President David Granger
July 14, 2017 Source
–President says minister inherited a broken prison system
NO blame should be attached to Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan for the two Georgetown Prison fires in March 2016 and last Sunday, President David Granger has said.
The President’s statement follows calls by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) for Ramjattan to step down from his post. But President Granger reminded that the prison system has been plagued with problems for a long time, while noting that the problems are not a quick fix.
“It is quite unfortunate that Mr Ramjattan had to inherit a prison service which is in its present state,” the President told the Guyana Chronicle in an interview on Thursday.
He noted too that even while he was a member of the Disciplined Forces Commission 14 years ago, he was aware of the decrepit state of the infrastructure at all the country’s prison facilities.
Following the March 2016 fire which left 17 prisoners dead, the President and the Minister of Public Security visited the Mazaruni Prisons where an assessment of the infrastructure was done and plans made to have the facility expanded to accommodate more prisoners. “…he was with me last year, we visited Mazaruni and we knew what had to be done. I would not blame him, I think he has a very difficult ministry,” President Granger added.
Asked whether he believes the appointment of a junior minister to the Public Security Ministry would remove some of the pressures off Minister Ramjattan, the head-of-state said, “…the presence of a junior minister may not necessarily relieve him of the burden of the discrepant system.”
Granger made the point that each aspect of the security sector is faced with its own challenges, and as such, he is awaiting a report from his advisor on security on the way forward relative to reform of the force.
In the case of the Guyana Fire Service, the President noted the need for more equipment. “It is a high-expenditure ministry, but I would not attach any blame to him or any neglect of duty on his part. I think he is working very hard in a difficult situation,” Mr Granger asserted.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said Ramjattan should consider calls for him to resign following the second Camp Street penitentiary fire and jailbreak. Jagdeo labelled the minister as incompetent and said it would be best if the President asks Ramjattan to resign.
“He has to take responsibility just like in the past when they used to call on PPP ministers, when there was a problem… to resign,” said Jagdeo, who served as President during the 2002 jailbreak and other prison unrests.
However, on Sunday night, during a televised press conference aired on the National Communications Network (NCN), Ramjattan cast aside calls for him to demit office. When asked whether be believes he should step down, given the two fires which occurred just over a year apart, Ramjattan said he is not to be blamed as he did nothing wrong. “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,” Ramjattan told reporters.
He said too that because of the need to bailout the ailing sugar industry, large amounts were expended there and stressed that the government does not have the finances to construct a new facility immediately.