Following the May 23rd fracas at the New Amsterdam Prison which resulted in four inmates being burnt and chopped by a gang of fellow inmates, the family of one of the injured, Kwame Bhagwandin yesterday picketed the penal institution demanding a thorough investigation into the incident.
The dozen protestors were led by Bhagwandin’s 52-year-old mother Donna Liddle, his common law wife Richlyn Smith and five-day-old son. Their placards read ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ as they demanded that ‘Someone say how the acid and cutlass reach in the prison’, while alleging that ‘Drugs are being trafficked into the prisons by prison officers’ and ‘prisoners are being victimized by police and prison authority’.
The angry protestors made a public appeal to the Director of Prisons and the Minister of Home Affairs to conduct a “thorough, fair and just investigation”.
On Friday, May 23rd, four male inmates of the New Amsterdam Prison had to be hospitalized after they were brutally attacked by what is believed to be a six-member gang of inmates who doused them with acid and chopped them about their bodies.
Thirty-one-year-old Abdulsalam Azimullah called ‘Sato’ of Hampshire, Corentyne; Davendra Harricharran known as ‘Bara’, 28, of Nigg, Corentyne; Clarence ‘Wild Hog’ Williams of Angoy’s Avenue and Bhagwandin, 32, of Ithaca WCB, were rushed to the New Amsterdam Hospital following the brazen attack and later transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
According to the victims, the well-planned attack was masterminded by a convicted prisoner known as ‘Shoulder’ who has since reportedly been relocated to the Camp Street Prisons. The families of the victims are also alleging that prison warder(s) facilitated the attack by aiding the gang.
“Somebody was passing on this same prison road the afternoon when they hear the prisoners shouting ‘help, help, call the police’ and hollering how ‘big chopping up going on in the prison’. The person stopped and asked what happen,” Liddle said, explaining how her family found out that Bhagwandin was injured.
The frustrated mother related to Stabroek News that her son is currently in tremendous pain, and has been rendered an ‘invalid’ since he does not have the use of his hands, which were severely chopped. Liddle recalled that while visiting her son at the Georgetown Public Hospital, he bemoaned the fact that the prison officers did not attempt to help them during the attack. “He said that at the time nobody blow a whistle or sound any alarm; nobody call for police, only until after an hour the incident occur. Nobody didn’t even fire a shot in the air to scare the assaulters! Nobody did anything!”
Alleging that the attackers are involved in an elaborate drug business with the prison officers, Liddle said it was only on the arrival of her family at the scene of the incident, attempts were made to summon the police. “Some kind of drug business going on in the prison involving ‘Shoulder’ and some [prison] officers; anything ‘Shoulder’ need, the officers does bring it into the prison and give him”.
Liddle is claiming that her son was targeted because the attackers viewed him as a whistle-blower. She explained that two weeks prior to the incident, her son had witnessed an illicit activity within the prison walls which he supposedly brought to the attention of the Officer-in-Charge (OC). Unfortunately, no action was taken and the attack subsequently occurred.
“Two weeks ago he [Bhagwandin] saw when a prison warder carry in acid into the prison. The same four that got chop up saw and complain to the OC,” Liddle said, adding that her son came forward to warn the prison officials, even going as far as to give a written statement and the OC promised to investigate the matter, but did not. Bhagwandin subsequently went on a hunger strike to draw the attention of the OC and urge him to investigate, but to no avail. “On the day of the incident, the prison warder searched all the cells except that of ‘Shoulder’, and removed a quantity of ‘jukers’ but did not remove the cutlasses or bucket of acid” Liddle charged. She is therefore calling on the relevant authorities to investigate “how the weapons were smuggled in to the prison and by who”.
Meanwhile, Officer-in-Charge of the New Amsterdam Prison, Superintendent Linden Cornette while viewing the placards wielded by the protestors refused to comment on the issue to Stabroek News. Instead, he stated that he was prohibited from speaking with media operatives and referred Stabroek News to the Director of Prisons and the Ministry of Home Affairs. He did however inform the protestors that the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee has asked for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident. His pronouncement was met with skepticism by Bhagwandin’s family.
The badly injured Bhagwandin, along with Williams are still patients of the Georgetown Public Hospital. The other two inmates who were injured, Azimullah and Harricharran were treated and have been returned to the New Amsterdam Prisons.