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House Speaker dumps PPP questions on pardoning of prisoners- Jagdeo

Last Updated on Wednesday, 1 June 2016, 17:03 by Denis Chabrol

The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) on Wednesday said Guyana’s House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland has refused to allow questions about the identities of pardoned prisoners and the process that was used to free the convicts.

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo acknowledged that President David Granger has the authority to pardon prisoners, but said the Ministry of the Presidency has refused to respond to the PPPC’s request and now the House Speaker has prevented the questions from being answered.

“We have just received a notice from the Speaker that he would not allow our questions,” Jagdeo told a news conference at Freedom House, his party’s headquarters on Robb Street, Georgetown.

Reacting, Shadow Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall criticised the House Speaker’s decision.

“Something must be fundamentally wrong in a democracy when a non- elected member of the House seeks to prohibit an elected member of the House from asking questions that are indisputably of public importance and for which the public crave answers.

The transgression is compounded by the fact that the questions have been deemed “an abuse” without any reason provided for such a conclusion. Of course, this is not the end of the matter. You will hear more from me as I continue the battle against a creeping dictatorship. You must add your voice to this travesty,” said Nandlall.
He had filed several questions  on the pardoning of the prisoners in the House for Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. “We are worried now that our voices will be muzzled in parliament too,” Jagdeo related, saying he had expressed similar sentiments to Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland during her recent visit her.  Similar concerns have been also raised, he said, with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).

Jagdeo said the PPP had applied for release of the identities and addresses, process for pardoning and the names of repeat offenders through the  Access To Information Act but was advised that the party needed to exhaust other options.

The Opposition Leader used the opportunity to criticize the House Speaker for preventing transparency in parliament, the supreme body, by taking the lead from the President’s position.

In addition to the pardoning of more than 70 convicts since assuming office in May, 2015, Granger plans to  free mostly mothers who had committed “non-lethal” offences- murder and manslaughter.

The PPP wants to know the names of the convicts, dates of birth, offences for which they have been pardoned, their criminal records and the length of the sentence being served at the time when the pardoned was granted.

Also being enquired by that party are the process and criteria that were used by President Granger or someone acting on his behalf to determine eligibility for the presidential pardon and under what statutory or constitutional provision, if any, did the President act in granting the aforesaid pardons. The PPP also wants to know what is the approximate number of pardons is the President likely to grant annually and how many of the persons, if any, to whom the President has granted pardons, have been subsequently charged with criminal offences. If so, they want to know the names of those persons and the offences for which they have been charged.

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