January 21, 2018

Prison Riot: ‘It’s not my fault’ – Ramjattan

Public Security Minister
Khemraj Ramjattan

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has dismissed calls for his resignation following the jailbreak and conflagration at the Camp Street Prison on Sunday evening, and cited the state of the sugar industry and its annual bailouts as among the reasons Government is yet to make a heavy capital investment in the penitentiary.

Ramjattan was at the time addressing members of the media at an emergency press conference live at the National Communications Network (NCN) studio after the fire.

Chief Prison Officer, Gladwyn Samuels had earlier in the evening lamented the lack of capital investments in the Georgetown Prison, but when asked by this newspaper, Ramjattan responded saying, “it’s because there is a lack of monies for these investments, we have to bail out sugar, we have to do so many other things.”

According to the Public Security Minister, “that is what is cramping our style in relation to what we have to do for other sectors.” He told media operatives “it’s G$6 billion minimum to construct a new prison and that will take about three years.”

Asked about his resignation in light of the fire last year, which claimed the life of 17 prisoners, coupled with Sunday’s incident, Ramjattan said that decision will have to be made by the President.

According to Ramjattan, “If there is a fault on my part; well, the President can do that… I would have resigned if it was a fault on my part.” However, in dismissing calls for his resignation, Ramjattan questioned how fault can be laid at his feet.

Reminded of the Commission of Inquiry last year, couple with the fact that recommendations – including the need for substantial capital investments were never implemented – the Public Security Minister responded saying “we understand that indeed all of those little things (recommendations) were done.”

The Public Security Minister was adamant a number of the recommendations were in fact implemented and yielded success. He drew reference to several prison wardens that were caught attempting to transport illicit materials into the Georgetown Prison.

According to Minister Ramjattan, the small recommendations such as the installation of better close circuit television cameras were in fact installed.

“Most of the recommendations that we could have afforded have been implemented but we still have problems,” Ramjattan said.

Asked about his representation to Cabinet when it meets in light of the fire, Ramjattan said “I will make my case again just like I did last year.”

He posited however, “because of the crisis situation we will need more monies now for the prison system.”

The Public Security Minister indicated that the Camp Street Prison will have to be rehabilitated in an urgent manner and funds will be required to bring the facility to a level where prisoners can again be housed. According to Ramjattan, the Camp Street location notwithstanding the fire still holds the best base/foundation in order to rebuild a prison.