“It had to happen, those guns were illegal,” said Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan as he spoke about that fact that many Amerindians were left defenseless when they handed in their guns during the amnesty programme.
Some Amerindians who reside in Lethem have explained that they used their firearms to hunt and defend themselves and questioned whether the weapons would have been returned.
He said that notwithstanding the necessity of using the weapons for hunting and protection, the guns had to be handed in as the bottom line was that they were illegal.
Moving forward, Ramjattan indicated that some of the weapons will be returned to the owners.
However, those persons will have to become licenced firearm holders.
In this regard, the Minister said that licensing for these persons will be fast-tracked through a partnership with the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.
The Ministry will be recommending those who are to be licensed and the process will be followed expeditiously from that point forward.
Minister Ramjattan told the media that he is currently awaiting correspondence from Minister of Amerindian Affairs’ Vice President, Sydney Allicock.
Ramjattan said that Allicock has indicated that he will soon be identifying persons from each Amerindian community.
“The last couple days, hundreds of these guns came in and indeed it has affected them (the Amerindians) negatively but it had to be done because it was illegal. So we are now regularizing it and I need the names of those people. I have already spoken to the Police Commissioner; the commissioner indicated yes he will see that these licences are fast tracked and so has the Firearm Licensing Board.”
Intervention for waiver
With the recent passage of the Firearms Amendments Bill, there has been a hike in licensing fees.
The fee for a shotgun licence has moved from $2000 to $5000; the cost for pistol and revolver licences goes from $5000 to $25,000; rifle fees will be increased from $7,500 to $40,000 and dealer’s licences will be issued at a cost of $150,000, up from $20,000. These increases are expected to take effect from May 1.
The opposition has called the government insensitive for hiking the licensing fee for shotguns, because those are mainly used by Amerindians for their survival. However, Ramjattan said that his government is looking to help the Amerindians in this regard as well.
Asked if the fee will be waived for Amerindians, Ramjattan said, “It is a matter that I have to check back with the Attorney General Chambers because once the law is passed increasing the fee from $2000 to $5000, unless there is a provision for an exception it might be illegal to grant a waiver.”
Ramjattan explained that he was quite busy over the last few weeks with Budget, “But I am going to take time off to check it through as to whether there can be exemption and how best that can be done to help the Amerindians…We want to and indeed if it cannot be done (through the waiver) we have to make some administrative arrangements.”
Ramjattan added, “If there can be no exemption legally then we probably can ask… The Ministry of Indigenous Affairs to subsidize.” (Abena Rockcliffe)
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