The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) forthrightly condemns a statement made by President David Granger in which he noted that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, should not be blamed for last Sunday’s fire that completely destroyed the Georgetown Prison and a conflagration at the same penitentiary in March 3, 2016.
The President’s comments were part of an interview he gave to the State newspaper and published on Friday.
In a strongly worded statement, the PPP reminded that 17 prisoners were killed during the 2016 fire and a prison officer lost his life following last Sunday’s uprising, while some of his colleagues were injured. That incident also resulted in a number of inmates escaping and who, at this point in time, remain on the run.
The Party in a statement on Friday evening said these horrific incidents occurred under the President’s stewardship, with the latest precipitating the failure to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry which was established to probe the 2016 incident, among other things.
According to the PPP, it is against this background that it finds the President’s comments as “irresponsible” and one which lacks any notion of sensitivity to the unspeakable fear that has gripped the country.
The PPP said it is not oblivious of “Government’s obsession to shirk from its responsibility.”
Additionally the Opposition lashed out, pointing that the excuse of a lack of funds for important national endeavours, including prison reform, is most “laughable when billions were, and are being spent on non-priority areas including, Jubilee Park.”
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday said the PPP/Civic would encourage the law enforcement agencies to engage in a “large-scale manhunt” for the eight prisoners who escaped from the penitentiary during the fiery unrest.
The former President said his party would give its continued support to the Joint Services, unlike what had obtained when the present ruling Administration had served in the Opposition during the 2002 escape of five prisoners from the Georgetown Prison – which led to the creation of violent gangs and serious crime for many years.
Jagdeo also reiterated that the PPP/C would continue to fully support the security forces as they move to restore law and order in the country.
Saying the issue should be treated with more seriousness, Jagdeo referred to statements made by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, who claimed that because the Government has had to pump sums of money into the sugar industry, it had to defer implementing various capital projects intended to tighten security at all prisons, as were recommended by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which stemmed from the previous incident.
“Ramjattan has to take responsibility for what’s going on. He has to take responsibility just like in the past, when they used to call on PPP/C Ministers – when there was a problem in the sector – to resign. Well, I’ve seen lots of public calls for Ramjattan to resign. Maybe he should consider it, or Granger (President) should consider firing him at this point in time,” he added.
Jagdeo said unlike his party, which while in Government was accused of lacking security experience, the now coalition Government is “overladen with national security experience,” given the number of former Army officials who serve in senior capacities in Government; but they have failed to respond effectively to the crisis; and days later, they are still struggling to get things in order.
The Opposition Leader expressed hope that there will be an emergency session of the National Assembly to have a full debate on the situation, so as to ensure continued public safety.