President blasts State Dept. report at Army Officers' Conference…
Money laundering, drug trafficking flourish more in US
By Dale Andrews
March 9, 2007
Guyana's President, Bharrat Jagdeo, said that he would not bow to pressure to pass any legislation to screen investors and reduce Guyana 's competitiveness with the developed world.
In a hard-hitting presentation delivered at yesterday's Annual GDF Officers' Conference, the president lashed out at the recently published US State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) on Guyana which claimed that controversy surrounded the granting of a timber concession to embattled businessman Shaheed ‘Roger' Khan, who is currently indicted on drug trafficking charges in the United States .
The president said that contrary to reports, he never promised to pass any legislation to screen persons who want to invest in Guyana .
“I am not passing any legislation. Do you think that if someone goes to invest in the US , they pass legislation to screen the investor? They find the person who is doing the laundering or the trafficking, but not to screen an investor. They want us to screen the investors here… something that they don't do. Anyone can walk into the US and invest now, but we must screen everyone coming here,” the Guyanese leader said.
The INCSR had stated that prosecuting money launderers and drug traffickers does not appear to be a priority for the authorities in Guyana , despite the belief that the two activities are flourishing here.
But President Jagdeo stated that what he finds very hypocritical is that a country issues a report about another and the problem reported on exists ten-fold in its own backyard. He pointed to the fact that the United States of America is the largest illegal drugs consuming country in the world.
“All the drugs from Colombia , Guyana , Trinidad and Suriname , and the heroin from Afghanistan go to the United States of America . They can't stop the drugs flowing in there and they are telling me to stop (given) the big borders that we have, where people don't even live. Most of the drugs are being sold in the streets of the United States of America . So their law enforcement, better equipped than ours, is failing… failing more than our people.
“And when people sell the drugs there, they have to collect money for it. So which system has the greatest amount of money laundered? Which country? It is the United States . They consume the most drugs; their law enforcement at the border is failing; the drug is sold in the streets; people pay for the drug and then it's (the money) laundered there,” President Jagdeo reasoned.
The president reminded the GDF officers that he had made strenuous efforts in the past to secure more assistance to fight drug trafficking and related money laundering.
He pointed to a request he had made to the former US Ambassador to Guyana for assistance to conduct polygraph tests on all the members of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), since the administration had felt that the unit could be compromised.
The president said that the response he received was that the exercise was too costly. However, two years later, the United States of America put out a report which stated that CANU may have been compromised.
He said that for the past seven years, direct assistance from the United States to Guyana to fight drug trafficking has been about US$20,000 per year.
“A Permanent Secretary earns more than US$20,000 per year and that is what we get to fight drug dealers, drug traffickers and money laundering in direct assistance. Colombia gets billions of dollars,” President Jagdeo said.
He said that Guyana 's heavy indebtedness is affecting the effective campaign against drug trafficking, but yet the administration is trying its best to deal with the problem. With regards to corruption, the Guyanese leader said that the United States itself cannot account for billions of dollars every year.
He spoke about the billions of dollars and the corruption during procurement exercises in Iraq .
“We have an audited report that goes to the National Assembly and is publicly debated. But to talk about corruption, I can say, the US is perceived as the most corrupt country too,” the president stated.
The Head of State said that Guyana has a good relationship with the United States of America , since a significant amount of trade is done with that country and Guyana has been receiving some assistance in certain areas.
However, he said that it is the lectures by the US Government that he is mostly concerned with.
“And then we have a local media corps that will never ask the US Ambassador or someone else in the US Government about the 500 people that they have (in custody) and have not charged them for five, six years (while they remain) in prison. They don't have a status. But you have some persons living without a light in the ( Guyana ) prisons and they put it in their report, ‘inhumane prison conditions here in Guyana '.
They will hound us if you have a single incident here.”
The president said that Guyana is then made a pariah in terms of human rights.
He said that unless countries like the United States live up to international laws, they do not have the right to comment on Guyana because he believes that locally the human rights situation is infinitely better than theirs.
“We don't profile people because of how they look… pull them off planes,” the President stated.
He stressed that local media operatives are just taking everything wholesale from the international community because they are lazy.