…to help remove corrupt, inefficient elements from justice system
By Kiana Wilburg
A US$946,000 (G$190M) grant from the United States is expected to go a long way in
removing the “corrupt and inefficient” elements of Guyana’s criminal justice system while instilling in it, mechanisms that are guaranteed to strengthen it.
This was revealed yesterday during a press conference held by the U.S Embassy at its Duke and Young Streets office.
The ceremony was attended by US Ambassador Perry Holloway; Vice-President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan; US Department International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Coordinator to Guyana, Leon Carr; Project Manager of the Justice Education Society, Evelyn Neaman; Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh; Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack and members of the Diplomatic Community.
Carr in his brief address to the media said that the programme will be implemented by the Justice Education Society (JES) over a 31-month period. He noted that JES is a non-profit organization which was established in 1989.
The INL Coordinator said that over the years, JES has managed several programmes regarding the strengthening of justice systems in many parts of the world. He expressed that he is elated to have the body’s assistance in a similar regard in Guyana.
Following Carr’s introduction were statements from Ambassador Holloway.
The US Diplomat said that (on behalf of the INL and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative), he was pleased to be the one to formally launch the implementation of the “Strengthening the Criminal Justice in Guyana” programme.
Holloway said, “We are very proud to facilitate this programme through the Justice Education Society of British Colombia. I am confident this programme will strengthen the integrity and responsiveness of Guyana’s justice system.”
The Ambassador expressed that the Embassy has been working alongside the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Director of Public Prosecutions to strengthen Guyana’s justice system.
He said that during these engagements, the Embassy recognized that each component agency has an independent and constitutional role and function.
“We also recognize that outcomes are enhanced when each agency understands the work of the other and has confidence that best practices are being utilized when carrying out those responsibilities.”
Holloway expressed that between 2012 and early 2014, agencies of the United States government including the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs completed a series of assessment reports which identified challenges existing in the justice system of Guyana extending from police investigative procedures through the criminal prosecution process.
The American envoy stated that in January 2015, the Embassy and the diplomatic community combined efforts to identify and address issues within the Justice Sector.
He said that a series of meetings and seminars with representatives of the Guyanese policing, prosecuting and judicial authorities were conducted to ascertain the expertise and methodology to develop a structured justice reform programme for Guyana.
Holloway asserted that the information gathered from these engagements provided the team with assistance in developing a programme with subject matter from experts who possess the required expertise in justice sector reform to address the issues Guyana faces in their criminal justice system.
The US Ambassador said that the main objective of this programme will be to increase effective criminal investigation in Guyana that leads to strong prosecutions and trials by boosting the technical capacity of the police, prosecutors, and magistrates to work with criminal evidence in a supportive environment.
“We want to continue to assist the Government of Guyana’s Criminal Justice entities to improve their knowledge, skills, abilities and collaboration with one another. Increased knowledge, skills, abilities and collaboration means increased capacity to get better results. That is something we all want and will continue to strive for,” the Ambassador asserted.
Expressing support for Holloway’s statements was Minister Ramjattan.
He said that the programme which will see the further strengthening of the justice system is most welcomed by the Guyana Government. He said that Government knows that indeed there are a number of deficiencies, defects and deficits in the system.
The Public Security Minister noted, however, that the Government is pleased that the US embassy, and of course, other ABC countries, are doing a great lot for ensuring that Guyana has the finest systems to facilitate the rule of law.
Ramjattan said that over all, he is “impressed” with the programme.
“What happened recently in certain instances is that we came across allegations of police taking some rather uncouth steps towards getting evidence and the appreciation of the civil rights during the course of interrogation and investigation is important.”
The Minister continued, “The rule of the law in these parts of the Caribbean area is very important and the priority of course is to do away with what we call the inefficient and corrupt investigative systems and even justice systems so that we do not see a disruption of our democracy and we do not see a disruption of our security.”
The Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) said that it has been observed that when the weaknesses of the justice system are not corrected, it can have a negative impact on trade and investment deals for the country. He is confident however that the JES programme is a significant tool that will go a long way in making the necessary improvements to the criminal justice system.
Ramjattan also stated that an important part of the programme will be the evaluation aspect of it, which will seek to ascertain just how the beneficiaries are applying what they have learnt. He said that this will be a big chunk of the programme. “This is wonderful for Guyana’s police, prosecutors and magistrates,” Ramjattan confidently stated.
Evelyn Neaman, Project Manager of the Justice Education Society thanked the authorities at the event for their support of the programme. She noted that the body has been involved in justice reform work worldwide for over 25 years.
So far, the Project Manager said, JES has established respectful and productive partnerships with the relevant bodies in Guyana’s justice system which will enable a fruitful outcome of the programme.
Neaman said that the project will develop Guyana’s capacity in crime scene management and investigation. She also noted that surveillance evidence also known as forensic video evidence is one of the fastest growing areas of forensic evidence in the world.
“From convenient stores, to banks and traffic intersections, CCTV cameras are virtually everywhere. This project will continue to increase the capacity of specialized forensic video analysis in both the Guyana Police Force and the National Forensic Science Laboratory through training and equipment.”
The Project Manager expressed that these units will be able to analyze this evidence so that it could be admitted as evidence in court.
She noted however that the most remarkable part of this entire programme is that Guyana will become the leader in the Caribbean in forensic video analysis. Neaman said that the programme will further enhance its prominence in the Caribbean.
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