Local witness protection programme soon to be legislated- Minister Ramjattan
GINA, GUYANA, Friday, September 23, 2016
The country’s witness protection programme is long overdue, and is soon to be legislated, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, told media operatives recently.
That Bill is currently at the Attorney General’s Chambers to be fine-tuned after which Cabinet will look at it., and “…then the recommendations that we will make in relation to that Bill will go back to the draftsperson, Cecil Durjohn (Chief Parliamentary Counsel) and then be brought to the National Assembly,” the minister noted.
Minister Ramjattan added that the witness protection programme was long seen as very important, not because of the white collar crime that the forensic audits might have revealed, but “long before that people (giving evidence) in narcotic offences were saying they wanted some protection because they feel narcotics persons (persons connected to the drugs trade) can kill them.”
The Public Security Minister explained that the witness protection programme will require a lot of finances since it may be necessary to safeguard witnesses in high profile cases by keeping them outside of the local jurisdiction.
“The need for witness protection came long before forensic audits. What the witness plan might do, will need a lot of finances because some of the witnesses might have to be put up in Trinidad and far off places because they might not be safe in Guyana. That will be very expensive an exercise,” Minister Ramjattan pointed out.
Further, Ramjattan said it has been difficult to get witnesses to come forward in cases involving past state operatives because Guyana currently does not have a witness protection programme. The Minister however noted the responsibility of citizens to aid in the prevention and prosecution of crimes.
“We couldn’t give them any assurances except that they will be safe. It is the first duty of the citizenship to, with integrity, speak the truth about what you know and saw, but sometimes these things are harder because people are sensitive to things like what could happen to them. They get scared… there are others who will (come) forward. I’m proud of them and so charges will be brought, it will just take some time,” Ramjattan said.
Consultations for the draft Protection and Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) Bill are scheduled to begin on Monday, October 10, 2016 at the Pegasus Hotel, at 9:00 hours.
In 2015, the government announced its intention to table the Bill in the National Assembly to protect witnesses who give evidence in the Courts.