Hinterland Amerindians need a legal aid centre

Dear Editor,

The Georgetown prison was burnt down on Sunday, 9th July. In relation to this disaster the relatives of many Amerindian prisoners are eager to know about their current welfare and health status. They are not receiving this badly needed information from the Director of Prisons (ag) Mr Gladwin Samuels, the Ministry of Public Security (MOPS) and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs (MOIPA). They complain that Amerindian prisoners are badly treated in the prison and their health status is ignored by the prison warders and authorities. With the disaster that hit the Georgetown prison they all want to know how many Amerindian prisoners were injured.

The relatives of Amerindian prisoners also complain bitterly that hinterland Amerindians do not have access to an attorney-at-law because of their poverty, and as a result they are unjustly sent to Guyana’s prisons by the courts both in the hinterland, as well as on the coast and in Georgetown. Many Amerindians are in prison for over six years not knowing when they will appear before a magistrate or judge for trial, or be released from prison. This smacks of a blatant violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights where the administration of justice is concerned. In this regard Amerindians are calling for the quick establishment of an Amerindian Legal Aid Centre,  because Guyana’s Legal Aid clinic does not visit the hinterland regions and as a result provides  no legal assistance to Guyana’s Indigenous peoples in the interior. With this in mind I do wonder if legal luminaries such as Melinda Janki, Nigel Hughes, Anil Nandlall and others can consider the formulation of an Amerindian Legal Aid Centre.

Can the Director of Prisons and the Minister of Public Security say how many Amerindian prisoners are in the Camp Street prison and other prisons? How many have died? What is their current health status? And when will they be placed before the courts for trial represented by a state-appointed lawyer?

Yours faithfully,

Peter Persaud

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