Following confirmed reports that one of the persons, who were pardoned by President David Granger last year was recently charged for a spate of robberies on the Corentyne, concerns have been raised about the initiative adopted by President Granger.
However, the Head of State recently admitted that while government cannot totally prevent a pardoned individual from relapsing, he maintained that he was not reckless in releasing those 40 prisoners.
“It wasn’t reckless, I’m not a reckless person… I am advised that it’s not a reckless plan, there are criteria concerning their age and the possibilities of that person rejoining society and there is a scheme they can do some form of rehabilitative training or education but in the final analysis, it is impossible for the State to guarantee there will be no relapse into that criminal behaviour,” Granger asserted in response to a questioned posed by Guyana Times on the weekly televised programme – The Public Interest.
The president further pointed out that the initiative cannot be judge based on one individual, highlighting the success of the other 39. He went on to say that the criteria used to select the pardon beneficiaries are strict hence only 11 of the 20 females were released in December and only 40 of 60 in May last year. This, he explained, supports the fact that tight rules are applied when selecting the pardon beneficiaries.
Nevertheless, the Head of State said his focus will continue to be on mothers and young persons who are not involved in violent crimes and cocaine trafficking.
“So anybody involved in manslaughter or murder is not going to receive a pardon from President Granger… One of the things I said is that people should be in school, in colleges and not in jail,” Granger stated.
The President is expected to pardon another set of criminals on Independence Day. When the initiative was announced last year, it had caused great uneasiness among Guyanese, especially business owners, since the country’s crime rates were high at the time. Persons were also calling for the identities of these convicts to be publicised but government explained that this would have hindered the reintegration process of these people into society.
However, Kelvin Bates, 19, one of the pardon beneficiaries, appeared in Court three weeks ago facing several charges of robbery under arms, larceny from persons and possession of illegal firearms and ammunition that occurred earlier this month.
According to court documents, he was reportedly on bail for another armed robbery when he committed these offences.
In light of this revelation, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan recently told this newspaper he will consider releasing the names of this new set of prisoners.
“Of course if asked, we will released the names of all those who will be pardoned. It is an obligation in the name transparency that the Minister released all the names of those who are on parole and pardoned,” he pointed out.
Ramjattan had conceded that government erred in selecting Bates as a candidate to be pardoned but noted that they were given the opinion that he was of very good character whilst in the prison hence he was released. He added too that the teenager only had four more months of his sentence to serve and this was taken into consideration was well.
“It is not exclusively the President that makes these releases. He has to get some advice from the Director of Prisons, the Prison Officers who would have dealt with him directly and also after I would have sort the record out,” the minister explained.
“I had a role to play because the fellow just had a short term more left and he was of good character in the prison. We have to release our young people, jail is not necessarily for young people but if we make a mistake even like that by virtue of the fact that he started stealing again, what do you do?” the minister questioned, while adding: “You simply now have to ensure that when he gets back in there (prison) that he will never again get pardoned.”
Nevertheless, the Public Security Minister went on to say that his administration is looking at strengthening the rehabilitation programme that the pardoned criminals undergo as part of their reintegration to the society.