On January 14th, 2016, the Coroners (Amendment) Act of 2015 was passed in the National Assembly. Then, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams had said that the amended Act will give the Judicial Service Commission the authority to appoint “fit and proper persons” as Coroners. The Act made provisions for there to be at least three Coroners in Demerara, two in Berbice, one in Essequibo and for a Coroner to be appointed for the whole of Guyana.
However, according to former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, since that time, the government has taken no action to appoint new Coroners.
Nandlall criticized Williams for not delivering on his promise. He reminded that the purpose of the bill was to facilitate the appointment of an increased number of Coroners so that more inquests into alleged unlawful killings and unnatural deaths can be conducted.
Despite the amendments made to the Act, Magistrates are still saddled with the responsibility of conducting inquests. The Act stipulates that every person appointed as Coroner take and subscribe to the oath of office taken by a magistrate; have all the powers, privileges, rights and jurisdiction of a Magistrate and Justice of the Peace and empower the Chief Justice to assign any number of Coroners to a county.
In January 2018, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack had recommended more than a dozen Coroner’s inquests. The bulk of them had to do with fatal accidents, and the shooting death of three men at the hands of the police. The road fatalities on the list include the March 10, 2018 motorcycle accident which claimed the lives of immigration officer Navana Chase and 24-year-old Stanley Junior. The two were on a CBR motorcycle when Junior allegedly lost control and crashed into a lantern post while negotiating a turn at Houston Public Road, East Bank Demerara.
Inquests were also ordered into the following traffic accidents which led to the January 31, 2018 death of Harry Persaud on the Sarah Johanna Public Road, East Bank Demerara; Shawn Richards on January 4, at Diamond Access Road, East Bank Demerara; Rohan Pooran, on the Stanleytown Public Road, New Amsterdam on February 10; Kemo Stewart, at Water and Holmes streets on March 23; Krishnoutie, 62, at Met-en-Meerzorg Public Road, West Coast Demerara in June, 2017; Alana Ramsaran, 25, on February 03, at Schoonard Access Road, West Bank Demerara; and police constable Theon Hope and Quason Anthony, which occurred on May 1 at Loo Creek, Linden/ Soesdyke Highway.
Inquests were also ordered into the drowning deaths of 50-year-old Gavin Moses and 13-year-old Kimeanda Prince which occurred on October 29, 2017, at Rockstone, Essequibo River and the stabbing death of Oranda Flatts, 25, which occurred at Amelia’s Ward, Linden on February 9, 2018.
President David Granger had ordered an inquest into the March 15, 2018 fatal shooting of Dextroy Cordis, known as ‘Dutty’, 46, of Grove, East Bank Demerara; Kwame Assanah of Buxton, East Coast Demerara and Errol Adams, called ‘Dynamite’, 57 of Dartmouth, Essequibo Coast, along the Kingston seawall, in Georgetown.
The men, who were described as suspected bandits, were fatally shot by police north of the GNS Sports Ground after police said they opened fire on them while they were in an anti-crime patrol. Last year September, via a newspapers publication, the Registrar of the Supreme Court requested that five witnesses appear at the Linden Magistrate Court on October 11, 2019 to testify in the inquest into the deaths of Moses and Prince.
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