The impression that Guyana is in a “really bad state” as compared to other countries with regard to the country’s crime rate is “not true”.
This is according to Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, who at a press conference on Friday said: “sometimes this thing is emblazoned across the front pages of newspapers giving the impression as though we are in a real bad state, [but it’s] not really true”.
He stated that although crimes are occurring, there must be an appreciation of the fact that Guyanese live in a geopolitical space (Latin America and the Caribbean) where interpersonal violence is the highest in the world.
However, this analysis of the escalating crime situation in Guyana did not go down well with Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Harry Gill; a Member of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Security Sector, who in no uncertain terms called for the Minister to either be reassigned or fired as Public Security Minister.
“Like most Guyanese, I am totally disgusted by all the brutal, senseless killings and barefaced robberies taking place every day throughout the country, and the apparent lack of any coherent plan by the Minister of Public Security to end this escalating crime spree,” Gill said in a letter to the editor on Saturday.
He added that the ease with which criminals are going about their business, “brutalising families in their homes, stripping them of their valuables, their dignity and often, their very lives, is reminiscent of the infamous Burnham era of the notorious kick down the door bandits. And Minister Khemraj Ramjattan seems clueless and in denial,” he added.
According to the PPP Parliamentarian, the Government’s news agencies continue to publicise articles which give the impression that there has been a steady decrease in crime since the APNU/AFC coalition was elected but that independent press reports reveal an escalating crime wave that is “out of control”.
He posited that since 2015, crime has escalated to dangerous levels, prompting the British Government and the US State Department to issue travel advisories to their citizens to exercise caution when travelling to Guyana due to an increase in crime, citing violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder as being “common”.
“Yet Ramjattan declares it is not really true…Since Khemraj Ramjattan became Minister of Public Security, he has brought the entire security sector in disrepute: In March 2016, seventeen (17) prisoners were burnt to death and 11 others injured in what was described as the worst prison riot in our history.
Then in July 2017, during the blazing inferno of the Camp Street Prison, a prison officer was murdered and 8 notorious, hard-core criminals escaped, two of whom are believed to be still on the run. Since then, there have been several more well-organised prison breaks, countless murders and armed robberies that dominate the news behind Government corruption. No doubt, Minister Ramjattan has a difficult job… One he has proven incapable of,” the MP said.
Gill contended that Minister Ramjattan is yet to accept ministerial responsibility for his inability to keep our citizens safe and is calling for him to be fired in the public’s interest, or to be reassigned to a Ministry “where his incompetence can no longer affect the safety of our people”.
Meanwhile, Ramjattan, in downplaying the crime situation in Guyana, said that “countries like Honduras and El Salvador have murder rates that reach over 50 per 100,000, Jamaica 52 per 100,000, then you go to St Vincent and Grenadines, St Lucia and Trinidad and so on at 32 and 42 per 100,000. And I am talking about Caricom countries here, we are probably one of the lowest, 15 per 100,000, and of course, that is 15 more than we want to have happening if we don’t want anything happening in relation to homicides”.
He acknowledged that every day in other Caricom countries there are murders, many of which are brutal in nature, and that here in Guyana it is largely “domestic violence kind of murders”. There has been an escalation in murders and robberies in Guyana.