Rohee says budget cut intended to ‘disable’ CANU
…sends wrong signal to drug pushers
Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, has said that the opposition’s move to slice off a $20 million
allocation for the country’s drug enforcement agency was a move aimed at disabling the agency.
Rohee was speaking at a press conference at Freedom House, the Georgetown headquarters of the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
The $20 million is a subvention that the government had intended to give to CANU. However, the Unit has other budgetary allocations.
These include $71 million to run the CANU operations, plus an additional $27 million for capital expenditures. The Capital Expenditures are meant to improve CANU’s transportation needs and its operational efficiency.
The $27 million is budgeted under the Ministry of Home Affairs and is to be spent on the construction of a security hut and the installation of a cubicle. In addition, the money is intended to be used for the purchase of vehicles, boat, trailer, engine, desks, chairs, filing cabinets, air condition unit and a contraband inspection kit.
But the government is up in arms that CANU could not benefit from the additional $20 million subvention.
Rohee suggested that by blocking the $20 million subvention, the opposition parties are in support of the drug pushers.
He said that if opposition parties claim that they are against drug traffickers, but yet still vote against funding for the Custom Anti-Narcotics Unit, then it begs the question of “whose side are you on?”
The Home Affairs Minister was high in praise for CANU under the command of James Singh. He said that since Singh took over the Unit four years ago, there has been a clean-up that has resulted in drug enforcement officers being dismissed after polygraph tests.
When Singh took over, the Unit had 36 officers. That number has now been reduced to 24, Rohee said, as a result of dismissals and three deaths.
He said the “clean up” has made CANU more efficient. He said that the government found the money to give to CANU at a time when countries are struggling to find the money to equip their drug enforcement agencies.
He said that the axing of the $20 million for CANU sends the wrong message to the drug pushers, but Rohee vowed that CANU will continue its fight.
Rohee said that he spoke with CANU’s head and the Unit’s officers, and they have assured him that the budget cuts will not demoralize them, but will make them stronger.
He said that the opposition sought to make the budget cut because it wants the country to keep the image that it is a narco-state.
Recently, President Donald Ramotar vowed a tougher war on drugs, which he says breeds money laundering and corruption in Guyana.
Ramotar said that Guyana’s drug trafficking results in several problems for Guyana, including money-laundering and corruption. But a greater problem, he suggested, is getting the hard facts on the trail of the dirty money.
He added that he is keen on beefing up the Guyana Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
“I think it needs to have a bigger investigative arm to try to track where the money is going…We need to examine it and beef those things up,” Ramotar told Kaieteur News.
He said that his government would be looking to the Americans “to see what models can be used.”
Recently, Guyana and the US signed an agreement to establish and support projects aimed at countering money-laundering and narcotics operation over the next three years. The FIU and CANU will be supported through the initiative.
In the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the US State Department has noted that while Guyana is a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, it is yet to fully implement its provisions, “such as seizure of property obtained through corruption.”
The report noted that as a matter of policy, the Government of Guyana does not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.
The report stated that Guyana continues to be a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and West Africa with cocaine from Colombia smuggled to Venezuela and onward to Guyana by sea (fishing vessels, bulk cargo vessels and tug vessels) or air.
Because of Guyana’s porous borders, smuggling is also conducted by land from Brazil and Suriname into Guyana, the report noted, adding that once cocaine arrives in Guyana, it is often concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air shipments, human couriers or the postal services.
The report said that drug trafficking organisations based in Guyana are beginning to use neighbouring Suriname as a major distribution hub where Suriname is used as a stash location and distribution country for drugs entering Guyana.
The report noted that the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (AMLCFTA), the Interception of Communications Bill and the Criminal Procedure Bill were designed to enhance both the investigative capability of law enforcement authorities and prosecutors’ ability to obtain convictions in drug related cases.
However, in 2011, there were no convictions under these laws, “and there is an apparent lack of political will to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking organizations.”
The government of Guyana signed a maritime counter-drug bilateral agreement with the United States in 2001, but has yet to take the necessary domestic action to bring the agreement into effect, the report noted.
Approximately 352 kilogrammes of cocaine and 393 kilogrammes of marijuana were seized in 2011.