Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has defended Government’s acquisition of a water cannon, dismissing assertions that it might have been a case of misplaced priority.
The Minister was speaking to reporters following a public demonstration of how the equipment works. The location chosen was near the Manatee Pond in the National Park yesterday afternoon.
It was the first time that the equipment which was acquired at a cost of $37M was officially put on display, since it was handed over to the police last November, a few weeks before the general elections.
The water cannon, according to the Home Affairs Minister, would be used to “manage public order and would be used against large demonstrations”.
While many persons had welcomed the move by the Home Affairs Ministry to employ the use of non-lethal force against demonstrators, some opposition members were of the view that the water cannon is “simply an effort by the PPPC to terrorize the Guyanese public.”
However, yesterday the Home Affairs Minister was clear in his mind that the purchase of the equipment was part and parcel of the process to bring the Guyana Police Force up to date with modern technology.
“We have no apologies to make for procuring this type of vehicle for the Guyana Police Force. All Forces around the world have this, so why should Guyana be an exception?” Rohee said.
A water cannon is a device that shoots a high-pressure stream of water.
Typically, water cannons can deliver a large volume of water, often over dozens of metres. They are used in firefighting and riot control.
The one in the possession of the Guyana Police Force can accommodate up to 600 gallons of water and depending on the way it is used, its bursts can last several minutes.
But given Guyana’s crime situation and the layout of the territory, would the Guyana Police Force be better off with boats and helicopters to fight crime, instead of a water cannon?
The Home Affairs Minister had his own views on the subject.
“It depends on who is placing and who is misplacing the priorities,” Rohee said, adding that people will always have opinions on what is best and what is not best for the Force at a particular point and time.
He said that decisions on the procurement of equipment for law enforcement are made based on the requests of the agencies involved.
Rohee pointed to the imminent deployment of a mobile police station for the Force’s Interior Division.
“We didn’t build it because people are saying so, we did it because the Force told us that they needed a mobile police station in the interior to deal with crime …it all depends on how the Force tells us what their priorities are. So far the Police Force has not told us in clear and definite terms that they need a helicopter or a plane…,” the Home Affairs Minister stated.
“The police determine, in the final analysis, where their priorities lie,” he added.
At present, the Guyana Police Force is in possession of a high powered, high speed boat which is supposed to effectively patrol the riverain areas of the country.
While the vessel was acquired a few years ago for a whopping $18M, few have actually seen it work effectively.
But according to Rohee, the police have assured him that the vessel is in working order and is currently moored at the Police Maritime Department on the eastern bank of the Demerara River at Ruimveldt.
However, strangely enough it was not seen in action when an ocean going cargo vessel capsized at the mouth of the Demerara River.
How effective the water cannon will be, is left to be seen, given the paucity of working hydrants in and around the city.
Judging from yesterday’s demonstration, the operators from the Force will certainly have to undergo more training.
And just when does the Force expect to use the new piece of equipment? “It’s there to be used whenever the Force considers it necessary to be used. They’re the ones who determine the time and place when it will be used. It will not be based on political consideration…The political consideration is over,” the Home Affairs Minister stated.
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