Members of the public and the media fraternity were once again barred from the hearings into the deadly Camp Street Prison riot on Friday.
While it was not clear who testified on Friday, the non-admission of the press and public has once again raised questions of transparency as the hearing into the events of March 3 when 17 inmates lost their lives after a period of rioting in a fire was meant to be public. The media was advised that public observation of the hearings will resume as normal on Monday, the proposed final date for testimonies.
It has been opined that Chairman of the CoI, Retired Justice James Patterson has the prerogative to decide whether or not proceedings should be held “in-camera” or be open to the public.
This view was related by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan who when questioned by the media over the closed-door setting and concerns about lack of transparency with the process, posited that it was within the authority of the Chairman to allow such a move.
“The CoI is controlled by the CoI members…he has authority to do that I suppose under the terms of reference and if he thinks it is a matter for security reasons, why not?” the Minister had noted.
On April 18, members of the media had been barred from hearing the testimonies of members of the Prison Service.
One of the key witnesses who testified was Prison Officer Lyken who was reportedly ordered by his superiors to take video footage of the prison riots. Justice Patterson had raised concerns over the way in which the video footage of the events was released to the public. In the footage, which was shown to media operatives on April 4, prisoner Collis Collison and members of a riot force were shown to be engaged in an altercation.
Attorneys representing the Guyana Bar Association had later raised concerns over lack of transparency regarding the non-disclosure of the Standard Operating Procedures which govern the Joint Services operations at the Camp Street Prison. The Guyana Bar Association later withdrew from the proceedings citing time constraints in cross-examination of witnesses.