This comment was made by main opposition party leader Robert Corbin in light of the recent brazen attacks by bandits, such as the one on the East La Penitence Police Station, the shooting to death of Arjune Narine on Middleton Street, and the attempted bombing of the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport.
Following the purchase of the helicopters, Government came in for heavy criticism regarding the type of helicopter that was purchased, and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon had asked the public to wait and give the helicopters some time to prove their worth.
However, Corbin noted that the only surveillance the helicopters were observed being involved in was during his protest march.
One of the more prominent critics of the purchase was Captain Gerry Gouveia, who heads Roraima Airways.
The Head of State, President Bharrat Jagdeo, had lashed out at Captain Gouveia’s comment that the choppers were not suitable for crime fighting because of their limited capacity to carry troops.
The President told the operatives of the Government Information Agency (GINA) that, “One should understand the reason for purchasing the helicopters.” This, he said, was mainly for surveillance purposes.
“I think the comment that the helicopters are not for crime fighting because they have limited capacity to carry people is a silly one. You have to understand crime fighting in different ways; it is not just transporting troops. It is also about surveillance. It is about ensuring you have visibility, you can track people.”
In the April 5 edition of the Stabroek News, Gouveia, the Managing Director of Roraima Airways, said that the helicopters may have been a waste of taxpayers’ money and that they have limited capacity to transport troops and were unsuited for crime fighting.
The President reiterated that the helicopters were bought for crime fighting, and this is what they will play a part in.
“The objective was more surveillance-type equipment, which could move limited numbers of people; but it’s the surveillance that you need, so you can keep in touch with ground forces from the helicopters and track people.”
Head of the Presidential Secretariat told media operatives that the helicopters, which have been purchased at a cost of US$1.5M, would each be capable of seating four persons along with the pilot, and are efficient at search and rescue as well as surveillance type operations.
According to Luncheon, probably the most impressive capability of the helicopters will be the fact that it will be equipped with infra-red capability which can be used to detect the warmth of a human body in dense terrain such as Guyana’s jungle.
The Alliance For Change has already placed on record that they intended to scrutinize the purchase of the helicopters in the National Assembly.
In a previous interview with this newspaper, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan said relevant questions will be posed in the National Assembly in relation to the recent purchase of two helicopters for the crime fight.
He noted that the clarifications which will be sought by the party will surround the procurement circumstances and the technical advice solicited by the Government which led to the purchase of the two Bell 206 B3 Jet Ranger helicopters.
Regarding the efficiency with which the choppers will be able to tackle the crime scourge, Ramjattan said that the party was still in the process of consulting with engineers, among other technical personnel.
Among the characteristics listed for the Bell 206 B III Jet Ranger are a useful flying range (Full fuel) of 365 nautical miles (676 km) with a cruising speed of 115 knots (133 mph) and a fuel burn rate of 125 litres per hour.
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