We must start over wisely with the jail

Dear Editor,

The Camp Street prison fire will hold the nation’s attention for the next few days, or less if and when the escapees are under wraps.  Voices and pens will be lifted first and then pointed as to what went wrong, and who is responsible.  I try to look beyond this.

First, even as there is looking ahead, there must be recognition, as a colleague wisely stated about the existence and role of the thriving business that led to the disaster that was waiting to happen.  It is where there is a multi-million dollar traffic in the free passage of contraband, which might include just about anything, including the very dangerous.  About ten years ago, I described the jail as a time bomb; well the clock ran out on Sunday evening, and hopefully some hard lessons are learned.

Second, brave men in the line of duty have paid a steep price, including the ultimate.  There can only be regret at the deep pain which must now be borne by hurting families.  While conspiracy theories will be sure to proliferate, the ground is now set (in the worst possible circumstances) to start over, but to do so wisely.

Third, clearly a jail, (or whatever they are called these days) has to be rebuilt and soon and from scratch.  It cannot be in the middle of town; that time is over.

Wherever the new structure is located, it must be modern and humane, with an emphasis on the latter.  This does not mean either luxury or frills; just Spartan efficiency.

Fourth, it should not be constructed by local people; not with the history of shoddy work; not with this leaky family society, where nothing is secret.  The security of citizens is too precious to be left in the hands of the untrustworthy and the corrupt.  It goes without saying that this new house of correction is going to be costly.  In view of the levels and types of crimes being committed these days, the facility has to be huge and well thought out.  It must be capacious and in an area that leaves room for expansion.  Crime pays in this country, so accommodations have to be contemplated.

Fifth, it is my humble opinion that the Minister of Public Security should do the principled thing and step down; first there was a mini holocaust and then this recent incineration.

That makes for twice in approximately a year; it is once too often under his watch, and is the way that responsibility for these kinds of issues unfolds.  Though inherited, the responsible minister has to tender his resignation.  It should be asked for and accepted.

Sixth and it does not get better.  I propose that some former senior army rank be selected to be the successor to this most sensitive of portfolios, as Minister of National Security.  I am aware that this has ominous undertones in terms of any recommended military party and the new name for the ministry.  I am aware, also, that I have said earlier that there are too many military personnel around and all at the same time.  I make an exception in this instance.  I think it is necessary and appropriate.

In the interim, all the regular people supposedly in the know can take centre stage with their theories and conjectures as to what went wrong and who did what.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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