Georgetown, Guyana – (November 25, 2016) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, received the final Report of the Commission of Inquiry, which was established to probe the circumstances surrounding the discovery of an illegal aircraft near the village of Yupukari, Upper Essequibo-Upper Takutu (Region Nine). The Report was handed over by Brigadier (Ret’d) Edward Collins at the Minister’s office at Ministry of the Presidency.
The COI, which commenced in early October, was originally slated to be handed over on November 16, but an extension was granted on the instruction of President David Granger, following a request by Brigadier Collins.
He said that the decision to host public meetings in several villages such as Katoka, Kaicumbay, Yupukari and other villages, along with the Regional Chairman and Regional Executive Officer of Region Nine, proved to be a worthwhile exercise, since it allowed for greater insight into the facts discovered during the probe. Brigadier Collins noted as well that through that process a number of eyewitnesses have stepped forward.
“There has been additional evidence, which have caused us to firm up our findings into the circumstances under which this aircraft came into Guyana illegally. I wish to thank the Toshaos, the senior councils, and the village leaders in nearby villages for their corporation. Since they got involved, there have been more revelations [and] more residents came forward voluntarily. They did their own investigations,” Brigadier Collins said.
Upon further investigations, members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) were led to an abandoned camp at Yupukari, which is believed to be connected to persons, who may have knowledge of the aircraft. Brigadier Collins also said, “One thing that came out of the inquiry that we did not recongnise earlier was the involvement of a woman, and this [revelation] was because of the voluntarily evidence presented by the residents.”
He also said that coming out from the meetings was a recommendation for the setting up of a Village Intelligence Committee, where Toshaos and other village leaders can pass on information on any suspicious activity to a relevant authority. However, the Brigadier added that the maintenance of public trust would be critical to ensuring that villagers are forthcoming with such information.
Meanwhile, Minister Harmon said that the report will provide valuable insight into the security framework, particularly in the hinterland regions. “This report will form the basis of a careful analysis of our security architecture and will advise on as to what forms of security action we need to take to ensure that our territorial integrity is preserved and that the security of our citizens in those hinterland areas are properly taken care of,” he said.
On September 13, 2016 a plane, bearing registration number N767Z, was first brought to the attention of officials by residents of the area. A Joint Army and Police team, inclusive of Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), was dispatched to the location to conduct investigations launched into the sightings of the aircraft. The COI was appointed on September 28, 2016.