Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2013 – Bill No. 24/20132763 16 Jan, 2014
Mr. Nagamootoo: The Alliance For Change recognises that this is a necessary piece of legislation. On the last occasion, when this measure was tabled in the House, we demonstrated that as much we found the piece of legislation of the amendment to the Firearm Act as important we sent a strong message that we also feel responsible and efficacious leadership is as important, if not more important than the law. We are very pleased that the Government has seen it fit to put aside its pettiness on this issue of trying to trade off its political response for the Opposition petition of the Minister’s conduct on a particular occasion and thought it necessary to have the learned Attorney General to introduce and to present the amendment.
We believe that it is not a question that we could afford to play politics with, the illegal entry the trading of, re-exporting of, trafficking in arms, but we know also... I will tell what we find very important as well. It is that we feel that guns coming into Guyana are not only used here by criminal gangs, not only to prop up the narco-criminal trade, but guns also are used as, quote and unquote, underground armoury, that we have to deal with in Guyana as well. I will not say much more on this occasion on that, but we have to be careful when we talk about the importation of guns and the illegal importation of guns.
The former Commissioner of Police, my learned friend, Mr. Felix, had alluded to guns in the possession of elements which could not be used for lawful purposes. We have to deal with our laws and the implementation of these laws in a holistic and serious way. It is not only dealing as the Hon. Minister has said, to address and respond to the comity of the requirements of international laws and relationships that we tend to reform our laws, but we have to see in a very practical way that when there is the attempt to reform our laws to deal with the possession of firearm that we intend to enforce the law irrespective of those to whom the guns have been consigned.
We have to be very careful with what we do here because we know of guns that have been intercepted in Guyana. On one occasion, 38 AK rifles, no one has given account on where those rifles have gone. There were guns, which were in the possession and safekeeping of the security forces, the army, which disappeared, AK 47 weapons. Those are as equally dangerous, as having weapons imported and being in the hands of the wrong elements, as if there are in the hands of the right element and the right element do not take care of them in order to protect the citizenry. There could be the inverse action or omission or commission of a state in the wrongful use and deployment of weapons that create the atmosphere of insecurity and fear in the land.
We support the amendments because we believe that those who bring guns into the country either for domestic use in pursuit of criminality or for trans-shipment to other countries or in exchange for drugs, it is that these things must carry a price. We, of course, must not see ourselves as an island by itself. We are a part of the main. When we intercept illegal weapons and we prosecute those who may or may not be Guyanese and non Guyanese on our soil that there are e laws that can put them away for a long time or the penalty in monetary terms would be so high and appropriate that it could deter and discourage the trafficking in arms.
That is why, on recent occasion, when we had cause to remark in this House about the use of weapons we had said that it was time for a review policy of those who have weapons, those who are licence holder who use their weapons wrongfully or for purposes for which they have not been issued. I have seen the Ministry of Home Affairs publishing an advisory on how weapon should be deployed. That is good, but we believe that many weapons are in the wrong hands, for whatever reasons. There is an antecedent of charges being laid against officials for distributing firearms to those who ought not to have firearms and charges of bribery and unlawful practices are not unknown even among so-called protected sources, privileged sources.
We must see the complementariness of legislation in relation to what measures are taken to ensure the proper possession of, quote and unquote so-called safe use of firearms for the person and the person’s property and not to willy-nilly take the lives of their partners, their spouses, their friends or people around them generally or in pursuit of crime. Also we have to look at the infrastructure in which trafficking of the sort, which the legislation is intended to address, can take place, so that it should not been seen as unpatriotic on the part of society or a section thereof when it protested against lands, which are on the borders of our country, being given away willy-nilly without proper consultation and without reference to issues of security and even sovereignty as we have had recently in the Permission for Geological and Geophysical Survey (PGGS) affair with Muri.
I say this in the National Assembly because when we deal with contiguous territory on the border in a country where our reform of the security forces is far from being significant that we do not deny ourselves a part of our country contiguous with another State where it is known, and the Attorney General did address that and the Ministry of Home Affairs did refer to that, of working in cooperation with our neighbour to the South. We give away and make inaccessible portions of our territory into which incursion of illegal arms could come, so that we will have to have a complementariness of legislation with diplomacy and then with good sense, that we do not put ourselves in jeopardy, if you feel that doing a certain act, even permitted, under the law could in fact render nugatory laws passed in this Parliament to protect us.
I want to reiterate that we find this piece of legislation timely. We find that it is going to be useful and I do not want to quibble about whether the law enforcement will implement it or not implement it or else it will not be here. It is a precondition that we have the capacity to bring the big fishes. We are not dealing with small arms trading here, we are dealing with the big guns and therefore we have to be able to have the muscle to be able to address this contingency as it arises and it will be able to dismantle the social infrastructure for criminal activities of the sort that required big guns coming in through the borders.
We support this amendment fully and we hope, as I said, that it must not be seen that we are coming here to support it today when we had voted against it sometime before. We had said, the leader of the Alliance For Change has said, from this floor, that we intend to bring this law here if the Government did not do so. We felt it was necessary and therefore, even though we are on this side of the House, we have a national responsibility to bring laws that will protect our citizen and enable us to have good governance in Guyana.
Thank you. [Applause]
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