Mar 07, 2016 News
The Government is still to make contact with all the relatives of the prisoners, who perished on Thursday after being trapped in a raging fire in the Capital A Block of the Camp Street Prison.
Relatives of Shaka Mckenzie and former Guyana Defence Force (GDF)’s Lance Corporal Aaron Eastman told this newspaper that they have not yet heard from the government or the administration of the Guyana Prison Service. Additionally they claimed that they have not yet been allowed to even identify their loved ones’ remains.
In fact, they were only able to confirm that the men had died after seeing their names in the media.
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan had told members of the media last Thursday that the administration would be contacting relatives of the dead prisoners before their names were released.
The names of the 17 dead inmates have since been officially released.
Yesterday, this newspaper visited McKenzie’s mother, Michelle Joseph, who was still in shock and could hardly speak.
The dead man’s aunt, Elizabeth McKenzie said that they learnt of the young man’s death only after seeing his name in the media and later a photograph of his burnt body on social media.
“My brother called and told me that Shaka died in the fire. Up to now we have not seen the body. We went to the Georgetown Hospital, then to the mortuary and to the Lyken Funeral Parlour and still did not get to see him,” the devastated aunt said.
The dead prisoner’s relatives are upset that no one from the government or the prison made any attempt to meet with them and discuss what transpired.
Joseph related that she visited the Camp Street Prison to enquire about her son’s death and was told that they were not seeing anybody in relation to that matter. This is after the Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan had promised to reveal the names of the dead only after their relatives were contacted.
McKenzie said that they heard that the men were begging for their lives.
The relatives said that they heard that a hole was in the wall of the burning cell which led to another cell through which the prisoners were escaping the blaze. However, McKenzie claimed that when the Prison Officers came and saw that they were trying to get out, they, (prison officers) blocked the hole and left some of them to die in the burning cell.
They believe that if the prison authorities know differently, they should come forward and tell the relatives.
While the woman admitted that her nephew did some “wrong things,” she said that he was still a human being and did not deserve to die the way he did.
Joseph said that she spoke with her son over the phone the morning before he died and he mentioned nothing about any plans of setting the block on fire.
She said his last words were that he wanted to come out and she responded to him by saying, “Shaka you have to wait till when yuh go to court Thursday.”
McKenzie, a resident of Ruimveldt, Georgetown was charged and was placed on $400,000 bail since July 12 last year for Robbery under Arms.
Joseph said that her son remained in prison because her family could not afford to pay the large bail. He was scheduled to make his next court appearance this Thursday.
His aunt said that their intention on Thursday was to ask the court for a breakdown of the bail since the $400,000 was too much.
Meanwhile, Maxine Eastman, the sister of Aaron Eastman said too that no one from the Government has contacted her relatives since her brother’s tragic death.
The GDF Lance Corporal was among four men remanded to prison on December 08, last for possession of illegal rounds and firearms that were stashed in a motorcar when they were apprehended on Robb Street, Georgetown.
According to the dead man’s sister, she was at work when she received a call from another sibling informing her about the tragedy at the prison.
“My sister asked me to go to the hospital and see if I can find out anything about Aaron. When I went there, a Prison Officer said he wasn’t there. I went back to work and in the afternoon I went to the hospital and meet my sister and his (Aaron’s) wife,” the woman explained.
There, they were sent to the prison where they were informed that Eastman had perished in the blaze.
The woman claimed that they have not seen Aaron’s body as yet but were advised to visit the Criminal Investigation Department today to view photographs of the dead prisoners with a view to identifying Eastman.
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