Quick action by alert citizens averted what could have turned out to be a major catastrophe yesterday morning at the Wismar Post Office. Bandits set the building on fire after their efforts to remove a vault with money proved futile.
According to reports, smoke and fire were observed emanating from the Post Office building. That led two pensioners who were in the vicinity to call the police and fire service. Both responded promptly and the fire was contained. However, important documents including mail were destroyed in the fire.
The thieves reportedly broke down a door to gain access to the facility.
Reports are that the intruders attempted to break into a vault, and then tried to remove it but their efforts were futile.
Several pensioners who turned up to collect their pension expressed frustration at having to cross over to Mackenzie.
“I barely hitch a ride to come here, now we hearing we got to go over the river…This thing happening too steady and it punishing we. Sometimes, we come out here without a cent, so how we supposed to pay to cross the river?”.
Regional Chairman Rennis Morian accompanied by Councillors Denise Belgrave, Sorojnie Narine and an engineer visited the scene and spoke with members of the media and police, yesterday.
Morian said that the time has come for security to be beefed up at the facility, which has been targeted by criminals over the years. He described yesterday as a bad day for pensioners, who had turned up and had to be turned away.
He also expressed concern over the lack of security at the post office. “There needs to be a paradigm shift here, none of the other institutions that deal with money has ever suffered a break in.
All the years the post office has depended on grill and mesh (for security) that can’t work anymore, that paradigm has shifted.
There has to be a security booth at the back and another at the front.”
Morian said that because the post office does not have a proper fence, thieves and vandals have free access.
“We don’t have to wait for budget 2019 to rectify this situation. We have to find a way to access appropriate emergency funding to deal with this. I’m going to write to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State on behalf of the residents of Region Ten that monies have to be appropriated from wherever to deal with this because it is an emergency.”
Morian commended the vigilance of the pensioners who alerted the police and fire service.
Councillor Denise Belgrave observed that that there have been several incidents of the Post office being robbed, and with the necessary “shuffling” of pensioners to the Mackenzie Post Office, serious hardships are created. She expressed concern that several pensioners who had turned up for their pensions had to be sent to Mackenzie.
“We would pay a visit to the Mackenzie facility and talk with the pensioners who have gone over there to see how we could assist them.”
Belgrave also cited the need for security cameras at the facility. Those sentiments were reiterated by Councillor Sorojnie Narine.
Narine also expressed the hope that the police would speed up their investigations into the matter.
The Wismar post office has over the years been targeted by bandits. In December 2009, police detained a former member of the Guyana Defence Force and three other men in connection with a $7M heist at the facility.
The detained men were reportedly from various areas in Linden. Postal staff were also held by police and subsequently released following the incident.
In addition, in June 2014 armed men carted off an undisclosed sum of money that was intended to pay pensioners and also relieved a police rank of his service revolver.
The men forced their way into the building and removed $2 million from a safe, according to police reports.
That robbery was the third suffered by the entity, in as many years. It was carried out in full view of about fifty pensioners who had turned up to collect their pensions.
Police investigations into the matter are ongoing. Meanwhile, the Wismar Post Office remains closed to the general public.
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