Everyone who obtains a presidential pardon should be named

Dear Editor,

President Granger is on a pardon roll. In seven months, he has pardoned two sets of criminals. While the pardon is his constitutional prerogative, that constitutional prerogative must be exercised with respect for public duty, transparency, accountability, common decency, historical precedent and national security. Unless they are minors, failing to name those pardoned is not acceptable. The constitution does not give the President any right to secrecy in exercising his prerogative of mercy. National interest dictates that no president, especially a president operating under Guyana’s lopsided constitutional system that favours the presidency, should be allowed to pardon any adult in secrecy. There is no legal, moral or constitutional basis for this position. In a society crippled by crime, it is odious to act in this manner.

Guyana’s prison population is around 2000, including pre-trial or remand prisoners. The remand prisoners are about 36% of the entire prison population or 720 prisoners, leaving convicted prisoners at around 1280 prisoners. The pardons from President Granger relate to the 1280 convicted prisoners. Sixty pardons per year would represent about 5% of the convicted prison population put back into the general population every year. So far in seven months, the President has pardoned 60 plus 11 criminals for a total of 71 criminals. That is around 5.5% of the prison population released onto the streets of this country in a mere seven months in the midst of a recession and burgeoning crime. If this president continues to pardon at this present rate of 10 criminals per month, roughly 10% of the prison population would be released yearly, and he could rack up 600 pardons by the time the 2020 election rolls around. That is equivalent to close to half of the current prison population in the next five years. Let’s be frank here, this economy is heading into a virtual quagmire with depressed world commodity prices for the medium term (including oil which imperils Liza’s planned platform), a deflating of the underground economy (a positive from this government), monetary contraction and a poor investment appetite.

Various studies have demonstrated that collective sentence reductions or pardons do not decrease recidivism. Pardons amid a deluge of crime send the wrong signal and could embolden criminals. Pardoning in secrecy kills the necessary public debate on this course of action. It also robs the public of the ability to assess the success or failure of the President’s scheme by determining rates of recidivism, the nature of offences, whether those with multiple offences were pardoned and the reports of agencies tasked with evaluating the conduct of those pardoned. Pardons are not the personal domain of the executive and their exercise must be fully articulated to the public.

Furthermore, Guyana’s ethnic situation requires that the President be forthcoming on the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, as there could be questions about whether its use lacks balance. Every individual who obtains a presidential pardon in the USA is publicly named. That should be the case in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,
M Maxwell

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