The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has lambasted Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan over his decision to release more than 90 prisoners, questioning whether this is a right decision to make in a society where crime is
wreaking havoc and citizens live in fear of criminals.
“Did this minister consider the ramifications of releasing 90 prisoners into a depressing economic environment where unemployment and hopelessness are on the increase?” the PPP questioned in a statement last night.
“Worse yet, it is now public knowledge that Minister Ramjattan lied to the nation when he informed us that the prisoners whom he released were convicted of non-violent crimes and were scheduled to be released during this month and the first week in the month of August,” the PPP contended.
That party has noted that information which is now in the public domain has debunked Minister Ramjattan’s assertion made in regard to those who have been released.
The PPP has said it is now public knowledge that, apart from persons convicted of serious sexual offences and other violent crimes being released by this minister, repeat offenders with as much as 2 years left on their sentences have also been released.
The Party contends that this “deliberate and gross deception alone” should be the basis for Minister Ramjattan’s resignation or dismissal, let alone the other abovementioned aggravating factors.
“We await a response from the President,” the party has added.
“As the dust from the debris of the Camp Street Prison inferno begins to settle, serious constitutional and legal issues are arising, which have grave public safety implications that will affect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of our country.
“We feel compelled to raise these issues, not only with the hope of eliciting answers and actions, but more importantly to give them public exposure, lest they are swept under the carpet of political propaganda,” the PPP stated.
“Our Constitution is constructed upon the doctrine of Separation of Powers, which dictates that the grant of bail is an exclusively judicial act, which must begin and end within the four corners of the judiciary. Yet we have witnessed Minister Khemraj Ramjattan being reported in the press as saying that he instructed magistrates to grant bail to nearly two dozen prisoners.
“This blatant violation of our Constitution strikes at the heart of our democracy. It lays the foundation for the highly dangerous precedent of the Executive instructing the Judiciary on any given matter in the interest of political expediency.”
The PPP has said that if this travesty is not denounced in the strongest possible terms, it means that Guyana is rapidly travelling along the road to perdition.
“Again, it exposes the authoritarianism of this administration, its natural instinct to subvert the rule of law, and (its) obsession with perverting the independence of our Judiciary”, the PPP has said.
It is in the “face of tragedies that we need our laws, our Constitution and our important national institutions to hold firmest; not be manipulated, compromised and violated at the altar of political expedience and manifest governmental incompetence”, The PPP contends.
According to the party, the discretion to grant bail is governed by established legal principles, such as whether the offence is bailable; the prevalence of the offence; the antecedents of the offender; whether the offender is a flight risk; and whether the offender, if granted bail, would commit any acts which would prejudice a fair trial, such as interfering with, or intimidating, witnesses.
“It must be presumed that these factors were taken into account when bail was refused in the first place,” the PPP posited.
“Were these the factors which influenced the grant of bail to these remanded prisoners? If so, these magistrates must be called upon to say what were the changed circumstances which allowed the grant of bail in accordance with very legal principles. If another reason was used as the basis for the grant of bail, then it is purely illegal.
“The horrific reality is that anytime a person is refused bail and remanded to prison, there may now be a temptation to use fire as a basis to secure bail. Indeed, it is apparent that fire is already seen by prisoners as an effective vehicle to address their grievances. In fact, this strategy has yielded them great success over the last 2 years.
Merely a few days after the Camp Street fires, fire erupted at Lusignan, as a protestation against garbage and flooding in the facilities where the prisoners were held. Again, it was rewarded with immediate success, as a clean-up campaign (was) started. The Leader of the Opposition has already warned against the dangers of this “moral-hazard” approach”, the PPP said.