Probe launched into illegal aircraft, airstrip in Region 9

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Authorities have begun investigating the circumstances surrounding the discovery of an abandoned aircraft on an illegal airstrip in Region Nine, as the government amplifies its efforts of building capacity to strengthen security in remote hinterland regions.

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Police Force’s (GPF) Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and other related agencies on Monday conducted an initial assessment of the twin-engine Beechcraft aircraft, which was discovered on Sunday evening.

This initial assessment is an effort to gather evidence that will assist in the investigation into the circumstances, which led to the aircraft being abandoned on an illegal airstrip. Authorities are still on the hunt for the persons who were seen fleeing from the aircraft when it landed.

The interior of the abandoned Beechcraft

At the same time, government is working with local and international partners to build capacity and strengthen security. According to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Guyana’s vast land and airspace makes the country vulnerable to transnational security threats.

“The Government is extremely concerned.  We are concerned that that these aircrafts are utilising our large gaps in the security coverage in the hinterland areas, but we are looking carefully to see how we can have a proper coverage of those areas,” he was quoted as saying in a release from the Ministry of the Presidency.

According to the release, Harmon noted that the discovery of this airstrip and aircraft follows the discovery of another illegal airstrip in Yurupukari, Region Nine in September 2015. Investigations later revealed that the plane had originated in Colombia.

The State Minister also said that Government recognises that over a period of years, there are those who have taken advantage of the lack of adequate resources to properly monitor those areas. He added that the administration is taking this matter very seriously and is making every effort to better equip the security forces and strengthen their capacity to secure Guyana’s territory.

He also called on Guyanese citizens to play their part and to ensure that illegal activities, regardless of the location in which they take place, are reported to the relevant authorities.

The interior of the abandoned Beechcraft

“Guyanese are a part of the country’s national security apparatus. We would like to ask them to report any activity they may consider illegal. It is illegal for any aircraft to land or be in Guyana unless they have the permission of the Government and the GCAA. While we have large expanses of land in the Rupununi that can be used for airstrips, it is illegal to have these airstrips. We should see ourselves playing an important part in our country,” Harmon was quoted as saying.

Commander of ‘F’ Division, Ravindradat Budhram said that the 5,400-foot long, 45-foot wide airstrip discovered on the outskirts of Santa Fe appeared to have undergone recent repairs as it was destroyed by the GDF only a few years ago.  The airstrip is located approximately five miles from another illegal airstrip, which was discovered last week by a GDF patrol that was on a reconnaissance mission at the time.

Furthermore, a search of the area unearthed three abandoned camps, in which canned food and other items were found.  Additionally, 16 10-gallon containers, which are suspected to have contained aviation fuel, were also discovered.  During the search of the aircraft, several pieces of communication equipment, including cellular phones, flashlights, a quantity of dried ration, medical supplies and an identification card were discovered.

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