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“Clean sweep” of illegal shops in mining areas planned

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 July 2015, 6:31 by GxMedia

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan meeting with representatives of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association on Monday, July 13, 2015.

Authorities will soon begin a “clean sweep” of Guyana’s interior in search of illegal shops that are havens for various criminals and illegal activities including weapons and gun possession, according to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan.

“We would like to notify all illegal shops first as to their illegal activities before we are going to do a number of sweeps,” he said.

That decision to bring to an “immediate halt” to illegal shops followed a meeting between representatives of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud and the Public Security Minister.

Ramjattan said GGDMA representatives and the Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) would help identify the illegal shops to facilitate the police to “do our sweeps.” He listed the offences that the illegal shops are being used as cover for: “…cover for drugs, prostitution, which drives a certain set of other illegal activities, weapons possession and it may even cause robberies,” he said.

Authorities said the shops should be next to landings at rivers rather than close to mines.

Prior to the meeting GGDMA President Patrick Harding said he had no new initiative to present because the age-old issues of poor security and lax response by the police in the gold and diamond bearing areas remained unresolved.

Asked by Demerara Waves Online News whether the Guyana Police Force had the capacity to sustain an improved security environment after the raids on illegal shops would have been conducted, the Police Commissioner said succcess would depend on information to be provided by the Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). “We have the interest of the GGMC. They are on the ground so if they operate as a surveillance system, the information comes in, our operations would be more targeted and  certainly we can mobilize resources for this,” he said.

On the issue of whether such raids have been done in the past, Persaud said police could not remove the shops but could take action against illegal activities. “It takes more than that. The shops have to be removed and we need to get that commitment of the authorities that have those powers…Generally, there are designated areas in the mining districts for shops and if it they are concentrated there then they will eliminate the perception of and illegal activities,” he said.

The Public Security Minister said 50 applications for firearm licenses by large mining operations are to to be “fast tracked” since they have been on the waiting list since earlier this year. Ramjattan said one of major criteria would be the payment of taxes by miners and good behaviour by miners.

He announced that former miners, who are still licensed to carry guns, would have their guns seized. “I would be reviewing those when their applications for renewals come up next year because very many of them have left the industry now and it is my opinion at this stage that those should be taken back if they are out of the industry,” he said.

Ramjattan said Road Users Agreements with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the GGMC would be examined as part of efforts to enforce regulations on certain heavy duty fuel trucks that are “damaging the road.” “We are going to engage those who have those trucks to bring those to an end,” he said.

In recent times, armed bandits have attacked  mining camps where they have shot and injured or killed miners before carting off gold and other valuables.