Piracy, smuggling raised during high-level Guyana-Suriname meeting

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In an effort to boost cooperation, the top brass of the Guyana Police Force and the Korps Politie Suriname met, yesterday, to discuss a range of issues aimed at strengthening enforcement at the countries’ shared border, as well as improve relations between the two agencies.

A delegation from the neighbouring country, headed by Assistant Commissioner of Police Guno Roosenhoff, is currently in Guyana on a two-day exchange visit. This is a follow-up to a visit by local Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud to Suriname back in April when he invited the Surinamese Force to Guyana after interest was expressed in his brain-child project – the Social Crime Prevention Programme – and female policing initiatives.

Speaking at a press conference following a meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Persaud disclosed that among the topics discussed during the high-level briefing were organised crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, piracy, cross-border crimes and goods smuggling. Heads of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the Guyana Revenue Authority’s Customs and Trade Division were also present during the meeting.

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud (Third from right), Assistant Commissioner of Police Guno Roosenhoff of the Korps Politie Suriname (centre), CANU Head James Singh and other members of the Guyana – Suriname delegation
Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud (Third from right), Assistant Commissioner of Police Guno Roosenhoff of the Korps Politie Suriname (centre), CANU Head James Singh and other members of the Guyana – Suriname delegation

The Top Cop noted that of recent, there has been much interaction between the two law enforcement agencies and the collaboration has been fruitful, especially with the recent arrest and hand-over of convicted drug lord Barry Dataram by the Surinamese authorities. He posited that this success would continue in the future now that the two bodies were able to establish contacts with the various counterpart law enforcement entities.

Persaud explained that with new officials in place within both Police Forces, this meeting provided the opportunity for the hierarchy to be familiarised with each other as well as iron out arrangements with regard to information sharing. In fact, he revealed that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) representative had passed on information to the Surinamese delegation regarding trends and syndicates. He added that the development of joint targeting measures may follow this process.

Moreover, the Commissioner noted that smuggling across the Guyana-Suriname border continued to be an area of focus for both authorities. To this end, he said the already joint efforts to monitor smuggling in all its forms between the neighbouring States would be enhanced following the two-day visit by the Surinamese delegation.

“The thing is with organised crime, intelligence is our bread and butter and sometimes the information is there, but half of it is on the Suriname side and half of it is on the Guyana side. We will now bring it together, get a good picture and then target jointly,” he posited. In terms of efforts to tackle smuggling, the officials were asked about the installation of technology at the border; however, the Top Cop pointed out that this was dependent on the extent to which it would assist and how accessible it was in terms of cost, taking into consideration both agencies work with budgets and have the same reality of being in a developing country.

Furthermore, asked whether there would be any regularisation of backtracking at the Guyana-Suriname border, both officials explained that they were focused on policing and leave such matters to the policymakers.

“We look at issues that we can work and we choose to go with them…our interest is smuggling and we have been dealing with that and we continue to address smuggling to evade taxes and smuggling of contraband moving in both directions,” the Police Commissioner remarked.

Nevertheless, the Police Commissioner added that the regularisation of backtracking activities was something that the authorities on both sides had on the formal agenda for many years. Persaud’s stance was supported by his Surinamese colleague, Roosenhoff, who noted that the Police were focused on stopping crime.

“Police do the operations; we don’t do politics,” he stated.

On the other hand, with regard to the issue of piracy, Persaud related that there was only so much the Police Force in Guyana could do in terms of surveillance given the limited resources available. In the same breath, he mentioned the multi-agency task force that has a specific focus on piracy and has been conducting aerial surveillance within Guyana’s territory.

On the issue of piracy, the Surinamese official explained that the recent detainment of the Guyanese fishermen who were found in Surinamese waters was a “labour matter” and not a Police one.

“The moment you are working on a boat in Suriname waters, then you have a problem,” Roosenhoff said. He added that while the boat licence was issued by Suriname authorities to work in the country’s territorial waters, the Guyanese labourers/fishermen were illegal in the vessel and illegal in Suriname waters, hence the owner was fined for each crew member. (Guyana Times)

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