Latest update March 27th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jan 27, 2023 News
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Shadow Minister for Public Security Geeta Chandan-Edmond on Wednesday reminded the government that economic security and public safety go hand in hand. During her presentation on the third day of budget debates, the Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) warned that the country’s security situation will remain a problem once citizens are unable to access basic necessities and continue to feel like the country’s resources are being handed out to a selected few.
Chandan-Edmond told the National Assembly that the country’s security situation has reached its worst levels. She said the government has failed, in its 2023 budget, to cater to economic security and general security to all citizens.
She said that if there is no economic security for all, lives will not be improved. And “if the people cannot afford basic daily necessities, there is no security when the price of bora has increased by over 50 percent”.
The Opposition MP said that it ought to be difficult for the government to speak of ‘prosperity for all’ while noting that Budget 2023 “leaves a large section of our population with the view that the prosperity is only available to a selected few”.
She opined that Budget 2023 did not consider situational analysis, theories or general philosophies that speak to the current plight of citizens. She posited that the money allocated in the budget has been primarily directed to infrastructure projects. While she isn’t against such projects, Chandan-Edmond insisted on balance so that the citizenry could indeed prosper.
The MP noted that the $58.6B allocated for ‘public safety and public security’ in the 2023 budget represents an increase of $7.1B from last year’s budget. In 2022, government allocated $51.5B for public safety, but according to the Opposition MP, not much improvement was seen.
She promised to lay over to the House the ‘crime rate by country 2022 report’ from which she submitted that Guyana has the eighth-highest crime rate worldwide of 68.74, and a murder rate of about four times higher than that of the United States.
With these statistics from an independent source, the MP questioned the police reports which she said were compiled by police. She called for the release of their sources of data collection, methods and sampling and questioned whether they took into consideration the fact that crimes are hardly reported.
“We cannot trust this data because it flies in the face of what we experience every day,” the MP said. She said, “If a $52.5B could not make us safe in 2022, it is safe to conclude that $58.6B cannot do the trick, with no plan to address these serious issues. It is safe to conclude that money is not the problem, the problem lies in the lack of economic security and the feeling of general insecurity in this country.”
The MP related that the Opposition’s manifesto had taken into consideration the promoting of people’s safety through economic security as it understood that, “if a man cannot find food, he is likely to become a perpetrator of crime.”
Today, she said ‘choke and rob’ crimes are almost daily and Guyanese simply do not feel safe just walking among each other. The MP spoke of extrajudicial killings and bold gunmen that execute in daylight and in the view of their families.
The Opposition MP opined that private security firms continued to pop up and suggested that the situation speaks to the lack of confidence in the State to provide security.
“The number of high-powered weapons in the streets is another worrying concern…” Chandan Edmond reported, as well as the ease with which firearm licences are acquired “for a small fee with no background checks,” she claimed.
The Shadow Security Minister said that the Opposition, while in government, proceeded on a path of a professionalized police force and brought back some level of public confidence after years under the vice grip of phantoms, ghosts and the drug underworld.
Today, she said, the hearts of past and current officers bleed for the Guyana Police Force as incident after incident, the credibility of the Force is called into question. She noted that the US State Department, in its report, ‘2021 country reports on human rights practices’: spoke to credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings. Now, she said, the country is faced with an incompetent Home Affairs Ministry.
Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn in his contribution to the budget debates said that there has been a reduction in crime. Based on his statistics, Benn said that crime in 2017 was 143 while in 2022, it was 76. Burglary reduced from 177 in 2018 to 108 in 2022. “Break and enter reduced from 926 to 496”, the minister reported.
Overall, Minister Benn said there was a decrease in crime noting that statistics between the years 2015 and 2022 show a 20.6 percent decrease. “We have reduced total robbery, serious crimes, murder and violence by average figures of 20 percent”, Benn charged.
He said tackling public safety has a lot to do with support to the Police Force with the provision of new vehicles, new training with new efforts in respect to crime and violence and the prevention and mitigation of same. The minister said too that the police have been charged with a new approach, one that is more empathetic and that the police should take a less lethal resort while engaging the public.
With respect to the fire service, Benn said they will receive seven more firefighting assets. Three modern ambulances are slated and the programme “Increase the peace” which was started under former Minister Clement Rohee would be getting on the way.
Additionally, Benn said that there has been a dramatic increase in the seizure of narcotics, more arrests relating to other illegal activities and a tremendous increase in the prison population by over 14 percent.
New facilities are slated for Lusignan Prison as well a new female prison and a release programme called “fresh start” to rehabilitate those incarcerated back into society.
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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