The narcotics act contributes to the over-population of the prisons

Dear Editor,

I want to express my profound gratitude to the police, along with the firemen, the prison officers and the ordinary soldiers who did their duty to the nation over the last few days.  They moved 1,018 prisoners less 5 escapees (whatever the real number because even the Minister remains unclear about the final count at the time of this letter).  It was a volatile situation that had an explosive potential.  The fact of the matter is this is not over, and thus the time to castigate this inept administration is not now.  As a Guyanese, I will support all action taken to contain the runaway convicts and bring back order to the nation, but observing the performance of President David Granger at this time does not make me hopeful at all.  So from an operational point of view, the Joint Services deserve full commendation for a job well done.

But on the policy front, I want to put Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and President Granger, on notice, that their negligence at all levels will be exposed.

Now let me highlight a major contributor to the over-population of the prisons: the Granger administration remains very reluctant to support a bill proposed by Member of Parliament, Mr Michael Carrington called The Narcotics Drug And Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment)  Bill 2015, No. 17 of 2015.  Minister of State Joseph Harmon was reported as saying that the matter of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana was not a matter which was engaging the immediate attention of the government.

Mr Carrington told the media in 2015 that his intention was to replace jail time for smoking weed with a big fine or community service. I support this position by Mr Carrington unreservedly.  If someone wants to smoke his weed by the joint so what? Let him clean some drains rather than languish in the prison system.

But Editor, do you know we have a bigger social illness in Guyana call alcoholism, that is more dangerous to the social structure of the nation?  I was advised by a top doctor in Guyana that more people are dying from cirrhosis of the liver and other internal organ failures because of the abuse of alcohol in this country, than cancer (associated with smoking).  So if you want to ban smoking, then you must also ban rum drinking. But we know that will never happen.

Based on my last bit of research on this matter in 2016, there were over 200 young boys in the prison system for smoking a joint, all because the hands of the magistrates are tied; they have to follow the law. This administration refuses to do the right thing by implementing the wisdom of Mr Carrington.

Mr Carrington should be thanked for piloting this bill in Parliament, and shutting it down was an oppressive and outdated act by a group of expired and hypocritical minds who are not implementing the necessary changes to ease the pressure on the prison system.

The youths have seen what they have in office today and I know they will do something with these geriatric politicians at the ballot box come 2020.

Yours faithfully,

Sase Singh

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