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…Ramjattan threatens legal action against Kaieteur News
By Svetlana Marshall
Rejecting the allegations that he was involved in armed robberies, trafficking in narcotics and the illicit sale of firearm licenses as spurious, former Minister of Public Security and Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan said the allegations, which were linked to an alleged report on wiretapping, surfaced shortly after he sought to enquire into the issuance of two trawler licenses by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
Approximately six days ago, reports surfaced that Ramjattan’s phone was wiretapped by his own Government – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – shortly after the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“Breaking: Ramjattan was under surveillance while serving as Security Minister, phone was wiretapped,” the headline of a Big Smith News Watch report read while the Kaieteur Newspaper reported that “Granger administration ordered police to tap senior AFC Minister’s phone.”
During an exclusive interview with Village Voice News, the former Public Security Minister said the news of the wiretapping and the accompanying allegations caught him by surprise. Out of concern, Ramjattan said he immediately contacted former President David Granger and former Commissioner of Police, Leslie James to determine whether his phone was indeed wiretapped.
“They denied that they ever, ever did that, Mr. James and President Granger,” Ramjattan told Village Voice News.
He said to further compound the situation, the reports insinuated that he may have been involved in armed robberies, trafficking in narcotics, the purchasing of guns and ammunition and the illicit sale of firearm licenses. Ramjattan, while rubbishing the allegations, said the Kaieteur Newspaper went one step further and alleged that he was in the business of charging exorbitant fees for gun licences.
“The then minister under surveillance had long been dogged by rumours of bypassing the Firearm Licensing Board and directly issuing licences, in contravention to established procedure, with claims that at least $1M was charged for each gun licence that was issued,” a section of the Kaieteur News report read.
But Ramjattan again refuted the allegations. “I have never ever taken any money for any firearm license,” he said.
The former Public Security Minister said once he took over the Security Sector in 2015, strict measures were put in place for the issuance of licences. “The applications are scrutinised by three tiers, the Regional Commanders, the Commissioner of Police and the Firearms Licensing Approval Board. As of 2015, all applicants are required to submit VAT Returns, Taxes, Financial Statements and other relevant documents to support their applications. These stringent measures resulted in a decreased application approval rate when compared to the previous administration. The table below shows the comparison of the approval rate from 2011 to 2020,” a section of a report addressed to former President Granger read.
Ramjattan was keen on noting that once he took office in 2015, the Firearm Licensing Board was activated and functioned until March, 2020. He explained that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Firearm Licensing Board stopped meeting in March, and in keeping with the Laws of the country, he issued a small number of licenses following consultation and approval from Regional Commanders and the Commissioner of Police.
From January to June, a total of 37 firearm licences were issued, and of that number a percentage was issued by the then Minister.
“I have done the honest thing all my life, and that is, I have led the examined life, any reporter could call me at any time, and they could go and call those 37 people, who got licenses, whether they paid Ramjattan one dime or ask all the others of the previous years, whether they ever paid Ramjattan one dime,” he told this publication..
Due to damages done to his reputation as an upright citizen of Guyana, he has contacted a battery of lawyers to initiate legal proceedings against the local newspaper, on the basis that the reports are libelous. “So the newspaper, Kaieteur News is going to hear from me,” Ramjattan said while noting that the reports are scandalous.