– US Ambassador
By Abena Rockcliffe
While there might not be an immediate danger, Guyana is not immune to terrorism and it must not be taken for granted that this country is somehow protected from terrorism to the extent that all guards are let down.
That’s the advice given by the serving United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, during an exclusive interview with this newspaper.
Holloway said that while there have been no incidents of terrorism in Guyana, it is imperative that the country remains alert.
Further, the US Chief of Mission indicated that there have been persons on Guyana’s shores who were on the watch list of terrorism. Being skeptical of giving out too much information, Holloway did not state if those persons were Guyanese. However, what he did say is that there have been minimum attempts to recruit people from Guyana to be involved in terrorist related activities.
Holloway said that while there is need for caution, “I do not believe that Guyana has as severe the problem as some of the other countries in the Region. We have not seen as much information about fighters being recruited in Guyana—not to say it is not happening.”
He pointed to the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago which he said has already found itself in an unwanted position.
It is a known fact that nationals from that island have been recruited by the terror organization ISIS.
According to the US Ambassador, the sharing of information on terrorism is of utmost importance to the US.
“The Prime Minister of Trinidad has come out and talked about it so that’s nothing new. We shared assessment and there is no doubt that there have been people in Trinidad that have gone to fight with ISIS. Some have returned to Trinidad while others died. There is no doubt that that occurred.”
The Ambassador noted however, that Guyana is not in as bad a state as Trinidad.
Nevertheless, he was keen to point out that every country is at risk. “Terrorism does not recognize borders, it’s a transnational crime and unfortunately all it takes is one bad guy. In other words, the law enforcement officials can be successful a thousand times in stopping it but the day that one bad guy gets through is never a good day.”
The US Diplomat said that both the previous and the current governments have worked closely with America whenever suspicions of a terroristic plot came about.
Not wanting to hamper investigations, Holloway refused to divulge any specific information that the US has about suspected terrorists who are either living in Guyana or have ties here.
“I won’t comment on individual cases but we have a lot of pending cases throughout the world. We regularly share information with Guyana regarding people that are here or may be transiting through here because a lot of people come through Guyana. So far, as I said before, the cooperation has been fantastic; whenever we had a concern about terrorism, the Guyanese authorities have done the right thing,” Ambassador Halloway stated.
Last year, the Guyana Government said that it was on the lookout for potential terrorists after being warned by certain countries to so do.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge had said, “We have already seen some odd trends… including a sudden rise in visa applications from South Asia.”
Greenidge identified some of the jurisdictions as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
While Greenidge refused to state exactly where his warnings came from, he had stated “You must know that only a few countries have the ability to do such monitoring, in order to warn us.”
Greenidge said that Guyana will remain keen to protect itself from being invaded by potential terrorists.
“If terrorists arrive in Guyana they would wreak havoc, therefore, we must be careful.”
While there has been no proven terrorism activity on local soil, Guyana had found itself in the midst of terrorism-related controversies. Back in 2007, a former Member of Parliament in Guyana, Abdul Kadir, was among four suspected Muslim terrorists, who were intercepted during a plot to firebomb the John F Kennedy Airport in New York.
The plotters also discussed reaching out to Adnan Shukrijumah, an al-Qaida member and explosives expert who was believed to be hiding out in the Caribbean at the time. Shukrijumah, who is of Guyanese parentage, was shot and killed in Pakistan over a year ago.
Even though he insisted that he was innocent, Kadir was sentenced to life in prison.
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