Patrolling our borders
This country’s inability to effectively patrol its borders and to prevent incursions is constantly being exposed. From as far back as one can remember, the borders have been infiltrated with near impunity. Abdul Malik, a man accused of murder in Trinidad successfully entered this country and might have escaped had it not been for some porkknockers who were alerted to the search for the man.
Many Guyanese wanted for serious crimes, including murder simply cross the border into nearby countries and escape prosecution. When nearly a dozen men broke out of the Camp Street jail most of them escaped into neighbouring Suriname. Some were never recaptured but there was word that they were killed in that country.
At the height of the crime wave men routinely escaped into Suriname. The now jailed drug kingpin, Shaheed Roger Khan was one. He was nabbed over there and unfortunately for him, the Surinamese set out to return him to Guyana in a manner that would have placed him firmly in the clutches of the United States federal authorities.
In more recent times a number of men have either gone to Suriname or into Brazil to escape prosecution. Some dare to return clandestinely for a series of reasons.
The very open borders allow for the flow of illegal drugs into Guyana and it is only the serious efforts of the law enforcers that allow for some of the drugs to be intercepted, often at the point of transshipment.
The size of the country is a serious disadvantage. There are just not enough people to occupy the country and certainly not enough law enforcers to effectively patrol the country. There are other large countries but these days with the help of sophisticated equipment and the firepower countries can effectively defend their borders.
For example, the Falklands comprises two large islands. One of them has no more than 100 people while the other has less than 3,000. However, the British who have established a military base at Mount Pleasant complete with fighter aircraft and supporting naval vessels. These jets effectively patrol the skies over the islands supported by ground radar.
Guyana does not have military aircraft and certainly it does not have the kind of radar capability necessary for adequate surveillance of the skies. It is the same with every developing country that concentrates on its human development than on a military capability. Because of this foreign aircraft would repeatedly invade the airspace safe in the knowledge that more often than not the country simply cannot intercept them.
Sunday, for the umpteenth time, the authorities found yet another aircraft and on an illegal airstrip. This aircraft had entered Guyana’s airspace and had been granted permission to and for maintenance works. Then it left and simply disappeared. It had failed to reach its intended destination.
What is remarkable about countries like Guyana is the cooperation with the civilian air industry. Pilots are always crisscrossing the country. One of them spotted the plane.
It is in the custody of the authorities but even its discovery highlights our inability to monitor what is happening within our borders. Those with nefarious dealings not only managed to repair a damaged airstrip to make it serviceable and to do so without the knowledge of the civil aviation authorities. They were able to move in equipment so that when the plane was discovered it had already been colour modified.
It is indeed a costly exercise to patrol a country like ours. When we asked the American Government for assistance one ambassador actually said that aid is success driven. Under these conditions there is not much we could do to achieve success. We feel that aid should be forthcoming so that we could record success.
We may never know what the aircraft came into Guyana with. We may never know if it made a cocaine drop before landing at Ogle. What we do know is that it will remain in our custody. But what about other aircraft that enter our airspace and make use of those other illegal airstrips? It surely takes a lot of luck to intercept an aircraft and more than luck to keep abreast of what goes on across the borders.