Illegal firearms, drug use worry Amerindian leaders

first_imgNational Toshaos ConferenceAs the National Toshao’s Conference (NTC) continues, many Indigenous leaders and representatives on Wednesday voiced their concerns on the prevailing matters affecting their security. Some of the echoing calls made by leaders were the prevalence of illegal firearms, marijuana and heavy alcohol use which they believe has fuelled the increase of criminal activities in the hinterland communities.In this vein, many expressed the view that more gun licences should be given to Indigenous peoples to protect themselves, not only from criminals, but from wild animals as well. It was reiterated that jaguars are still invading dwelling places and eating livestock and dogs in Indigenous communities. In the absence of Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, senior Police ranks were on hand to address the concerns of the Indigenous (Amerindian) community leaders. Carl Lewis, a Toshao from Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), indicated that illegal drugs and alcohol are passing through many communities. Lewis told law enforcement representatives that he wants atleast four persons from his village to be trained in security. It was also explained that many persons who commit criminal acts flee to neighbouring Brazil, since these areas are without Police protection and the borders are porous.Another Toshao, this time from Port Kaituma, Region One (Barima-Waini), expressed that he feels like his life is “at stake” in defending himself with a baton.He too asked that members from his village to be trained in security defence. He also appealed for a firearm licence.The Port Kaituma Toshao added that youths in the village would exhibit tenants of dangerous behaviour when they use marijuana.“These youths could be very dangerous when the youths smoke up the bush,” he noted.As the leaders plea for assistance, the Mazaruni Toshao expressed that “95 per cent” of youths in his area are involved in alcohol and marijuana use and urged authorities to implement measures to curb these activities.In light of many Amerindians having lost possession of their firearms through Government’s Gun Amnesty Programme last year, the leaders called on the law enforcement authorities to issue firearm licences for their personal protection against crime and wild animals. A Police representative who responded to the questions on citizen security, however, explained that this regulation falls within the preview of the Public Security Ministry.Commander of F Division (Lethem and other Interior Locations), Senior Superintendent Ravindradat Budhram, however, encouraged the Toshaos to apply for the licences, given the many security concerns raised. He pointed out that the licences will either be approved or disapproved by the Ministry.“Residents can apply for firearms… you can apply now, go to the website and download it now… apply, is either you’re approve or not approved,” the Commander stated, even as many hinterland residents are still without access to the Internet.On the point of the licences, Norma Thomas, the Kamarang, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) Toshao noted that “We surrendered our illegal firearms and appealed for a licence,” adding that residents are happy about a road that was built, but want security since drugs are coming through this route.Community Development Council (CDC) Chairman in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) Ian Jacobis, also told the Conference of rampant drug use, especially in North Rupununi.“Drugs has become so dominant, people have no respect for elderly… a set of men every morning at the front of the road smoking where children take buses to go to school… the men have no respect for girl children,” Jacobis noted.He further noted that he tried reporting the matter to Police and petitioned that the matter be urgently addressed. Toshaos also made allegations of wrongdoings by some Police ranks who would reportedly demand money from Amerindians found with firearms in addition to facilitating some criminals escaping to Brazil.Responding to the myriad of concerns, Commander Budhram observed that Police ranks become corrupt after a time, as “they get familiar with people”. He noted that there are intentions to rotate ranks every three months but maintained that the possession of the unlicensed firearms is still outlawed.“We collected over 100 fire arms from Kamarang alone,” he stated, noting that about 24 persons were granted licences, while 42 applications have been received. Budram pointed out that some applicants did not submit identification cards and medical certificates.He conceded that drugs and firearms were found in the Kamarang to Kaikan areas. Budhram explained that while the setting up of more Police stations in many of the locations would be impractical, what he will do is ensure that there are more Police patrols in the villages. (Shemuel Fanfair)last_img

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