“Bring them out now and save yourselves the harshness of the law” Ramjattan
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is of the view that there should be no discretion in imposing sentences under the law for persons found in illegal possession of firearms.
The Prime Minister made his position clear yesterday during a tour of the Headquarters of the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID). He and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had gone there to view a display of the illegal firearms and ammunition surrendered during the one-month amnesty period.
The Prime Minister while lauding the success of the amnesty so far urged the country’s Magistracy and Judiciary to take notice of the prevalence of crime involving the use of firearms, and deal condignly with offenders.
“As a judicial officer myself, I’m of the view that our courts must review granting of bail to repeat offenders (who are) arraigned for illegal possession of firearms, or the use of firearms in the execution of robberies,” the Prime Minister stated.
At present, the maximum penalty that can be imposed by a Magistrate for the illegal possession of a firearm is five years. According to Public Security Minister Ramjattan, there are no immediate plans to have that amended upwards.
It’s already half through the month of amnesty and according to the police, 30 firearms along with over 1400 rounds have been turned in.
Among the firearms are several shotguns and a few pistols. But while over 1100 rounds of 7.62 X 51 ammunition were turned in, the absence of matching weapons remains a worry.
According to the Prime Minister, the amnesty has realized a positive impact, and is an indication that most Guyanese would want to bring themselves within the law.
“As Prime Minister, I pledge my support as well as that of the government completely to this amnesty programme, and I personally want to encourage all persons who have illegal firearms…that they should surrender these weapons,” Nagamootoo said.
Failing to do so will result in the offending persons having to deal with the “Bad Man” at the Public Security Ministry, who has made no bones about going after them relentlessly, come October 1.
“My colleague, Vice President Ramjattan made it clear recently in Berbice at Whim …where he said he’s gonna be a ‘Bad Boy’ after the (amnesty) period is over, but the Police Force will in fact deal condignly with persons who are found in possession of illegal weapons after the amnesty would have come to an end,” the Prime Minister said.
He said that he expects that in the remaining days of the amnesty more illegal weapons and ammunition will be turned in, and he urged family members of persons with such weapons to plea with them to come forward.
“We all have a common duty to make our homes, our streets, our country safer…we all should be saying no to illegal guns,” the Prime Minister declared.
He commended Minister Ramjattan, the Commissioner of Police and his ranks and all civic leaders in the society for the work done so far in facilitating the amnesty.
Minister Ramjattan in brief remarks, urged the media to assist in getting the message out that the amnesty period is winding down, and there should be some urgency in bringing in illegal weapons.
He reminded that immediately after the amnesty period has ended, there will be a crackdown to reign in all unlicenced firearms.
“It might be very harsh on that occasion, so bring them out now and save yourselves the harshness of the law as it relates to unlicened firearms thereafter,” Ramjattan warned.
He disclosed that there is a big lobby for the law to be amended to stiffen the penalty for illegal gun possession, but he has not yet done anything to initiate such changes.
“The law is pretty tough as it is,” the Public Security Minister stated.
While there is also talk of a monetary incentive for the surrendering of illegal weapons, Ramjattan said that funds are not now available for such a move, but he did not rule out a buy back initiative in the future.
Despite the relative success of the gun amnesty, there still remain a few critics-among them is General Secretary of the opposition People’s Progressive Party, Clement Rohee.
He had stated a few weeks ago that the programme will not work in Guyana.
“While I was at the then Ministry of Home Affairs, a Task Force on Narcotics and Illegal Firearms was established. Members of the Task Force were drawn from the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, Guyana Revenue Authority and CANU among others in the Disciplined Services. The Task Force had lengthy discussions on the efficacy of a gun amnesty.
“The overwhelming majority of members, save one, including the representative of the Guyana Police Force, were of the view that a gun amnesty will not work in Guyana; that it will fail. That is precisely why the Ministry never pushed it forward,” Rohee said.
“Now that Ramjattan has decided to pursue this matter, it is assumed that the law enforcement agencies have changed their earlier position and have advised Ramjattan accordingly,” the Former Home Affairs Minister had stated a few weeks ago.
Yesterday when contacted, Rohee said that he is still holding to his earlier position.
“I still hold my views…it (amnesty) is not going anywhere, that is why he (Ramjattan) wants to extend it. There are more questions than answers,” Rohee told Kaieteur News.
Ballistics tests have already been carried out on some of the weapons brought in so far, and according to Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud, there is no evidence of any of them being linked to previous criminal activity.
The commissioner said that every round of ammunition or every weapon turned in is better off in the possession of the police than in the hands of persons who might have criminal intention.
“It only takes one bullet to take a life. Once it is with us, the likelihood of it killing someone out there is eliminated,” the Top Cop said.
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