NEW AMSTERDAM, BERBICE (Guyana)
“We know who you are. We are coming after you. No one would be spared.” That stern warning from Commander of Division ‘B’ of the Guyana Police Force, Assistant Commissioner Steve Merai is for those involved in the illicit drug-trade.
As he appealed to residents along the Berbice River to return to cash crop cultivation and not be involved in the drug business, he called on parents to consider the example they are setting for their young ones. According to him, based on intelligence gathered, children as young as 15 years old are not attending school and are working in marijuana fields in those geographic locations. This problem is more prevalent in areas along the Berbice River.
He said that a number of women and children have knowledge of what is happening in these riverain locations but do nothing to help the police. Though no female was ever identified as the owner of any cultivation field, women are still involved in the business and even function as the ‘look-out’. The Commander said that in the Gaetroy community, especially during police raids, many of the women are hostile to police ranks and provide little or no information.
The Division shifted gear in the anti-narcotic strategy in a bid to create a ‘drought’ on the illicit drug market. Instead of only focusing on destroying fields used for marijuana cultivation, it was decided to go after the equipment used in the process and/or those purchased with suspected ill-gotten gains. Planters, traffickers and others in the support system are also being targeted.
The Commander said that this action would not only create a shortage of the illegal item but when the supply is limited, the cost would increase thus resulting in fewer users. He vowed that the anti-narcotic drive would continue until all cultivated fields are eradicated.
“Because of the constant pressure we are putting and will put on them, they will have no choice.”
He posited that the Division is making some progress since there is evidence to show. According to him, the deserted fields once used for ganja cultivation support their findings, while in other instances these abandoned fields suggest the waiting game is being played.
Due to recent heavy rainfall and high water levels in areas along the Berbice River, raids in these locations were put on hold. According to the Commander, this campaign would resume shortly and in a more intense manner. At present the concentration is on other high risk areas.
Commander Merai indicated that the number of persons placed before the courts for drug related offenses is higher now than previous years. For this he cited an improved relationship between the Police Force and public. According to him, many persons are now coming forward with information, especially those who decided to escape the clutch of illicit drugs.
According to him, the main complaint by those who are trying to break free of the drug-trade is the missing launch service that plied Berbice River years ago. He explained that according to information gathered, the residents are using this as an excuse for turning away from cash crop cultivation. They are claiming that it is more costly and in some cases impossible to transport their cash crops out of these areas. But in the case of cannabis sativa, the small and medium buyers travel to the location and purchase the illicit drugs while the bigger dealers make all the necessary arrangements to have the drug safely delivered at no cost to the planters.
It was also discovered that many in the business are now cultivating smaller fields of a hybrid cannabis sativa or high-grade product which brings a higher yield per pound. One pound of compressed high-grade marijuana carries a street value of US$1,000. This particular hybrid makes it more difficult for the plants to be spotted during an aerial survey since it is short and blends in with the bush around while the regular ganja plant stands out and is readily spotted. More so, the hybrid fields are now being carved in various shapes. The hybrid grows up to five feet. Of every 10 farms raided on the Berbice River, seven cultivated the hybrid and based on information received this variety was only introduced to these locations less than one year ago. The seeds are imported and are said to be expensive. It has a longer expiry date and ready markets are available for this new species. The Commander explained that both the hybrid and regular cannabis sativa require low maintenance when compared to other crops. The ordinary cannabis sativa plant grows up to nine feet. From one plant, a cultivator can gain one pound of compressed ganja.
Commander Merai said there have been no official reports of drug-related homicides in Division ‘B’ this year but two bodies have surfaced. One was found on the Number Nineteen Highway and the burnt remains of another was discovered in a car trunk. According to Mr. Merai, intelligence received so far suggests that the man whose burnt body was found in the car trunk was associated with that sort of life. He said there is some bad blood and distrust among planters along the Berbice River, especially at Gaetroy. These persons deem each as police informants.
These drug-cultivation locations are scattered on both banks of the Berbice River – Sand Hills, Haffett, De Velde, Gaetroy and Tabatali. Baracara on the Canje River is also known for the cultivation of ganja in Berbice in addition to other parts of that river. A small amount of the drug is also planted along the Corentyne River on the Guyana side.
Meanwhile, the boat and a Mariner engine that were seized at Rosignol in June have not yet been claimed up to press time yesterday. The Commander said that false documentation could be the reason here or even guilt of involvement in the illicit drug-trade could be why the assets are still in the possession of police.
The vessel and engine are suspected to be used for transport in the drug-trade. They were seized just hours after a raid at Gaetroy in which teams burnt four fields about eight acres in size, which had some 15,000 plants suspected to be cannabis sativa. During that exercise, five nurseries with about 35,000 seedlings, 500 pounds of dried compressed ganja and the two living quarters were also destroyed and a brush cutter, a chain saw and tarpaulin were seized.
Division ‘B’ spans Abary and Orealla/Siparuta and borders 90 miles up the Berbice River from New Amsterdam.
Kaieteur News Online July 12, 2010
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