The newly commissioned CANU Headquarters (DPI Photo)
June 14 2019
The Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) is aiming to remove Guyana from being listed among the transshipment points for drugs by 2022, Deputy Head of the CANU Lesley Ramlall said yesterday as the agency commissioned its new headquarters.
The new building, costing some $41.9 million, was commissioned on Homestretch Avenue in Georgetown and among those present were Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and Head of the National Anti-Narcotic Agency Michael Atherly.
Ramlall said with upgraded facilities at the new headquarters, which include office spaces, accommodation, a kitchen, and a gym, CANU officers will be able to function more effectively and execute their duties. He also called for the construction of a parking lot since the building now occupies the former parking lot of the old headquarters and officers have to park along the road.
Ramjattan promised to look at the request, while noting that officers parking outside is a matter of concern.
Ramlall stated that in order to achieve the goal of Guyana no-longer being labelled a transshipment port, CANU would have to work continuously with sister agencies and maintain support by government.
“Our aim at CANU is to ensure by 2022—that is the timeline I have given myself—to ensure that Guyana’s stigma of being a transshipment country for narcotics is removed. For the last two years, our position and aggressiveness is testimony and based upon the outcome you are seeing we are on the right track,” Ramlall announced, while adding that the new headquarters is timely.
“It is timely as we continue to expand,” he said, while noting that there is adequate office space to accommodate all of CANU’s staff.
He further noted that he was happy to see the realisation of a modern facility as they have been confined to limited work space in the past.
Construction of the two-storey building began in April of 2018 and it was completed earlier this year. The building was constructed by Royal Construction.
Additionally, it was pointed out that staff who are working at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport now have accommodation available to them.
Ramlall explained that in the past, staff working at the CJIA would have been labouring prolonged hours without having anywhere to relax in case of flight delays. This, he explained, was a challenge for the agency.
Meanwhile, he also said CANU has established permanent offices in regions 2, 6 and 9 and has procured buildings to serve as accommodation for officers visiting from out of town.
In addition, he explained that it has boosted its workforce and thus has a greater presence across Guyana. “The expansion of the unit has now facilitated a wider presence throughout Guyana and this will certainly have a positive impact in the fight against narco-trafficking,” Ramlall said.
Officers, he noted, have been continuously undergoing training and it is now a mandate of the agency for officers to be involved in academic development or capacity building.
He added that some of their officers are trained in foreign languages, photography and investigative skills. “The ability to now have organic translators in the Spanish and Dutch languages along with the training of personnel to communicate in the Portuguese language are clear indications that CANU continues to ensure that it will remain the leading drug fighting agency in Guyana and will ensure that 2019 brings even greater successes for Guyana,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ramjattan said that he would like to see the agency going after “those in the upper level.”
“The little guy in the street, I am not very concerned about him going to spend a year in jail or three years for a spliff… those at the very upper level involved in this trade, that’s where we want the prosecutions…,” the minister said.
He pointed out that while government would like to see successful prosecutions of drug lords, overall it would like to see the drug trade dismantled. “This drug traffic trade has as its primary motivation profit. All the literature that I have read [has] indicated that is where it is,” he added, while noting the need to do what is necessary to cut the profit out of the trade.
Ramlall, in his address, had mentioned that one of the challenges is getting drug mules to testify against their distributors. He explained that in many instances offers are made to forfeit sentencing or reduce jail time, but mules are reluctant to testify. He stated that it is an area they are focused on addressing.
Ramjattan pointed out that government will continue to support the work of CANU by making funds available and ensuring that the agency is in a position where it can effectively execute its duties. He hinted that with oil revenues expected to come on stream soon, the agency can expect more support from government.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan cuts the ceremonial ribbon to open the new CANU headquarters as Head of the National Anti-Narcotic Agency Michael Atherly (at right) and Deputy Head of CANU Lesley Ramlall (at back) look on.