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APNU, CANU weigh in on in-bound drug shipments

A huge quantity of cocaine and marijuana engulfed by flames. A loud explosion was heard after the drugs, soaked with av-gas and gasoline, were set alight. CANU agents and the Guyana Fire Service supervised the operation.

Less than one hour after the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) began burning more than one ton of marijuana and cocaine after the conclusion of court cases, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Friday morning raised concerns that large quantities of narcotics were not being prevented from entering Guyana at its borders.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Winston Felix noted that the recent discovery of the 65-feet long, 12-feet wide and seven-feet deep Self-Propelled Semi-Submersible vessel at Waini, North West District pointed to limited patrols although the national drug strategy master plan identifies the need to improve border and air surveillance. “The control is absent and it’s permissive of drug trafficking,” said Felix, a former Police Commissioner. “On the one hand when the government takes step to implement policy, they take no action. It’s just talk,” he said.

APNU Chairman and Opposition Leader David Granger further stressed the need to establish a countrywide surveillance and intelligence-gathering system from the district level right up to the law enforcement agencies and the political executive. “Unless you put that structure in place, you wouldn’t get the information and intelligence on which to react,” he said.

Speaking with reporters at the burning of the 1,963 kilogrammes of marijuana and 730 kilogrammes of cocaine on Homestretch Avenue, Head of CANU James Singh did not respond directly to a question about what was being done to prevent huge amounts of drugs from entering the country. “We will find the drugs or we will do our operations regardless of which part of the country it’s at. We will not focus on just on where it’s coming or where it’s going out so it is rather unfair to say what are we doing about what’s coming in,” he said.

He said Guyana has not been deemed a narco-state because government was supporting law enforcement agencies in fighting the drug trade. Singh credited the increased seizures and prosecutions to work being done by an inter-agency task force.

Asked why the vessel, capable of fetching several tons of cocaine on a trans-Atlantic route, was not found much earlier and persons at the camp arrested, Singh noted that even in Andean countries with air forces and navies drug submarines have been constructed and found. “The fact that a camp was found and a submersible discovered do not indicate that we are not doing enough. We found it. This is not a phenomenon that has just happened here in Guyana. More developed countries with more resources have failed to discover submarines, have actually found the submarines in the mid-Pacific,” said Singh.

Questioned about whether CANU planned to expand its presence in the North West area following the discovery of the semi-submersible vessel, the CANU Head said “we plan to expand our presence throughout the entire country. Again, our operations are based on information and intelligence which in the first place led us to this submarine,” he said.

If elected President at the next general election due the latest by January 2015, Granger plans to beef up the management and equipment of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard, police narcotics division and the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) as well as enforce anti-narcotics and money laundering legislation.

Felix also identified the need for a witness protection programme and the improvement of trust between investigators and persons with information to eliminate fears of information-leaks.

The former top cop believed that Guyanese would have had some “equity” in the construction of the Semi-Submersible and so the investigation should extend not only locally but also externally as far as Central America.

The CANU Head said more than six persons have been questioned in connection with the semi-submersible craft but he declined to say what their nationalities were.