“We were not prepared for Yupukari incident” – Granger

Illegal plane

Citing challenges preventing the effective policing of the country’s hinterland regions, President David Granger admitted that the relevant law enforcement agencies were unprepared for the September 2016 incident, where a Colombian-registered aircraft was found hidden just off the Yupukari Airstrip in Region Nine

The partially hidden illegal aircraft found at Yupukari, Region Nine
The partially hidden illegal aircraft found at Yupukari, Region Nine

(Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo).

“We realised there are problems, for example the Yupukari incident last September. We were quite, I would say, unprepared for an incident of that nature,” the Head of State asserted, while speaking to reporters on his weekly televised programme ‘The Public Interest’ which aired on Friday.

Nevertheless, President Granger posited that Government has recognised, following that incident that it needs to amplify efforts to better Police its borders and hinterland.

“It was a good lesson for us, it was teaching us to pay attention to the hinterland and rural areas and border areas,” he acknowledged.

However, the President pointed out that this is particularly challenging because of the differentiability of the country’s borders, which are porous.

Nevertheless, he outlined that over recent months, there has been a quicker response time to crimes in the hinterland. He mentioned the removal of the F Division (Interior Locations) Commander from Eve Leary to Bartica in order to better manage the Division.

The Head of State said too that Government is currently examining the means of ensuring that the various regions in the hinterland – Regions One (Barima-Waini), Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) and Nine particularly – have their own commanders, rather than being under the same Divisional Commander in efforts to better monitor these locations.

On September 13, 2016, after receiving reports from residents, a Joint Service patrol discovered the illegal twin-engine Cessna aircraft hidden just off of the Yupukari Airstrip, with United States registration number N-767-Z.

Subsequently, a team of investigators from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Guyana Police Force, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority was deployed from Georgetown to the area to conduct investigations and were able to determine that the registration number was “bogus”.

Moreover, investigators had discovered during interviews with nearby residents that the abandoned aircraft had been sighted circling the area on numerous occasions in the past. Additionally, a number of the residents shared information they deemed as “suspicious activity”, including the presence of motorcycles or ATVs frequently at midnight in the area.

Guyana Times was told by sources on site that a leak was discovered in the fuel tank. This, investigators believe, may have caused the aircraft to land in Guyana. Nevertheless, the aircraft was repaired and flown to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). Investigations had determined the plane to be registered in Colombia.

It was reported too that one of the local law enforcement agencies was aware of the aircraft at least three weeks before the disclosure was made. It was reported that the security officials were monitoring the aircraft to see if anyone would return to salvage it.

To this end, President David Granger had established a one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to probe the discovery of the illegal aircraft and appointed retired Brigadier Edward Collins to investigate, examine, advise and report on all the circumstances under which the foreign aircraft had entered the country.

Following the probe, it was reported that two GDF officers were fingered in the report, which found that one of the officers had abandoned his post when he was asked to stake out the area where the plane was found and was also accused of tampering with the scene of the investigation, as well as physically assaulting civilians at the scene who wanted to report the aircraft’s discovery.

However, the Army immediately rejected the reports saying, “The Force therefore takes this opportunity to caution that newspapers exercise due diligence and social responsibility when crafting headlines of this nature. These misleading headlines tend to give the impression of ranks being directly involved in illegal activities.”

Meanwhile, the Police had also denied any of its officers had any connections with the illegal aircraft.

“The report did recommend that a Police Officer be disciplined for use of excessive force on a civilian during the course of the inquiry and not for any act prior to the discovery of the aircraft,” the Police had clarified. (Vahnu Manikchand)