Human rights concerns possibly holding up police weapons
January 11, 2003
The delay in the procurement of weapons for the training of the police force's new Elite Squad may be related to Guyana's failure to conform to European legislation on human rights.
At his first briefing for the year, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon said the delays were unavoidable, "most of which relate to the procurement by agencies external to Europe and a process that involves making provision for attending to human rights and civil rights."
He said, "small arms, as they are called, are made available and exported to Third World countries under European Human Rights legislation, after the submission of information about the practice of human rights and such like."
He said it appears that "the difficulties that surfaced, may have very well been related to the administration (having to conform) with these European guidelines for the export of these weapons."
Those conditions, he said were not universal and therefore efforts "are being made to acquire those arms and similar arms from sources that do not present that type of challenge, that type of imposition to Third World countries."
The training of the Elite Squad, the establishment of which President Bharrat Jagdeo announced in June, should have been done by the British. However, Dr Luncheon said that it was recommended that the training be done with weapons similar to those used by the British Constabulary and which are also popular with law enforcement agencies in Europe.
In June, Jagdeo announced that $100M was to be spent on the establishment of the squad to battle criminals and domestic terrorism. To procure the weapons, protective equipment and gear as well as transportation and communication facilities, an additional $100M was set aside.
Noting that security concerns would take a much greater share of budgetary expenditure in view of the rise in crime and violence, Dr Luncheon said that the priority and commitment given to security in 2002 would flow into 2003. The joint services also made some proposals, which Dr Luncheon said would likely be reflected in the 2003 budget.
He reported that Cabinet had reviewed the more recent developments in the security situation and that immediate attention is to be given to the capture of armed criminals who operate primarily in Region Four.
Responding to acting PNCR Chairman Robert Corbin's recent call for the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police Winston Felix as Commissioner, he said that if Corbin felt that the statutory and constitutional requirements could be dispensed with and the appointment made the PPP/C administration would have done so.
He said he does not believe that "the departure of (former PNCR) leader Mr (Desmond) Hoyte from the scene has made it any easier. "There are statutory and constitutional requirements that are to be met. I am not as possessed as Mr Corbin is, or seems to be, that it could be done at the stroke of the pen by the President. All along, even our latest letters from Mr Hoyte indicate that he would scrupulously follow all the constitutional prerequisites in conducting the necessary consultations to make the appointments, or, put in place the body that influence such appointments."