…and the prison population
The Prison Service is part of our “Disciplined Forces” and Thursday has to be their most horrible hour when it comes to “discipline”. Seventeen prisoners on remand perished in a fire they’d started in their cells to protest their conditions in general and their lengthy incarceration without trials in particular. On Friday, the protests continued and this time the tables were turned: five prison officers were injured. Not much discipline exhibited.
What happened last Thursday and Friday? Well, the government’s dutifully followed the British colonial practice of announcing an Inquiry whenever the stuff hits the fan. This Eyewitness is pretty sure how THAT will go. With the history of this administration on Inquiries of whatever sort, we’re not sure when we’ll be getting any information – much less justice. So we won’t be holding our breath.
In the meantime, National Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon showed up on Friday, parleyed with the prisoners and secured their promise to behave themselves. Emphasising they were NOT “giving in” to lawbreakers, Lt Col (rtd) Harmon, offered it was a “gentleman’s agreement”. But it was clear in the entire sordid affair from beginning to end, there weren’t many gentlemen around.
Firstly there were the complaints of the prisoners that started the tragedy. This was nothing new and almost every year there’s one prisoner or another climbing to the roof of the Camp St jail to highlight the abominable conditions under which they’re kept. Filth, urine, bugs, damp conditions, pitiful food are only the tip of the iceberg. But secondly, what teed off the remand prisoners more than anything was they weren’t being told when they would be put on trial.
And that’s a sore which has festered in our judicial system far too long. When a prisoner’s on “remand” they have to be presumed innocent until they’re actually convicted. But this is not the reality in Guyana – firstly the judiciary takes their own sweet time to get around “trying” remandees. The Prison Service, in the meantime treats then just like convicted convicts.
But something dramatic has to be done to show this tragedy won’t go for naught. It’s too much to hope that there will be any real reform in our judicial and penal systems. The best we can hope for is Ramjattan to resign as Minister of National Security.
An “Honourable” MP but not being Japanese, we won’t ask him to do the honourable thing and fall on his sword.
…and the PEOPLE’s Militia
We’d already been informed that the People’s Militia will be relaunched. This was of course, against the background of those excitable Venezuelans rattling their swords on our Essequibo border. But now we’re being further informed that the said People’s Militia, will be ensconced in “every community”. Your Eyewitness is confused.
Surely the People’s Militia aren’t being stationed among the “people” to “protect” them from the Venezuelans, are they? We know the Russians stopped the Germans at Stalingrad in savage hand to hand combat – but the People’s Militia fighting off the Venezuelans in the villages? Not much strategic value there, isn’t it?
And the People’s Militia couldn’t be sent into the villages to protect the people from themselves, could they? Pressie had already announced he’ll be demobilising the Community Policing Groups created and trained by the previous administration to do that job. That’s the responsibility of the REAL Police Force, and surely PRESSIE wouldn’t want THE People’s Militia to undermine the Police Force as he’s intimated the PPP were doing with Community Police.
Aahh what a tangled web….
It’s said criminals corrupt the police because low pay (motive) and frequent interactions (opportunity). Prison Officers have the same pay scale and deal with criminals 24/7. Why are we surprised at the contraband items seized?