– diplomatic spat downplayed
US Ambassador D. Brent Hardt and Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee yesterday downplayed the escalating diplomatic spat between the two countries, as the US envoy formally handed over a sophisticated Automated Fingerprinting Identification System (AFIS) to the Guyana Police Force.
But the Ambassador did quip that “I guess I should begin by saying here I am meddling again,” in direct reference to a recent statement by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that described him as “a known meddler in local politics.”
AFIS is a computer system that stores fingerprints in a large database to help investigators to match prints of potential suspects. The equipment was acquired last November via the US and Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
Prior to a formal signing ceremony at CID Headquarters, Eve Leary, Home Affairs Minister Rohee thanked the US Government for “its persistent and consistent support” of Guyana’s security sector.
“I know that there are some who are wondering…what I am doing here, associating with the US Ambassador and the US Embassy. There is no contradiction. There is absolutely no contradiction, because the cooperation between the government of Guyana and the government of the United States, particularly in the security sector, has been very productive…and the track record of contributions made by the US to the security sector will not go unrecorded in the annals of the security sector,” Rohee said.
“It is important that I emphasize that notwithstanding differences we may have in other areas of cooperation, the Ambassador himself and his staff, and the US government itself, have seen the importance of maintaining the same persistence in supporting the security sector of this country, and problems and differences in one area have never affected cooperation in the security sector, and I think this is a laudable achievement and accomplishment.”
“The fact of the matter is that whenever we reach these roadblocks, we have to try to diffuse the situations. I know that diffusing situations as this is not unknown to him (Hardt),” Rohee said.
The recent differences stemmed from the Government’s rejection of the US Government’s Leadership and Democracy Programme (LEAP), said to be geared towards strengthening democratic institutions in Guyana. The Government has also revoked the work permit and visa of Canadian Glenn Bradbury, who was in charge of implementing the Project. It escalated on Monday, with the PPP branding US Ambassador Hardt as a “meddler”, after the diplomat criticized government of censoring the local media.
Rohee also noted that after Education and Health, Government’s third largest budgetary allocation was for security. Billions are being spent on the training of the SWAT team and the president has asked for similar teams to be established, not necessarily of the same strength, in different police divisions.
He predicted that the acquisition of the US-donated fingerprinting technology will be a shot in the arm for the technological aspect of the Force.
Journalists were told that the fingerprinting technology has already helped local lawmen to solve some 63 cases, including three murders, 53 break and enter and larceny cases and four robbery under arms matters.
Ambassador Hardt explained that AFIS is “a powerful and useful tool that provides immediate results for law enforcement.
He stated that CBSI experts have been working with the Guyana Police Force entering old fingerprint cards into electronic databases. This is a massive undertaking and ultimately a successful one. The new centralized high-quality digital database means that records will never degrade or disappear.
“AFIS is now the recognised international standard for law enforcement investigation and rapid investigation. The AFIS system will provide law enforcement with empirical evidence of a criminal’s guilt, and will assist prosecutors in building solid cases against suspects, by providing empirical evidence to tie criminals to crime.”
According to Hardt, a positive by-product of the AFIS will be to build increased public trust in Guyana’s justice system and the Police Force.
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