Just two weeks after the Camp Street inferno, the destruction of the Camp Street Prison and the escape of some of Guyana’s most notorious prisoners, Guyanese citizens now live in greater fear because there was yet another escape this past Monday. In fact, the escape only became known at about 07:00h Monday morning, but the escape happened during Sunday night.
No one knows when on Sunday night the 13 dangerous prisoners waltzed out of the prison. At least 11 of the 13 were in jail for murder. This is after Minister Ramjattan dismissed concerns and informed people that APNU/AFC has everything under control.
More than 24 hours after the jail break at Lusignan, the President was still silent. He did convene a meeting of the National Security Commission on Monday morning, hours after the prison authority discovered the 13 prisoners missing. At such times of crisis, the people need their President and senior Government leadership to be visible and to assure them that the President and his Cabinet are standing with them. Instead, the President and other senior Cabinet members are aloof, hiding from the people.
While Guyanese were in shock Monday morning with the revelation that 13 prisoners brazenly escaped, Mr Ramjattan himself was missing and only after several hours issued a taped two-minute video statement through NCN TV. The statement came after 10:00h in the morning, several hours after the Guyanese people heard the frightening news of another prison escape. He was hiding from the media and from the Guyanese people at a time when he should have been very visible. Later in the afternoon on Monday, the Minister finally gathered the nerve to face the media.
Thank God, in that media encounter, he did not hold sugar workers responsible for this prison outbreak and he did not hold Jagdeo, Rohee, and the PPP responsible. At least I have not heard him doing so in public yet.
While admitting the buck stops with him, Ramjattan grudgingly pointed out that the security personnel were directly responsible, throwing his staff under the bus. The Minister admitted he was embarrassed, but believes he is not to be held directly responsible for yet another security fiasco.
Two infernos that completely destroyed Camp Street Prison, at least three high-profile prison breakouts and at least 18 deaths in just about 16 months and he is still clueless. This is the same man that demanded the resignation of Rohee as Minister of Home Affairs for the Linden and Agricola protests which he and his colleagues in APNU/AFC instigated. The CoI which APNU/AFC demanded following the deadly Linden protests concluded that leaders of APNU and the AFC played significant roles as instigators.
Ramjattan’s 2am curfew on restaurants and bars and the gun amnesty programme have not led to a reduction in traffic accidents and in crime in general. In fact, crime has spiralled under his leadership. The prison system has become more vulnerable under Ramjattan and APNU/AFC. His argument that he was strait-jacketed because he did not have resources is absurd.
Last week, APNU/AFC approved 0 million for construction of a new prison at Camp Street. Together with work at Mazaruni and Lusignan, APNU/AFC would have suddenly found billion for improvement of the prison system.
The truth is it was never a lack of resources. It was clearly an absence of any strategy and a lack of will. For that we cannot blame the security forces. The Camp Street inferno, the previous jail breaks and now the Lusignan prisoners’ escape are direct consequences of political neglect and cluelessness. When the Minister holds the security forces directly responsible, he is unfairly throwing them under the bus. The fact is, he (Ramjattan) is directly responsible. The President himself is abrogating his responsibility. Shifting responsibility worsens the already grave situation. Another CoI is pointless. It is time that those responsible stand up and be accountable.