There are times, rare times, in the affairs of men when a disaster deserves a cheer. And so I say, hats off to those who destroyed Guyana’s major prison in the heart of its capital city, Georgetown.
Many, many, many years ago I had my first look at the inside of that monstrosity as one of a group of students taken by our instructor on a social studies tour. Conditions were, to the youthful gaze, horrible then. They worsened considerably over the decades.
What the Guyanese prisoners there have now done is simply to follow the pattern set by Barbadian convicts in 2005 when they burnt Her Majesty’s Prison at Glendairy, just outside the capital city Bridgetown, following which the government went into what was considered a nice deal with foreign experts in the field to build a modern prison, with all its many security and other requirements, who then let it to the government.
Guyana should consider whether doing the same would be in its interest. For many, many years Georgetown’s great monstrosity has stood in the city’s centre as an awful colossus, defying all the city council’s attempts at modernisation elsewhere. An earlier effort by inmates at cleansing through fire in 2015 merely managed to burn some inerior areas of the prison, though 17 inmates died in the melee.
This time, from reports reaching Boston, the fire is more widespread, damage substantial; and thus hope rises anew for the site to be levelled. It would seem strange at this point for anyone to talk about repair/rebuild and reuse as a place of confinement. Residents in the surrounding areas, who have suffered long in their powerlessness, would be appalled at any government plans for continued use of this very valuable site as a prison. Many women have known over the years, the taunts, the jeers, the vulgarities shouted at them by prisoners in the cells above as they walked along the pavement particularly on D’Urban Street.
Whatever motivated the inmates this time to set the place alight, the great incidental positive in their act is that it gives a sensible government the opportunity to look into the future and build on the spot for the next generation and many more to come.
I say, Editor, the authorities should demolish the old eyesore jail, win the applause of the community and plan ahead for an 8-storey-or-so financial/commercial complex, which would have frontings on four roads, parking on two inner levels, and likely become the centre of activity of Guyana’s soon burgeoning petroleum-led energy sector.
And so, now I ask: Who has the courage to do, the skill to build, and the capital to finance?