Last Updated on Wednesday, 1 March 2017, 10:52 by Denis Chabrol
The government is not about to get rid of Head of Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), James Singh who has been asked to proceed on leave, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan said Wednesday.
“No, not as far as I know. He is on leave. Everybody is entitled to his leave,” Ramjattan told Demerara Waves Online News when asked whether Singh’s engagement with the security sector was about to end. He added that Singh would be returning as Head of CANU at the end of his one or two-month leave.
He said Singh would be returning to head that anti-drug agency which falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security, previously the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Acting for Singh is retired Brigadier, Michael Atherly who is tipped to head the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA), an umbrella body of all agencies that are involved in the fight against drug trafficking.
The Ministry of the Presidency later said in a statement that in line with Government’s policy to ensure that officers do not accumulate annual leave and in turn request pay in lieu of such, the CANU Head has been asked to proceed on leave effective today.
“This is the practice that we have embraced since we came into office and, therefore, Mr. Singh, who had some leave accumulated, has been asked to go on leave with effect from today and Major General Michael Atherly will be heading CANU. This has been communicated to the Minister of Public Security, who is the person responsible for CANU, but public officers have always been encouraged to take their leave and we want to discourage this practice of accumulating large amounts of leave and then asking for payment in lieu. So we are trying to ensure that all public officers get their leave during that year,” Minister Harmon was quoted as saying in the Ministry of the Presidency statement.
Major General (ret’d) Atherly was responsible for leading the review of the National Drug Strategy Master Plan 2014-2018. This review led to the development of the National Drug Strategy Master Plan 2016-2020, which was launched last December.
Demerara Waves Online News has been told that one of the major constraints facing the establishment of NANA is finding an appropriate building. Highly placed sources had declined to comment on whether the heads of all the related agencies would be retained when NANA is fully established.
A recent Commission of Inquiry into allegations against CANU by now convicted drug lord Barry Dataram had made quite an unflattering conclusion about that agency.
“The testimony of Barry Dataram, upon whose expose’ this Inquiry was initiated, did not achieve the threshold of sufficiency required to support his allegations first made known in the media. He was reluctant to advance specific charges, call names, and cite instances to support his generalized claims.
The Inquiry, however, was able to place a spotlight on CANU, revealing that there exist patterns of misconduct, improper and (eds: alleged) criminal behavior by the State’s Officials due to their (eds. alleged) involvement in illicit, illegal and corrupt activities. The Inquiry also discovered the need for a re-engineering of CANU to rectify the capability gaps found in its doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and policy.
That inquiry had been conducted by retired Brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force, Bruce Lovell.