(DPI) The need for a national effort to curb alcohol abuse by minors was highlighted recently, when the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee (PSC) on Social Services met with a team of senior Guyana Police Force officers.
The team of officers, comprising Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, Senior Superintendent Royston Andries-Junor, and A Division Commander Marlon Chapman.
The officers explained that raids on illegal interior shops that sell alcohol are often done with assistance from Guyana Revenue Authority Officers.
It was further explained that there is no specific effort to enforce the laws against illegal alcohol sales.
The officers noted the interest of the PSC in the issue and pledged to maintain and ‘enhance their posture to effect change’.
The selling of alcohol to minors at social and sporting events was raised and the officers said that this was not allowed as a prerequisite for the issuance of permits. Once any breach was discovered, action was taken immediately, the officers explained.
The need for stronger action was however stressed by MP Dr Vishwa Mahadeo, “I disagree that shop owners’ stop, It happens in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne)”.
He cited the need for harsher penalties against shop owners suggesting that they be given two warnings after which their license should be taken away, “We are talking about the lives of children and it is a matter we need to take serious. So we need them to understand how serious an issue this is.”
His view was supported by Opposition MP, Indra Chandarpal. She said there ought to be the mandatory placement of notices on shops to inform the public that the sale of alcohol to minors is illegal. She said that upon granting a license, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) should issue the notice which shop owners should publicly display.
However, one of major concerns raised at the meeting was the fact that the Police Force does not have data on the issue.
Snr Supt Andries-Junor explained this “was not as a result of limited capacity to prosecute”, but because of the fact that the force has placed greater emphasis on “serious crimes” which includes robberies and murders among others.
Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes took issue and reminded the officers about the importance of data “because it helps to provide an analytic consideration of an issue.” She said that such data would have informed the force about which areas had high concentrations of minors accessing alcohol and it would have helped the force to have a targeted and strategic approach in dealing with the issue.
Questions were raised by committee members about sale of alcohol to communities such as Baramita, which adds to the myriad of social issues present in the indigenous community. It was noted, that young females and males were often drugged and raped after being supplied with alcohol, and little data existed to back up the reports that were made.
Chairperson of the Committee, Dr. Vindhya Persaud cited the need to re-examine the legislation which protects minors from the issues discussed and possibly amended. She also cited the need to train police ranks, to enforce proposed measures effectively. Dr. Persaud also encouraged the senior officers to build a database, making it easier for them to compare statistics and measure progress.
A similar meeting will be held with senior GRA officials in the near future, the PSC Chair stated, in closing.