Jan 17, 2016 News
– but Ramjattan has final say
By Dale Andrews
Several death row inmates who had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment are holding their breaths
hoping that the Parole Board finds favour with their application to be released from prison.
But the Parole Board may not be the end of the road for them, as Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has the final say on the matter. He is prepared to exercise his powers under the Parole Act.
The Parole Board headed by Justice Oslen Small met last Thursday to consider the application of some of the convicted killers for release from incarceration.
The convicts, some of whom were sentenced to die by hanging for some of the most heinous murders, have had their sentences commuted to life, after their executions were delayed as a result of a constitutional challenge.
The main reason offered was that the men had been on Death Row for too long and to execute them now would be inhumane.
Their stay on Death Row for such a prolonged period meant that they would have served a life sentence and to hang them would be to punish them twice. This was the view of then Chief Justice Ian Chang, who had made the order.
Generally, life imprisonment is considered about 18 calendar years.
Most of those seeking release would have been in prison for more than 20 years. Among them are Muntaz Ali; Terrence Sahadeo; Hafiz Hussein; Bharatraj Mulai and his brother Lallman; Ganga Deolall (Crankshaft); Oral Hendricks; Bryan Vandeyar; Lawrence Chand; Colwyn Smart; Vivekanand Singh; Kornel and Daniel Vaux; Derrick Calendar and Compton Tryell.
Hussein, whose sentence was commuted to a life sentence in 2012, after spending 17 years on death row was convicted for a murder committed at Black Bush Polder in 1993.
According to information received by this newspaper Hussein was promised release on December 18, last, but is still to hear from the Parole Board.
Terrance Sahadeo, Ganga Deolall, Bharat Raj Mulai and his brother Lallman Mulai, Kornel Vaux and his brother Daniel Vaux all had their death penalties commuted to life sentences the following year.
Kaieteur News understands that Lawyers for Deolall met with the Board on Thursday last but there is no indication if they have decided on the possibility of him being released any time soon.
Ironically, some inmates have become so frustrated that at least one of them had considered committing suicide by hanging himself.
Some have claimed that they have now become a burden on the state which has to expend no less than $25,000 for their monthly upkeep.
The process for their release starts with Attorneys for the convicts making an application to the Parole Board which in turn sits to consider the applications.
The law also provides for the relatives of the victims who were killed by the convicts to make representations before the Board to show cause why the death row inmates should not be released.
Ever since the commuting of the death sentences, opinion has been divided. Some proclaim that the men had indeed suffered and that it was a good thing that the sentences be commuted. There were people who said that the judicial system has been known to make mistakes and that it was not unusual that innocent people were put to death.
And once the sentence was executed there was no way it could be reversed.
But there were those, especially the relatives of the victims who say that the courts never take their loss into consideration. One relative pointed to the case of 18-year-old Roshana Kassim who was killed in her home even as she was preparing a meal for the household.
In the wake of her death, her father died months later, a victim of a condition that developed as a result of the girl’s murder.
Her mother did not last long either. Some believe that the mother died as a result of a combination of her daughter and her husband’s death.
Then there was Lawrence Chan – one of those to have his sentence commuted. He was sentenced to death in 1995 and has been on Death Row ever since. He was convicted for killing two people during an armed robbery. The killing of one of the victims was said to be as cruel as anything could be.
The relatives of this victim wanted death for the man who brought death to them. These relatives always say that the system does not take their grief into consideration; that the relatives of the victim must bear their grief alone because they do not have rights.
But there could be another stumbling block to their release and it stands in the form of Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.
The Minister in an invited comment yesterday said that while he does not know the specific considerations being looked at by the Parole Board, he still has the final say.
“I have the power under the Parole Board Act. I have to grant the licence for their release. But I am not bound by the Board’s recommendations. Who I feel in the public’s interest should not be released, I will not release them,” Minister Ramjattan declared.
He said that he does not know when the Board will send him its recommendations.
Any release of death row inmates is bound to spark public controversy, especially if one were to judge from the reaction to former President Donald Ramotar’s pardoning of convicted killer, Ravindra Deo, shortly before he was ousted from office.
Then there were voices raised after President David Granger pardoned several persons convicted for “petty crimes”.
It will also raise eyebrows since there have been renewed calls for the death penalty to be reintroduced to combat the increase in violent murders.
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