President David Granger speaking to the media on Tuesday
Deadly prison riot
– says relief to family not a legal obligation
President David Granger on Tuesday lashed back at People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) General Secretary Clement Rohee, who called for the immediate dismissal of Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, insisting that he will not let go of his Minister.
Rohee had insisted that Ramjattan is to be blamed for the deadly prison riot, and as such, again called for his immediate dismissal or resignation.
“Lying at the feet of Ramjattan and indeed the Granger Administration are 17, not three dead bodies,” Rohee told a news conference on Monday referring to when a No-Confidence Motion was passed against him, following the deaths of three individuals in the Linden unrest in 2012.
He said the current Administration came to power fooling the Guyanese electorate that it was most knowledgeable and best prepared to handle public safety and security in Guyana.
On that note, Rohee said the Camp Street Prison unrest shattered the myth that the current Administration was best equipped to manage the country’s security sector.
The former Minister also used the opportunity to admit that his Administration failed to leave behind a perfect system, but he indicated that the present Government now has to pick up from where the PPP/C left off.
In comparing the track records of the two Administrations, Rohee contended that his Government never presided over a riot of such magnitude as the one that recently took place which claimed the lives of 17 prisoners, and more than a dozen injured.
“The Granger Administration stands condemned. Heads must roll for this unforgiveable and unforgettable episode in the hierarchy of the security sector in general and the prison service in particular,” Rohee declared.
But the Head of State said what Rohee is calling for is nothing more than “absurd”, adding that the Minister who had been holding the same portfolio for almost a decade, did absolutely nothing to remedy the situation.
“Ramjattan is trying to clean up the mess we inherited nine months ago and the former Minister was the Minister of Home Affairs for nine years and he never did the things he is talking about now, so I don’t know how he can expect us in nine months to clean up the mess he encouraged for nine years,” the Presdient said lashing back at the previous Administration.
“All the problems discovered had existed for decades… we are trying to put reforms in place to prevent a recurrence,” he noted.
No legal obligation to families
Meanwhile, President Granger also on Tuesday made it clear that the monies being offered to the families of those who lost their lives in the prison riot fire last Thursday is not an obligation of the State, but rather an act of kindness being expressed by Government.
The Head of State’s comment came at a time when family members of the 17 inmates of the Camp Street Prison who perished, are clamouring for a higher compensation package.
The families say the $100,000 promised by Government reeks of utter disregard for human life. Questioned by journalists on Tuesday, the President made it clear that the State has no legal obligation to provide families with any compensation in this regard. According to him, the act is one of moral obligation rather than a legal requirement.
“This is an ex gratia payment, it’s a one off payment to bring relief to Guyanese citizens. It’s not an obligation on our part but we want to make sure that children are in no way disadvantaged by what occurred… This is not a question of compensation, this is a matter of relief and we understand the tragic circumstances under which people died last week and the Government is attempting to assist the widows and the children,” the President told reporters.
Following the March 3 fiery riot at the Georgetown prison which left 17 inmates dead, Government, through the Social Protection Ministry, offered financial assistance to the relatives.
But family members have collectively refused this, contending that since the men were in the care of the State, it was the State’s responsibility to protect them.