Nov 18, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – She was in jail, let out of jail, only to be back in jail again. The Guyana Prison Service did not look too good in the early release and then subsequent reimprisoning of the Ms. Bibi Sharima-Gopaul. She is the mother convicted and sentenced for the murder of Neesa Gopaul, her own daughter. Only in Guyana could something like this jail and release and reincarcerated carousel happen.
The issue is what really went on in this set of developments, who was behind it, who made decisions, and who was forced to beat a hasty retreat through the recall of Neesa Gopaul’s murderer, her mother.
To begin with, there is no functioning Parole Board that was involved in this matter, which is a problem in and of itself. According to the first media reports, the early release occurred without any grounds for such action being given. It would be staggering, and doubtful indeed, if the Director of the Guyana Prison Service took it upon himself to initiate such an action on someone sure to generate huge public attention and outcry. The latter is exactly what happened, and which prompted the recall and reimprisonment of the departed Neesa Gopaul’s mother. So, if it was not the man in charge of the Guyana Prison system, Mr. Nicklon Elliott, then who had that honour of authorising the early release of a convicted child killer? If such was the case, it was no ordinary citizen, for it takes someone of considerable standing to have such a decision being implemented. Stated differently, the Director of the Guyana Prison Service is not going to jump to the command of any regular citizen or clerk.
Whatever was at work that led to the premature freedom of Ms. Bibi Sharima-Gopaul, somebody jumped the gun. Ms. Sharima-Gopaul’s prison sentence passed through the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), where it was reduced to 30 years. Five years was deducted for time on remand, which meant 25 years Ms. Sharima-Gopaul for the murder of her child. To the time of her recent release, she had served 13 years of the 25-year sentence. We note, however, that Gopaul was subject to sentencing pursuant to Section 100A (1) (b) of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act. This section states that persons shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life or any other term that the court considers appropriate, not being less than 15 years. This means that 15 years had to be served before there could have been any parole consideration.
In an effort to understand prison math, and early release calculation, serving 13 years out of 25 years differs from “not being less 15 years” as enshrined in the Criminal Law (Offenses) Act. Notwithstanding possible credits for good behaviour, and other positive contributions during her stay to that point in jail, Ms. Sharima-Gopaul’s release still belongs in the mystery category. When the public clamour broke over the mother’s early release, the Prison Service did not do itself any favours by referring callers to the entity’s public relations officer. In general, public relations officers who are particularly skilled at their profession are not known for speaking in straight lines, but make their living going around in circles, or throwing questioners off-track. When matters are then handed to these professionals, it usually does not speak well for any organisation, with the fudged and fuzzy more often than not resulting. To some extent, the Neesa Gopaul murder record just added another chapter to this sordid affair.
The new chapter confirms this, with Guyana Prison authorities speaking of ‘miscalculation’ and a mistake being made. Frankly, the Prison Service only deepened the haze surrounding this matter, and lost some of its luster, when it took far too long to come up with this bit about a mistake in counting. It is what it is, but does not have the full persuasive force that it should have. In summary, the murky launched the early release of murderer Sharima-Gopaul. This was followed by the testy taking over, and public relations getting into gear. Last, there is the hint of the messy in the air in all of this. Nothing in Guyana is cut and dried anymore, or as seemingly straightforward and innocent, as it appears to be.
Pres. Ali putting water meters on the citizens in Berbice, and not meters on Exxon oil pumps.
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