by clairmont chung
Our penal system came out from the enslavement system. Until we recognize that, bigger better prisons would lead nowhere. They too will be filled with the hordes of the dehumanized; and the population desensitized.
Survivors of the prison massacre taken for medical attention
The 17 men incinerated at the Georgetown Prison on Thursday, March 3, 2016, is a warning of things to come. It has reached a point where we do not recognize our own contributions to the condition; our fuel to the fire. Fire has been a traditional political weapon to terrorize poor people, and the bomb its most recent incarnation. At no point was this truer than now: a time of the Walter Rodney COI, its delayed report and the Georgetown Prison massacre.
In one week Guyana’s political leadership felt compelled to denounce testimony from one Commission of Inquiry, WRCOI, solely because it came from a convict and then convene another ‘Commission of Inquiry’ at which convicts and would-be-convicts would have to testify. More than likely, as a cruel joke, one of the witnesses could be Robert Gates, inmate and confessed Death Squad member of the Rodney COI fame.
The government alleged Rodney had a plan to blow up the prison. No one knew it would go down like this, 36 years later, and as we await the government’s delayed release of the WRCOI's report on the circumstances of Rodney's death, and with such tragic circumstances. It would be the prisoners themselves claiming the humanity they and Rodney warned had been denied. A fire that may have been set to bring attention to their plight resulted in the deaths of seventeen, so far. Rodney had little to do with this, but had forewarned of events like these. Some listened. Most appear still too afraid to speak, except for attacks against the commission itself.
Attacks against the Rodney COI, and its unreleased report, range from: Testimony from a convict! Hearsay! A joke! Political! Circumstantial evidence! No smoking gun! Too Costly! A burden on the Taxpayers! No truth! After 36 years, too late! PPP atrocities! Beyond a reasonable doubt! ‘Flawed’ is the general and official term. All are ill advised and expectedly conclude that no worthwhile facts could come from such a flawed commission. Of course, it’s a self-serving position.
As expected, the political cardholders echo the sentiments of the leadership. Suddenly, lay-people became legal analysts, but not the lay-people who actually live it and suffer in legal limbo. Some of these analysts would pass by the prison but never heard, listened or cared about the loud cries of the prisoners about conditions, brutality, and trial delays. These analysts and their relatives are good people and have not been victimized by the injustice system in Guyana for the past 50 years; or before, not yet. But had they listened or asked the victims, they would have heard about Sergeant Andrews and Robert Gates, and Fat Keith, the Death Squad and its more recent incarnations with the likes of Axel Williams and the Phantom. They would not have had to wait for the WRCOI or the prison massacre because the sufferers would have told them about the broken justice system and explained the hearsay rule too. Because it appears none of the analysts and their legal advisers understand the rule.
Listen. Hearsay is admissible in all courts and is admitted every day. Hearsay is only inadmissible if it falls outside one of the many exceptions.