Ramjattan says Joint Services operation to ensure “safe Christmas”

– but Trotman says no need to deploy army

Last weekend’s launch of a Joint Services operation between the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) was to boost security in the country as the Christmas season approaches.

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman

This is according to Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, who, when prompted for an update on the joint operation, told reporters on Thursday that there was a need for the Joint Services operation, but opted not to go into details, saying that the matter was confidential.

Nevertheless, the Minister explained that with the current crime situation, Government wanted to ensure that Guyanese were kept safe during the upcoming holiday season.

“I don’t have to go telling you the details as to why we did what we did, but you all know that there is a situation and we want to ensure that the Christmas period is very much safe and so we did what we had to do,” Ramjattan told reporters as he refused follow-up enquiries.

On Friday last, Government said it had received “credible information related to a potential domestic security threat”, and ordered the Joint Services operation, targeting specific areas.

According to the release from the Ministry of the Presidency, this decision to institute security measures was influenced by the “potential threat” coupled with increased criminal activities within the country.

Furthermore, it was advised that during the exercise, which commenced on Saturday, citizens were expected to see helicopters providing aerial coverage and an increased number of Police Officers, along with GDF ranks, on the ground in certain areas.

However, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman on Thursday at the post-Cabinet briefing told media operatives that there was no national security threat currently facing the country that warranted the deployment of the army.

“… we don’t believe that there’s any threat to the State that should see the deployment of the military. We did have, of course, a situation last weekend where the prison was concerned and we know that that could pose, if not handled properly, a national security threat and the GDF was rightly and properly deployed for that operation and again rightly and properly returned to barracks (afterwards),” he stated, contradicting both the statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency and Minister Ramjattan.

The prison operation he referred to was the raids conducted on Saturday last, at the Georgetown and New Amsterdam Prisons by the Joint Services, which resulted in a number of contraband items being found. Among these items were improvised weapons, knives, cellphones and even a quantity of homemade wine.

Nevertheless, Trotman, who was at the time responding to questions on where the army would be deployed to help arrest the country’s crime situation, explained that only if the State was under threat as a result of criminal or other violent activities should the army be deployed.

In fact, the Government spokesperson posited that while the trend might show higher incidents involving firearms, he did not believe that it posed such a threat that it warranted the use of the military.

Moreover, on Saturday last, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, in an interview with Guyana Times, pointed out that the military should have been deployed much sooner as he blasted the coalition Government for not being able to reduce the country’s crime rate, noting that this was a failure of logic and commonsense.