Jun 10, 2023 News
By Shervin Belgrave
Kaieteur News – The Guyana Prison Service (GPS) on Friday cremated death row inmate, Royden Williams popularly known as “Smallie” despite an objection by father. ‘Smallie’s’ relatives sought custody of his remains so that they could bury him in his hometown located in Region Six.
At a press conference facilitated by the Hughes, Fields & Stoby Law Firm, William’s father, Morris Williams said, “We don’t burn dead. We bury our dead. That is what I know from growing up in the family…I just feel like for him to go and bury peacefully… that is all a want”.
The elder Williams said that the family is Christian and do not subscribe to cremations. He said requests were made to the Guyana Prison Service for his son’s remains to be handed over for him to be buried according to his religion and custom, but that request was denied.
As a result, the family sought legal representation from Hughes, Fields & Stoby with the hope that their request would be granted. Ronald Daniels, one of the attorneys representing the Williams family. told reporters that a letter of action was sent to the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall SC. with his client’s demands.
“Initially we received a response from the Attorney General indicating that the state had no difficulties in releasing the body for burial but the Attorney General, however, subsequently indicated that the body is in the lawful custody of the state and that the state will not be releasing the body,” Daniels told reporters.
Nigel Hughes, the senior lawyer representing the family, added that he personally communicated with the Attorney General via WhatsApp on the matter and was given the assurance that the Commissioner of Police (ag), Clifton Hicken, had no issue with the release of ‘Smallie’s’ remains to his family for burial.
As a result of the Attorney General’s statements and assurance, Hughes, Fields and Stoby discontinued its plans to file legal proceedings in the high court regarding the Guyana Prison Service’s reluctance to hand over the body to the deceased’s family.
However, at 09:50am when relatives arrived at the Memorial Gardens Funeral Home with the hope of receiving the body, they were told that the State was proceeding with the cremation. Upon learning this Hughes said he contacted the Attorney General and informed him of the new development.
“I then said to him that this would be most egregious especially since we have informed the chief justice that we are no longer proceeding based on what you [AG] represented,” Hughes told reporters.
After allegedly asking Hughes to “give him a few” the Attorney General later responded informed Hughes that the State will not be handing over Williams’ body as the law dictates that in such cases, the state is required to maintain possession of the body.
Smallie’s father told reporters that he felt bullied by the State after its refusal to allow him to bury his son.
Meanwhile, the man’s lawyers argued that there was nothing barring the State from handing over ‘Smallie’s’ body to his family. They submitted that the death row inmate had two matters in the appeal court and was not a fully condemned man. They also shared the view that the state in its decision to maintain custody of the convicted man’s body shows a total disregard for ‘Nelson Mandela’s Rule for treating Prisoners’.
The Nelson Mandela’s rule states that, “The prison administration shall treat the body of deceased prisoner with respect and dignity the body of a deceased prisoner and should be returned to his or her next of kin as soon as reasonably possible, at latest upon completion of the investigation, the prison administration shall facilitate a contrary and appropriate funeral if there is no responsible party able to do so, and that they should keep a full record of the matter.”
However, the Ministry of Home Affairs in a subsequent statement claimed that ‘Smallie’ family had agreed for the State to cremate him.
The Ministry said that shortly after the death row inmate was killed, the GPS engaged his relatives and indicated that the State will not be handing over his remains.
“The Prison Authorities and the sister, on behalf of the family, discussed and consensually planned the funeral arrangements. Out of those discussions, it was decided that the funeral will take place at Memorial Gardens, Le Repentir, with an agreed number of family members in attendance and that the family’s Pastor will do the final rites,” the ministry stated.
The ministry added that those arrangements with the family were also confirmed around 08:00hrs on Friday.
With regards to the legality of not handing over the death row inmate’s body, the Ministry said, “The Guyana Prison Service’s position on this matter is that unless the convictions and sentences imposed upon Williams were set aside or reversed by a court of competent jurisdiction, Williams’ body will remain with the prison authorities, as the law provides. Appeals filed and pending against his multiple convictions and sentences do not affect this position”.
Despite the back and forth between the State and ‘Smallie’s’ family, the death row inmate was cremated around 14:00 hrs on Friday at the Memorial Gardens Crematorium.
He was charged with 23 counts of murder and was convicted of nine. He was sentenced to death for the Lusignan Massacre in 2008 and for the murder of a soldier that took place that same year.
‘Smallie’ escaped from the Camp Street Prison in 2017 but was later recaptured. On May 19, 2023 he made another escape, this time from the heavily guarded Mazaruni Prison in Region Seven.
He was aided by men armed with high powered rifles. Four Prison officers and a woman have since been remanded for conspiring to help him escape.
After weeks of a manhunt by joint services ranks, ‘Smallie’ and two men accused of being his accomplices, Neon Howard and Odel Roberts, were shot dead during alleged confrontations with members of the Joint Services.
DECEPTION & CORRUPTION getting WORSE by the minute in GUYANA.
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