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Ram and COI Chairman clash over legal rights of inmates

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It was a war of words between the President of the Bar Association and the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into the Camp Street Prison unrest where 17 inmates met fiery deaths.

Before the fifth inmate who survived the ordeal could take the stand and testify, Attorney Christopher Ram objected to him giving evidence on the grounds that inmate Desmond James was not being represented by a lawyer.

Ram also argued that James was testifying before the Commission with a statement that was written by another inmate he did not know and which was not even read to him before today’s (Thursday March 17) hearing.

“Would you like to have a lawyer” Chairman Justice James Patterson questioned James who replied saying “yes, sir.”

The Guyana Bar Association President then interjected by supporting the inmate to have an Attorney and therefore believe the Commission has some responsibility in making such provision.

Ram also attempted to make an oral application to the Commission which he felt would have protected the witness of the day and future witnesses.

The Attorney for the Prison and Police Services Selwyn Pieters supported Ram’s position only if it is done in a written form served on the relevant stakeholders of the inquiry.

“I have to work with what I have…you have to trust us…we will do our best but you will say we are doing our incompetent best I don’t know, but we will do our best in a bad situation to maintain the scales of justice equally so I am going to deny that application” Justice Patterson added.

Meanwhile, the Commission Counsel Excellence Dazzle pointed out that the Guyana Bar Association did mention that it would have provided “pro bono” services to the Commission. “At this point Counsel cannot speak to say if we do have that funding requirement, but it is something we are prepared to look into in order for prisoners to be granted legal Counsel” she said.

Ram is adamant that the Commission should be proactive in carrying out its duties during the public inquiry.

 

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