Here is a section of a court item taken from the Kaieteur News of Saturday, December 5, 2015 – “Three persons were brought before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on Thursday and ordered to pay fines and perform community service after they were charged with being in possession of narcotics.
Ranks from the Narcotics Branch of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) went to Lot 72 Sandy Babb Street, Kitty and conducted a search on the persons. The drugs were found in their possession and they were arrested and charged. When asked why they were in possession of the drugs, they told the Magistrate that they use the substance for leisure.
Crawford was sentenced to a fine of $15,000 along with six weeks of community service. Taite was fined $5,000 and ordered to perform six weeks of community service, while Augustus was fined $12,000 and ordered to perform five weeks of community service.”(End of quote).
There are four foolish, really silly things about this story that make a mockery of the imminent celebrations of 50 years of Independence. The Narcotics Branch of the Police Force went on a raid of three persons’ home to arrest them for possession of marijuana. Here is the stupidity of the police; one of the accused had one gram, the other had six grams. In the 21st century, the Police Force of a country arrested and convicted citizens for possession of a gram of ganja. Does the average reader of this column know how much a gram is? In the Americas from Canada right down to the islands in the Caribbean taking in the US, Mexico and the entire continent of South America, police would ignore a person having a gram of leaves in their pocket.
The police used gasoline, time and resources to raid a house of poor occupants and arrest them for ganja possession one of whom had a gram. Isn’t the Commissioner of the Police Force ashamed of his ranks? Isn’t the Head of the Narcotics Branch ashamed of himself? Aren’t the ranks that carried out the raid ashamed of what they have become? Aren’t the people of this country ashamed of how the police and the Magistracy treat people accused of a small amount of ganja? The second foolish thing is why are we paying millions of dollars to Parliamentarians and Cabinet Ministers, who in the 21st century, accept a law from an era long, long gone that put young citizens in jail for tiny amounts of marijuana?
Why isn’t this law amended as yet? The third idiotic dimension is the attitude of Magistrates. There is the scope to offer a non-custodial sentence. But ninety nine percent of the convicted accused goes to jail. The fourth aspect is the corruptibility of the Police Force.
CANU and the Narcotics Branch of the Guyana Police Force need to be exposed. But it is not for journalists to do so. We would lose our lives in this wretched dumping ground of rotting corpses called Guyana. Drug lords kill journalists and you expect to see arrests. Remember the Robb Street granny. I know a woman who is being protected. And unfortunately President Granger was seen publicly greeting her. I don’t think the President knows her background.
But CANU and the narcotics cops who went to Kitty to arrest three Rastafari adherents last week know who she is. Narcotics state agents know who the big traffickers are.
Here is what the Stabroek News reported – “While acknowledging that the laws and by extension the penalties for cannabis offences ought to be reviewed, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan yesterday also argued that the current absence of a clear sentencing policy is a problem.
A clear sentencing policy, he further said, needs to be worked out by the Chancellor and other members of the Judiciary…he added that public opprobrium of the issue is being seen due to the absence of clear sentencing guidelines.” (End of quote).
We cannot expect a Cabinet Minister whose portfolio is internal security or the President to chastise Magistrates for unconscionable sentences but one suspects that this is what President Granger had in mind when he emphatically declared that young men should not be jailed for the mere theft of a cell phone and that he will continue his yearly presidential pardon of such young convicts.
One suspects too that Minister Ramjattan had this in mind when he spoke to the press. Cabinet Ministers cannot do it but civil society can. And we must. Too many unruly, irresponsible, irrational, incompetent Magistrates stalk this land. They should be exposed. But then again that is the price Guyana has to pay for not having learned Magistrates.
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