat operator who
ferries passengers across  one of the many illegal border crossings
recalled how  he transported men with suitcases containing both small
arms and rifles. Residents also said that the smuggling  of goods was
also prevalent. Granger added that some  criminal activity such as
drug trafficking depended on  weapons to protect the illegal business
and so there  was a high demand for weapons and henchmen/gunmen to
protect those activities. "So not only the frontiers  are open for
smuggling of weapons, but the mode of  criminal activities and their
nature provide a ready  market for illegal weapons and criminal gunmen
to  conduct those rackets," Brigadier Granger commented. He  said
unless there was a move to suppress the activities  "you will never
suppress the demand for the illegal  weapons."

The trade in arms for drugs by criminals in Brazil and  Guyana is said
to be a flourishing business. In this  year's US drug report it was
mentioned that the trade  in drugs for weapons by Guyanese was
thriving. Security  experts believe that criminals in Guyana,
including  drug cartels and bandits, have links to other foreign
jurisdictions, especially border countries. Meanwhile,  there have not
been many interceptions of guns coming  through Guyana's main entry
port, the Cheddi Jagan  International Airport, but the number of
illegal guns  on the streets indicates that the weapons are entering
through the porous borders. Further, illegal weapons  are not only
widely used in criminal activities in  Guyana, but also circulate at
all levels of society,  and as public security continues to
deteriorate, demand  for these weapons seems to be on the rise.

Border control

Granger acknowledged that with the current strength of  the police
force it is hardly likely that it would be  able to monitor the
borders effectively. He noted that  in addition to boosting its human
resource capacity,  the police force would need to conduct aerial as
well  as maritime surveillance of its borders to detect
people-trafficking, contraband and drugs smuggling. The  former army
officer said that the country had a vast  number of unpatrolled
crossings with Brazil and other  countries and several unmonitored

Guyana and Brazil had signed an agreement a few years  ago to
cooperate in the area of security and public  safety, but Granger said
that while the Brazil Federal  Police had been helpful to Georgetown
he was not sure  whether this country had the capacity to fulfil the
agreement. "We have to monitor our side of the borders  if people are
crossing illegally; we must set up  immigration posts, conduct
patrols. Security is a big  thing [and] once you are slack you will
have problems,"  Granger said.

Asked about the access to AK-47 and M-70 rifles, he  said that of all
combat weapons the AK-47 was  manufactured in the greatest quantity.
He said it was  the most popular assault weapon in the world and was
also cheap. "They are coming from all over the  socialist world and
even Venezuela," Granger said. On  whether he would support a gun
amnesty programme,  Granger said it would not work in Guyana, arguing
that  there had to be two approaches to tackling gun  smuggling and
these were: strong intelligence -  identifying the source of the
weapons, who were the  traffickers (gun-runners), the various
networks, and  how the weapons were being trafficked and

The second was enforcement, which included patrols.  Tougher laws on
gun crimes, he observed, would not  suffice. "People are not afraid of
laws, they are  afraid of the enforcement of [them]. If you have a
large cadre of officers who are well trained, efficient  and doing
their work that is what will beat back the  criminals, not whether an
offence is bailable or  non-bailable," the retired brigadier stated.
Granger  said that the administration must also be prepared to  give
the force more resources. He said some people  thought that crime
could be fought by shooting  criminals and carrying out mass arrests,
but this would  not work. Granger said what was needed was for the
security forces through strong intelligence to know who  was funding
the criminals, how they disposed of their  loot and how they acquired
their weapons. "You have to  unravel their network and then you will
get to them,"  Granger said.
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