Crime Chief bemoans lack of capacity for DNA testing locally

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has vented its frustration at the lack of capacity to conduct DNA testing locally.
This frustration was expressed by Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum during a press conference organised by the GPF.
“The lack of capacity to conduct DNA testing indeed is affecting us, because many of the cases are before the court, and there is a huge backlog. It is quite expensive to send these samples overseas. We were able to get some to a lab in Miami recently, but we still have a backlog, and we’re hoping that that situation can be resolved as early as possible,” he said.
He said the criminal justice system is currently seeing a backlog of more than 20 cases due to the country’s incapability to conduct such testing. While he could not state how long there has been a backlog, the Crime Chief said that has been ongoing for some time now.
Having this type of testing, he explained, would help to eliminate backlogs, strengthen crime laboratory capacity, and stimulate research and development.
Among the cases that are being backlogged is the case of Suraj Dhaneshwar, a fisherman who went missing after his boat had capsized in March. On April 12, a badly decomposed body was washed up at the foreshore at Dantzig, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara, and it is suspected to be that of Dhaneshwar, but only the DNA test can confirm this suspicion.
In May of this year, it was announced that Guyana’s DNA testing capabilities are set for a massive upgrade with the procurement of new equipment costing the state some US$300,000. The equipment is expected to arrive in the country soon, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn had told the media.
It has been reported that even though the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory can perform DNA testing, there are challenges when those tests are to be conducted on badly decomposed bodies, and in other circumstances where sampling is poor. Currently, the forensic lab can conduct DNA testing for comparison or matching evidence to suspects, paternity testing, and family mapping. (G9)