Prison unrest: Govt failed to act on CoI recommendations says former Security Minister

Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee
Former Public Security Minister, Clement Rohee

Government is under fierce attack over the recent incident at the Camp Street Prison which led to the prison being almost completely destroyed and which facilitated the escape of several high-profile criminals; some of whom have been convicted and are currently on death row.

Former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government Minister, Clement Rohee, said what occurred on Sunday is due largely to the “incompetence” of his successor, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan in particular and the Granger Administration in general. “It is beyond the shadow of a doubt a matter of collective responsibility,” he declared.

Rohee, who served in the capacity of Minister responsible for national security for close to nine years, is of the firm belief that the authorities took for granted the security of the prisons and the prisoners, as well as the alleged maltreatment of prisoners.

“And the lax attitude of the Ministry of Public Security towards prison reform and its persistent efforts at misleading Parliament about the depth and scope of those reforms based on a comprehensive strategic plan adopted by the previous PPP Administration have, cumulatively, resulted in today’s events at the Georgetown Prisons,” he added.

Rohee also accused the coalition Administration of being guilty of “dereliction of duty,” by not taking seriously the recommendations that emanated from the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the deadly occurrence at the same prison location just one year ago.

He said there were no structured follow-ups or administrative mechanisms put in place to implement those recommendations and for regular progress reports to be made available for Cabinet’s consideration especially for implementation of those recommendations, where financial resources are necessary and urgently needed.

Given what he dubbed the knee-jerk predisposition of the Granger Administration, from all indications, another CoI could be established soon to look into Sunday’s events at the Georgetown Prison.

“In the circumstances, it should come as no surprise if a fresh set of recommendations will eventually be piled upon the previous recommendations only to gather dust given the laissez faire attitude of the Minister of Public Security towards prison reform,” the PPP Member of Parliament added.

Rohee is also demanding that his successor – Ramjattan – must be made to answer for the “dereliction of duty” and his alleged persistent failure to perform his functions as a Minister to the satisfaction of taxpayers.

“No amount of closing ranks by the Government and Mr Ramjattan’s Cabinet colleagues to defend his incompetence will suffice. And the President (David Granger) should refrain from his well-known efforts at sheltering Ministers whose performance in the eyes of the public has been less than stellar having failed miserably in the execution of their respective portfolio responsibilities,” Rohee asserted.

Rohee said the situation is still sketchy with respect to the origins of the fire, the actual situation on the ground, the whereabouts of the scores of prisoners, death or injury of prisoners as a result of the actions of law enforcement. “The rumour mill is spinning out of control,” he added.

Calls were made for the public relations departments of the Guyana Prison Service, the Guyana Fire Service and the Guyana Police Force to be more pro-active in keeping the public informed and alerted as regards the situation and its security implications for the citizens countrywide.

The former Minister also expressed his gratitude to the family of the now dead prison officer, Odinga Wickham, and those who have in some way or the other been affected by the incident. “I feel a sense of pain, grief and sorrow on learning of the events at the Georgetown Prisons. The herculean efforts by the administration of which I was an integral part to carry out comprehensive prison reform went up in flames long before the flames that engulfed the Georgetown Prisons on Sunday,” Rohee added.



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