…to demand answers in National Assembly
In the wake of the fire which gutted the Camp Street Prison, and Government resolving against another Commission of Inquiry, the parliamentary Opposition will be demanding answers from the Government after the National Assembly resumes next week Friday.
According to Notice Paper No 114, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Parliamentarian Juan Edghill will be moving a motion to have the Government accept responsibility for the July 9 jailbreak; in accordance of Article 106 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana.
While expressing support for the Disciplined Services, the motion includes a resolution which states that the public is in the dark about what exactly led to the fire and jail break. It also has questions as to how the Government managed the situation and the aftermath.
It also noted that initial reports that a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) would be appointed by the President were subsequently ruled out. In light of this, the motion notes that the public’s questions would otherwise remain unanswered.
“The National Assembly calls on the Government to make full disclosure of all aspects of the tragedy at the Georgetown Prison on July 9 and to declare what actions have been, and are being taken, to reduce opportunities for (reoccurrences),” the motion reads.
The motion goes on to state that “The National Assembly calls on Government to make full disclosure with regard to the circumstances surrounding the most recent escape of prisoners on July 24, 2017.”
Pandemonium broke out at the Camp Street Prison on July 9 when prisoners set the facility on fire, occasioning its destruction except for the brick building which is still standing intact and currently housing “hard core” prisoners.
In the ensuing confusion, a number of prisoners managed to escape from lawful custody, including convicted murderers Mark Royden Durant, also called “Royden Williams”; Uree Varswyck, Stafrei Hopkinson Alexander and Cobena Stephens – all deemed armed and dangerous.
That incident resulted in the death of Prison Officer Wickham, who lost his life after he was shot by prisoners during the breakout.
Following that jailbreak, over 1000 prisoners were displaced. While some were moved to Mazaruni or granted early release or bail, others remained at the Lusignan penitentiary under straightened circumstances. It was then that another contingent of prisoners escaped. Since these two jailbreaks, all but two prison escapees – Paul Goriah and Cobena Stephens – have either been recaptured or killed.
It was only in March of 2016 that a fire had raged through the Camp Street Prison, claiming the lives of 17 prisoners. Afterwards, a CoI which cost the Treasury $13 million was ordered by President David Granger.
According to the report compiled by the Commissioners, the combination of overcrowded, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement; all ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent contributed to the resultant unrest.
Moreover, the CoI found that reducing numbers in prison to manageable levels is the single most important priority for establishing safe, humane and purposeful prisons.
But some of these recommendations were not implemented at the time of the fire in July 2017.