Former President Donald Ramotar says he is sorry for his decision to pardon child killer Ravindra Deo and although he knows it might not be enough to extinguish the hurt the child’s parents feel, he regrets not consulting with them before his decision.
“I am so sorry…maybe if I had spoken to the parents earlier I don’t think I would have,” Ramotar told Stabroek News in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“What motivated me was the case put up for Deo. I had read the Chief Justice’s ruling on the matter when he said that the sentence should not have been murder but the lesser manslaughter and at the time he (Deo) had spent what would have been the time for manslaughter. I had also met with Deo’s parents who were sick and ailing and so forth. In retrospection, all I can say is I am so sorry I did not contact the parents because after hearing they migrated over 15 years (ago), I gave up. I guess I did not make a big enough effort,” he said.
The now 39-year-old Deo was convicted for the brutal murder of 8-year-old Vishnu Bhim, which was committed 21 years ago at La Bonne Intention (LBI). Although sentenced to hang, he subsequently had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
Details of the case were that the child was on his way to school when he was kidnapped and taken via a bicycle to the backlands of LBI, where he was bound, gagged and murdered. It was a crime which had grabbed the attention of the nation.
According to evidence produced in the court, Deo had claimed that “Kresho,” the other person who was implicated, gave him a bike with a wooden bar and told him to take the child to LBI. Kresho was never found.
Bhim was taken down the LBI estate road in the vicinity of a trench surrounded by bush, where his shirt was torn and used to bind him.
A note was then sent to his parents requesting ransom of $1 million for his safe return.
Deo had later taken the police to the backlands, where the child’s swollen and battered body was found floating in a trench partly obscured by bushes. The cause of death was given as asphyxiation due to a fracture of the hyoid bone.
Deo was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by way of hanging but had petitioned the court to have his punishment be commuted to a life sentence. This was granted in 2012 by Chief Justice Ian Chang.
A few days before demitting office in May of this year after his party lost the General and Regional Elections, Ramotar granted a presidential pardon to Deo, setting him free.
The move was most unpopular not only with the child’s parents who expressed disappointment but with the populace which voiced its anger and dissatisfaction with the move.
Ramotar again recently received much flak when a local online news agency reported that he said that the child killer did not deserve to be in prison and that he was unaware that the lad’s parents were still grieving.
The former president told Stabroek News that he made the decision based on facts presented to him and regrets that this did not include statements from the child’s parents on their views which would have provided balance to the argument. He said that after the decision, and after the father contacted his office, he was emotional over the decision but it was too late.
“I met with the father (of Vishnu Bhim) after the decision and when he explained to me the pain the child’s mother still goes through, it pained and still pains me. I spoke to him first on the phone then I met him when he came to Guyana and was so moved as I learned that the wound is still so very raw for them. I really felt so cut up inside when I met them. It was a tough decision, I feel a no-win situation and I admit I erred. Looking at all that is before me, I know I would not have and I want the parents to forgive me for that,” he added.
Stabroek News understands that since being set free, Deo left for neighbouring Suriname where he wants to start a new life and is even contemplating returning to Guyana to restart his parents’ garment selling business with monies earned there.