Last Updated on Monday, 24 July 2017, 18:20 by Denis Chabrol
After 13 inmates escaped from the walled swampy area at the Lusignan Prison in what Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan said was an “embarrassing” situation for him, the remaining 86 were Monday afternoon being transferred to the brick prison, the lone remaining building at the Georgetown Prison complex.
“The prisoners, as I speak, are being relocated. There is now need to improve security,” Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels told a news conference.
Ramjattan said there would be a makeshift tented administrative building to reinforce the brick prison to lock them down because the New Amsterdam and Mazaruni are “saturated” and authorities do not want to risk taking them there.
“I am very embarrassed about what happened last night-very embarrassed. As a matter of fact, I do not want to use the regular expletives here but it is terrible what has transpired but we have to continue with this fight,” he said when asked whether he and the government -which includes top security-oriented persons such as President David Granger, at least one minister and a number of ministers- is embarrassed. He said government was not only committed to capturing the escapees but also reforming laws, upgrading the Mazaruni maximum security prison and revising the sentencing policies. He cautioned that there could be recurrent prison unrest if the “big things” are not solved.
Ramjattan again shrugged off suggestions about whether he would now consider resigning from the post of Minister of Public Security which is responsible for police, fire service, prison service and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU). I’m a fighter and I am here because I, indeed, wanted to help in the security sector. It is unfortunate that this thing has happened under my stewardship and, indeed, it’s a bad thing but resignation is not a word I’m normally associated with. I’ve gone through this political career with a lot, not necessarily worse than this, but a lot that is equivalent to this and I am still here. I want to believe that I’ll still be standing when all is over,” he said.
Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels said the 13 prisoners fled the jail through a hole that they dug beneath the foundation of the more than 10 foot-tall wall probably during heavy rainfall at about 1 AM or 2 AM. He said the tunnel is about five feet deep and five feet long, with about two feet extending outside the of the wall.
He said the prisoners dug the tunnel near a ‘V’ of two fences where they used as a toilet and blocked off with a zinc to guarantee themselves some privacy. “The digging of the hole occurred in the same vicinity. I guess because of the rain, too, the mud was not as challenging as it should be and they managed to get below the foundation of the fence.
Having arrived on the outer part of the fence- while we would have done some clearing there was some amount of grass which likely could have provided some amount of coverage for them,” he said.
Explaining the security arrangements, he said prison guards are assisted by police inside the jail while Guyana Defence Force (GDF) soldiers are expected to patrol the outer perimeter of the jail. He said no one has been placed under closed arrest.
Ramjattan, who visited the area where the tunnel was dug, said based on tracks seen in the area, the prisoners went in east in the Lusignan backlands.
Samuels said the last count of 99 inmates in the swamped area was made at about 4 O’clock Sunday afternoon, but overnight the number decreased to 86.
Authorities dodged questions about whether police, soldiers and prison service personnel lapsed in ascertaining that the prisoners were burrowing their way out of the harsh conditions at the penal facility.
Ramjattan acknowledged that “I am ultimately responsible” and that he was embarrassed by the second jail break in two weeks, but he would not be drawn into criticising anyone at this time. “There have been huge setbacks and lapses and things that could very well be blaming at a number of people here but I would prefer as minister in charge, not to go that direction now,” he said. “We have a literal war fighting and if I am to go start dealing with all kinds of dereliction of duty it might not help in the process,” he said.
Acting Police Commissioner, David Ramnaraine said confidence building patrols have been already deployed and teh Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit is on standby to be deployed based on information and intelligence. He urged farmers to be extra vigilant and not to remain in the backlands too late.
The Public Security Minister said the delay in issuing wanted bulletins with pictures to assist members of the public in reporting sightings of the escapees was due to the fact that the authorities wanted to be ensure they did not issue erroneous information like had happened shortly after the July 9, 2017 escape of several prisoners and the burning of the Georgetown Prison. He said Head of the Criminal Investigations Department, Senior Superintendent Wendell Blanhum was also busy at the Commission of Inquiry into the Guyana Police Force’s performance in investigating an alleged plot to assassinate President David Granger.
The Guyana Police Force at 11:59 AM (local time) Monday confirm that the undermentioned inmates have escaped from the Lusignan Prison. Since then, the force has not issued any further information.
|2.||Teshawn McKenzie||Armed Robbery|
|3.||Winston Long||Armed Robbery|
|10.||Jamal Joseph||Inflicted Grievous Bodily Harm|
|11.||Rayon Jones||Discharged Loaded Firearm|
Further information on the escapees along with their photographs will be sent in a subsequent release.