…protest inhumane conditions
… 6 remain on the run, over 60 reported sightings – Police
The continued housing of over 500 Georgetown prison inmates at a temporary
holding facility next door to the Lusignan Prison, on the East Coast of Demerara, is quickly becoming a violation of their human rights, since they are in an open area exposed to heavy rain and the blazing sun. To protest this, the prisoners early Friday morning attempted to set fire to the wooden Lusignan Prison.
The facility where the prisoners are housed is a grassy area surrounded by a high wall and the prisoners are sleeping under tents provided by the Civil Defence Commission and use portable toilets.
Owing to heavy rainfall over the past few days, the holding area has become swampy. On Friday morning at about 02:00h, prisoners filled soda bottles with pieces of clothing and materials from the tents to make lamps, which they hurled at the Lusignan Prison wooden building.
They accessed fuel from a generator which provided lighting for the area. The generator was unsupervised in the compound. Chief Fire Officer, Marlon Gentle,
confirmed the attempted arson at the facility, saying tragedy was averted since there were firefighters outside of the Lusignan Prison.
Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, said the attempt was not successful due to the presence of the Police and firemen. When asked about the conditions in which the inmates are being kept, Samuels said that the photos circulating on social media are not showing the complete picture.
“Just the centre of the ground is under water, the four corners are high and the prisoners have over 200 pallets to protect them from whatever. There is a lot of water and it is even too much for us,” he lamented.
“The new area we are building the rain created some setbacks because we can’t weld and the laying of the asphalt cannot be laid but we are working to have them
move to suitable conditions in the shortest possible time,” Samuels added.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had earlier said they are working around the clock to have a tarmacked area prepared and equipped with sheds to house the prisoners. He noted that they would be conforming to all the human rights conventions they have signed onto.
Six still on the run
The public is now being advised to be on the lookout for six prisoners after Police were able to account for two prisoners.
Explaining the mix up, Ramjattan said there was “massive confusion” in the aftermath of the prison break. In addition, the Minister noted the destruction of records also created complications. Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud also
stated that two went to visit their mothers but were now back in custody.
“There was massive confusion in relation to the prison, the inmates, the fire, so many things, transportation, the hustling of getting a place to put those persons and managing to do that in a ground that was walled at Lusignan, the burning of the records created problems too, with numbers and names, creating difficulties and challenges and so we did come up with some figures as to how many people were indeed the escapees,” Ramjattan elucidated.
Police have issued wanted bulletins for Mark Royden Durant, Uree Varswyck,
Stafrei Hopkinson Alexander, Cobena Stephens, Cornelius Thomas and Desmond James.
Durant, also known as “Royden Williams” and “Smallie”, was charged along with several others for the 2008 mass killings at Bartica. The other escapees were also imprisoned for murder.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud reiterated the State’s commitment to capturing the prisoners, as well as protecting the remaining prisons and prisoners. He noted that a manhunt is underway for the escapees. The Commissioner was also asked about a general location for the prisoners.
“We know that four are together and the other two, we have reason to believe that they are separate and they may be in Georgetown,” Persaud said.
Police sources have also said that to date, there have been over 60 calls informing of escapees sightings. Thus far, all information has borne no fruit.
Because of relatives of the inmates flocking the Lusignan Prison, the authorities brought forward their barricade to Track A – the village where the Lusignan massacre occurred in January of 2008 – to ease the flow of persons to the prisons.
However, this move has inconvenienced persons living within the barricaded area. They are subjected to questioning and searches every time they have to go beyond the barricaded area.
When this publication visited the area on Friday, the authorities were observed collecting food items from relative who were dumping plastic bottles, bags and containers at the side of the road. Some of the plastic bags are being carried away by the wind and contributing to an unsightly area.