Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes government’s current handling of the prison uprising will lead to another crisis in the future.
He told reporters during news conference today that he believes government’s approach to last year’s deadly prison riot led to the current situation.
Jagdeo was referring to the fact that a delegation of government ministers went down to the Camp Street penitentiary to negotiate with the criminals.
The former President, who was extremely critical of the previous approach, warned if the government does not address the present crisis sensibly; it can pave the path for another one.
“Should the prisoners now say, ‘we want some early release, we want to be given bail and it’s taking too long, let’s set another fire in the future because we’ll have the government come running again’,” Jagdeo posited.
He continued, “We have to be extremely cautious about our approach to these matters, how this issue is resolved. We can’t we expedient and sow the seeds for another crisis in the future and I think this government is just so lost that it is expedient about everything.”
Furthermore, he noted that the jailbreak in 2002 whilst he was Commander – In – Chief of the Armed Forces was different.
“You are not going to have this political opposition portray the escapees as freedom fighters as they did when we had an escape from the prisons in the early 2000,” he explained.
Jagdeo also noted that, “we are not going to go to any communities and ask them to provide safe havens for any escapees. So our security forces will not be shot at when they go into communities.”
He continued, “you recall when our security forces in the past when into those communities, people were mobilized to block them from going after the escapees.”
According to Jagdeo, the climate is different and the escaped prisoners will not have political cover.
Separation of powers
He also questioned government’s approach of reducing the prison population through the granting of small bails and reduced sentences.
“Someone needs to say who gave the instructions. The judiciary does not take instructions from the executive. So when the minister announce in the night hours after the fire that they will do this and get the magistrates to do this, how did that entire process (come about)?”
He noted that the issue borders on the greater issue of separation of powers.
Inmates who are eligible for bail are those who were remanded on charges of embezzlement; obtaining false document; uttering false information; threatening language; larceny; fraud; perjury, damage to property; smoking illegal substances or in possession of improvised smoking utensils; being in possession of cannabis below 50g; possession of cocaine below 25g and dangerous driving.
There was also a review of bail for persons who were charged for possession of cannabis from 51g to 1 kilogram, possession of cocaine 26g to 1killogram. However, conditions will be applied to bail granted to inmates that are charged for unlawful wounding and carnal knowledge.
Those eligible for reduced sentences are those prisoners who only had a few months more to serve behind bars.
The former President also outlined how he would have handled the present situation differently.
“I would have had secured vehicles go up there immediately. I would have founda better palce to accommodate them than Lusignan; an indoor facility like the Gymnasium… so people would be indoors.”
Jagdeo said the prisoners are bound to get worked up after being in an open field for days through rain and sun at the temporary holding facility at Lusignan.
Jagdeo also addressed the issue of the Commission of Inquiry report into last year’s prison riot and repeated calls for the document to be made public.
In fact, he questioned why government has not yet released the report despite a request being made through parliament.
He also expressed hopes that the administration does not move to establish another COI.
The Camp Street Prison went up in flames on Sunday evening after it was set ablaze by several prisoners in a bid to escape.
Eight criminals are said to be on the run and authorities are in the process of releasing some inmates and making appropriate accommodations for the others.