Murders and robberies have declined since 2012, but there are lingering concerns about the large number of robberies at Stabroek Market square, parliamentarians said Thursday during Day 4 of the 2019 National Budget debate.
Weathering intense heckling from opposition parliamentarians in the 65-seat National Assembly, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan boasted of reduced crimes based on statistics provided by the Guyana Police Force.
“It is declining. Just don’t then give the impression to your base there that crime rates have skyrocketed. It has not,” he said.
Ramjattan warned Guyanese against being gullible of false information he said was being peddled by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to paint the coalition as racist and ugly. “This opposition has dashed authentic debate in this assembly against the rocks of emotion, bias and impulse. I have sat and watched certain political manipulation happen here. First, very outrageous and false stories packaged to look like real truths. If we do not pay attention to this and their counterfeit utterances over there, we are going to move to an extraordinarily dangerous place,” he said.
Before Ramjattan, Shadow Minister Clement Rohee expressed concern about an increase in crime especially robberies in the Stabroek Market area since the mobile outpost was removed from that location. “There is a big talk now about Stabroek Market. What are you doing about Stabroek Market where those pick-pockets and all those people that are around there picking the tourists’ pockets and selling those watches and so on under the clock…You trying to clear it out? You move the mobile police station from out there and carry it somewhere else. Why did you do that?,” Rohee asked Ramjattan who sits in the government benches almost opposite him.
The Public Security Minister did not specifically name the Stabroek Market area, but promised that steps were being taken to tackle that trouble-spot.
There are several robberies around the bus and car parks outside Stabroek Market, especially after sunset. Fearing reprisals, often vendors, drivers and other persons do not intervene whenever robberies are committed. Referring to a publication, Homicide Monitor, the Public Security Minister said Guyana’s homicide rate was 15 per 100,000 in Guyana compared to 56 in Jamaica, 36 in Trinidad and Tobago, 34 in St. Lucia, 35 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 37 in Belize and 11 in Barbados. “Although 15 murders per 100,000 is really bad, it is far superior to the impression you want to give to the world out there,” Ramjattan added.
Rohee accused Ramjattan of focussing on the wrong areas where crimes are supposedly occurring. “The minister is sniffing in the wrong direction. He is looking in the wrong direction,” he said. He also blamed Ramjattan for plagiarising PPP’s security initiatives.
The Ministry of Public Security will next year get GYD$35.6 billion, a figure Ramjattan called “a fine sum, amounting to a 15 percent increase.