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Security Minister tells illegal gun holders to gear for amnesty; seeks technocrat in granting licenses

Illegal guns and ammunition seized by police (Guyana Police Force file photo)

by Zena Henry

The holders of unlicensed firearms are being urged to gear for the promised amnesty period within the first 100 days of government being in office. This will facilitate the reduction of illegal guns on the street as government seeks to make the surrendering of unlicensed weapons to security agencies easier.

Minister responsible for Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan told reporters at his office Thursday June 4, that indeed the amnesty period will be done before the coalition government’s first 100 days in office and the public will be educated on this matter.

The Minister is adamant that he must speak with his Police Commissioner Seelall Persuad, who is currently overseas, to discuss how the force will implement the amnesty. He said that the matter may very well require the input of experts to decide on the feasibility of this initiative, pointing to the difference of Guyanese culture.

“Our country may have a different culture and we will have to decide how they are going to hand in the guns.” He said some people may seek incentives for handing in weapons but whether this will be done, or whether citizens should be urged to submit their guns or face stiffer penalties if they fail to utilize the amnesty period will have to be considered.

 “All of that is part and parcel of my projected plans for the next couple of months… but indeed we are going to grant an amnesty so they can start their collection and bring it to the nearest police station.”

The Minister said, too. that he has not yet been able to view the policies in the granting of licenses which would have been under the previous administration, but he has requested the information from the relevant staff.

The Minister pointed out that he is seeking to remove the Ministerial role in the granting of these licenses and hand it over to the technocrats. During the People’s Progressive Party’s reign, a recommendation was made by the Police Commissioner, but then Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee had established a Firearms Licensing Approval Board that had the final say.

“I would like more technocrats inside of here doing that rather than the Minister. And I would want to see that being drifted away. I want to concern myself with policy matters rather than going through gun licenses applications, and all the other documentation. That is not ministerial functions. Ministerial functions are largely to do with policies and so we get the technocrat people to grant the licenses.”

The Minister suggested that the same should happen with other matters such as work permits and visa applications. “The former Administration had a minister that literally went through every single one and dealt directly with some of these applicants rather than get a set of people to do the work at the administrative level.”

The Minister said the gun licensing board which was developed under the PPP will also be reviewed as he looks to clean up the operation of the systems.