A number of convicted prisoners have been released by President David Granger and more are expected to be released shortly, but the government has bluntly refused to disclosed what process or criteria is being used to determine which convicts are to be pardoned; so much so that Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has declared that the matter is being treated like “a State secret”.
The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) has been pushing for more than eight months now for the APNU/AFC Government to disclosed the list of names of these selected prisoners, their dates of birth, offences which they have committed and are being pardoned from, their criminal records and the length of the sentence that was served at the time when the pardon was granted.
“You may know that we have been trying for a very long time to get the list of people who were released by the President a year ago from the Prisons or pardoned by the President. Our argument is that the President has the power to issue pardon but the country has a right to know who he pardoned. It is not that we are questioning his authority to pardon, but the country has a right to know,” Dr Jagdeo told reporters at a news conference today.
According to the Opposition Leader, this matter is being treated like “a State secret”. He noted that from the inception the PPP/C had raised the issue with the hope that public pressure would have propelled the government to release the list of pardoned prisoners.
However that failed and after this the Opposition Party had tried for about eight months now to raise questions at press conferences hoping that they would have been answered but to no avail, he said.
“We then applied to, using the Freedom of Information Act, to the Commissioner of Information for this information. He wrote us and he said you have to seek this first of all from the primary source. So we wrote the office of the President asking them for this information…silent…” Jagdeo explained.
The Opposition Party had also recently written to the Parliament with the intent of placing a question there requesting this information.
“Now Parliament is supposed to be the supreme body for transparency, questions asked of ministers, etc, even of the President should be answered there. We have just received a notice from the Speaker that he would not allow our question,” the Opposition Leader stated, while questioning the “pattern of behaviour” being demonstrated by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Barton Scotland.
Dr Jagdeo stated that in light of the situation he has already held discussions with several persons including the Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland as recent as a few days ago where he raised the prevalent issue.
“We raised it with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association about the new norm for parliamentary matters in Guyana….we are worried now that our voices would be muzzled in Parliament too,” the former president lamented.