By Tracey Khan – Drakes
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Attorney-at-Law and President of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), Ronald Burch-Smith has described the Presidential pardon for child killer, 39– year -old Ravindra Deo as ‘disturbing.’
His comment follows a decision by former President Donald Ramotar to grant the presidential pardon to Deo, who was serving a life imprisonment sentence for killing 8 – year-old Vishnu Bhim of Annandale East Coast Demerara in 1994.
Prior to this sentence, Deo was given the death penalty, which was later commuted to a life sentence.
The child killer was just 19 – years – old when he kidnapped and murdered the 8 year-old who was on his way home from school. He had reportedly demanded a ransom of $1M.
Burch –Smith, in expressing his personal views, told iNews during an interview that Ramotar as President was entitled to issue a presidential pardon as he sees fit; however such a move should not have been taken in isolation to what is morally correct.
He pointed out that government took a policy decision not to carry out the death penalty even though it remains law in Guyana.
“In recent times, we have come to start describing the exercise of discretion or the use of power as being seen as an entitlement, as though they are devoid of any moral principle…the former President is no doubt entitled to do so but persons are certainly also entitled to make moral judgment,” the Attorney explained.
He further noted that for a pardon to take place, the Parole Board would normally take a number of factors into consideration.
“The Parole Board usually invite the victims’ family to say anything if they want to be heard…the Parole Board also takes into account the length of punishment, the heinousness of the crime, the possibility of rehabilitation, the victims’ families, societies interest and the former President has just thrown all of that out.”
He is now questioning the function of the Board, accusing the former President of showing absolute disregard for its mandate.
Making the basis for his argument, he highlighted the fact that between 12-15 convicts, who are serving life imprisonment, have been jailed longer when compared to Deo and continues to be denied parole by the Board.
“The former President could single out this man who has not served as long sentence as many other persons, no clear rule of discretion, it’s not clear if there is anything mitigating.
“A Presidential pardon one would think would be exercised when there is something mitigating about the person, maybe there is new evidence that wasn’t being considered by the court, extenuating circumstance, that’s not the rules but it’s being morally right, that if he uses his power it must be for good reasons…the President’s power should be exercised with moral compass.”
He is also questioning what moral justification Ramotar will provide the Guyanese people now that the matter continues to take center stage.
Under Article 188 1 (A) of the Constitution, the President has the power to grant any person concerned in or convicted of any offence under the law of Guyana a pardon either free or subject to lawful condition.
Efforts made by iNews to contact Ramotar on this issue proved futile.
Bhim was the only child of his parents, who have since migrated to the United States. The parents, Heeralall and Chaimwatie Bhim are reportedly in a state of shock and disbelief following the former President’s decision.
Following the child’s murder, Deo was arrested in America Street, on December 1, 1994. He then led detectives to the boy’s body which was bound gagged and battered in the backdam at La Bonne Intention.