Media barred from prison CoI

first_img– Public Security Minister dodges transparency questionMembers of the media were on Monday barred from hearing the testimonies of members of the Prison Service at the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the deadly Camp Street Prison fire. This decision followed aPublic Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan speaking with the media at the Guyana Fire Service on Mondaymeeting with Commissioners which delayed the start of Monday’s session.Sometime after 10:30h, Chairman of the CoI, retired Justice James Patterson advised that the testimonies would be done “in-camera”. Before the public was ushered out of the proceeding, Justice Patterson had stated that he would inform the media as to when they would be allowed to return.One of the key witnesses expected to testify at Monday’s session was Prison Officer Lyken (only name given). Lyken, who was reportedly ordered by his superiors to take video footage of the prison riots, was poised to give his version of the events which led to the deaths of 17 inmates. Notably, this publication witnessed equipment being set up to present the video footage taken as evidence.In the past weeks, controversy had ensued when the Attorney representing the Joint Services, Selwyn Pieters had made constant references to the footage in grilling his witnesses despite the said footage not being tendered as evidence. When upbraided by the CoI Chairman, Pieters threatened to resign from the CoI.Justice Patterson had raised concerns over the way in which the video footage was released to the public. In the footage, which was shown to the media operatives on April 4, prisoner Collis Collison and members of riot forces were shown to be engaged in an altercation.Attorneys representing the Guyana Bar Association had later raised concerns over the lack of transparency regarding the non-disclosure of the Standard Operating Procedures which govern the Joint Services operations at the Camp Street Prison.Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan was on Monday questioned by the media over the closed-door setting and concerns about lack of transparency with the process. Ramjattan whilst evading the question of transparency posited that it was within the authority of the Chairman to allow such a move.“The CoI is controlled by the CoI members…he has authority to do that I suppose under the Terms of Reference and if he thinks it is a matter for security reasons, why not?” the Minister posited.Notably, Station Officer at the Guyana Fire Service, Andrew Holder was last week allowed to disclose what inmates related to him when he carried out his investigation as to the cause of the deadly fire. Holder had concluded that the fire emanated from inside the Camp Street facilities and that inmates were indeed responsible.“It is my conclusion that this fire occurred as a result of a prisoner or more than one prisoner setting fire to mattress or mattresses within the prison walls,” Holder had noted.last_img

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