Guyana Bar Association walks out of CoI

first_imgBY SHEMUEL FANFAIR“Improper, unethical” and “unprofessional” were the words Attorney and President of the Guyana Bar Association Christopher Ram uttered, as he marched out of Wednesday afternoon’s session of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the deadly Camp Street Prison riots. This walk-out occurred during the cross-examination of Deputy Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels who prisoners claimed gave the orders to lock the prison door.The Attorney sought to make the correlation that Attorney Selwyn Pieters, who is representing the Joint Services and appointed by the State, is also representing Deputy Director Samuels .Ram grilled the witness over the supposition that Pieters’ counsel representation of Samuels is “a private arrangement” – a line of questioning that was discontinued by Commission Chairman James Patterson, who noted that divulging those details would violate lawyer-client privilege.Attorney Christopher Ram walks out of Wednesday’s session of the CoIThis did not however sit well Attorney Ram who pointed out a conflict of interest.“Here it is we have an entity that is subject of this enquiry, set up by the President and the same Government providing legal counsel,” the Bar Association President expressed.At this point, it was Attorney representing the Disciplined Services, Pieters who now attempted to object to Ram’s continued line of questioning. This however prompted the Bar Association to interject before Pieters could raise any of his concerns.“Mr Chairman, I am not going to take this interruption from the other side unless it’s a proper point of objection, we had enough from that side,” he noted. As Ram was subsequently allowed to proceed, he then asked Samuels if he was aware of any prisoner or survivor of the prison fire being provided with legal counsel by the State. Samuels responded in the negative.When Ram attempted to ascertain the reasons behind Samuels being sent on leave, Attorney Pieters was swift in disallowing a response from his witness.“Any personnel issues between Senior Superintendent Samuels and the Ministry of Public Security and the Director of the Prison are matters that are private,” Pieters opined.Ram then responded “The Bar Association will not sit down here and be interrupted; we have a serious problem in that we are not being allowed full opportunity to cross-examine. This is a matter that is in the press. A statement made by the Minister of Public Security, he says that ‘him going on leave’, that is, Mr Samuels is a necessity at this stage.”As he was not allowed to pursue this line of questioning, Ram then opted to withdraw from the CoI and reiterated that the decision has been taken since the Bar Association was not provided with a proper opportunity to examine the witnesses.“We believe that the purpose and objective of this Commission is being seriously compromised,” he stressed.Justice Patterson told Ram that if he decides to withdraw, he may not be allowed to return. At this point, Attorney Pieters in cross-talk questioned Ram if he had consulted with the Bar Association’s Board or if he “unilaterally” made the decision to withdraw. In a show of frustration, Ram uttered: “You give me a break” and departed from the room, shutting the door behind him.Earlier this week, questions over the lack of transparency were raised after the media and members of the public were barred from hearing the testimonies of Prison Service members Cleveland Hudson and another whose name was only give as “Officer Lyken.”“Officer Lyken” was reportedly ordered by his superiors to take video footage of the prison riots, while it is being floated that it was Hudson who gave the orders to lock the prison doors.Public Security Minister Kemraj Ramjattan when questioned on Monday, opined that the closed door setting is within the authority of the Chairman.“The CoI is controlled by the CoI members… he has authority to do that. I suppose under the Terms of Reference and if he thinks it is a matter for security reasons, why not,” the Minister had noted. Following a period of rioting at the Camp Street penitentiary, 17 inmates lost their lives as a result of fire.last_img read more