The sloth in conducting coroner’s inquests is of great concern, according to Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall, who says it is not in keeping with government’s 2015 elections campaign promise that over 400 such inquiries would be conducted.
“The current position is most deplorable,” Nandlall told Sunday Stabroek, while noting that despite the passage of an amendment to the Coroners Act in 2016, no coroner has been appointed so as to relieve magistrates of the burden of conducting such matters.
An inquest is a judicial inquiry into an unnatural death.
The Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) disclosed recently that since the start of the year 15 inquests were ordered. The police confirmed 12 cases, the bulk of which relate to fatal traffic accidents and said that none has yet started.
Nandlall, who has been very outspoken about the non-appointment of coroners, told Sunday Stabroek that the government’s attitude is not in keeping with its commitments while in opposition and during the debating of the legislation.
“You will recall that while in opposition the PNCR was heavily critical of the PPP administration in respect of inquests. One of the emphatic criticisms was the failure to hold inquests in situations where the PNCR felt inquests were necessary and, moreover, the alleged sloth with which these inquests were done,” he said.
He noted that one of the APNU+AFC’s platform promises was an “overhaul of the Coroners Act and that thousands of inquests would be done.” However he said three years after taking office, the reality is that inquests are “hardly being done.”
The former Attorney General insisted that far less inquests are being done now than were ever done under the PPP, which faced heavy criticism from the then opposition.
“You will recall that the Attorney General created a huge fanfare in the National Assembly when the Coroners (Amendments) Act was being debated. He informed the House that President [David] Granger promised the country during the 2015 elections campaign that his government will do over 400 inquests!” he said.
Nandlall reminded that the amendment bill was to allow for the appointment of more coroners throughout the country. It was assented to by President Granger since January 25th, 2016. “To date, two and half years later, not a single coroner has been appointed. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a government to be more inefficient and incompetent,” he said.
He said that he recently posed questions to the Attorney General in the National Assembly in relation to how many coroners were appointed, their names and the dates of their appointments. “His glib response was that the Judicial Service Commission was responsible for the appointment of coroners. Apparently, he did not know this when he was making boastful and outlandish promises in the National Assembly during the debate of the Coroners (Amendments) Bill,” Nandlall stressed.
According to the police, the inquests ordered in 2018 relate to the traffic deaths of Shawn Richards on January 4th at Diamond Access Road, East Bank Demerara; Rohan Pooran, on the Stanleytown Public Road, New Amsterdam on February 10th; Harry Persaud on the Sarah Johanna Public Road, East Bank Demerara on January 31st; Kemo Stewart, at Water and Holmes streets on March 23rd; Krishnoutie, 62, at Met-en-Meerzorg Public Road, West Coast Demerara in June, 2017; Alana Ramsaran, 25, on February 3rd, 2018, at Schoonard Access Road, West Bank Demerara; and police constable Theon Hope and Quason Anthony, which occurred on May 1st, 2018 at Loo Creek, Linden/ Soesdyke Highway. With regard to Hope and Anthony, the DPP recently withdrew two counts of causing death by dangerous driving laid against the driver, Rishawn Pierre, and advised instead that the inquest be conducted.
An inquest has also been recommended into the March 10th, 2018 motorcycle accident which claimed the lives of Stanley Junior, 24, and immigration officer Navana Chase on the Houston Public Road. The two were on a CBR motorcycle when Junior allegedly lost control and crashed into a lantern post while negotiating a turn.
Inquests into the drowning deaths of 50-year-old Gavin Moses and 13-year-old Kimeanda Prince on October 29th, 2017, at Rockstone, Essequibo River and the stabbing death of Oranda Flatts, 25, which occurred at Amelia’s Ward, Linden on February 9th, have also been recommended.
The March 15th, 2018, fatal shooting of Dextroy Cordis, Kwame Assanah and Errol Adams, along the Kingston seawall, in Georgetown, are to also be the subject of an inquest.