Georgetown, Guyana – (December 22, 2017) Acting under Article 188 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Guyana, which states that the President has the power to grant any person concerned in, or convicted of, any offence under the laws of Guyana, a pardon, either free or subject to lawful condition, President David Granger has ordered the release of eight students from the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) so that they can be re-integrated into their families. In addition, the Head of State has pardoned five females from the New Amsterdam Prisons under Articles 188, 189 and 190 just in time for Christmas.

Under Article 189 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana, ”There shall be an Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, which shall consist of (a) The Minister for the time being designated under paragraph (2) of the preceding article, who shall be Chairman, (b) the Attorney General (if he or she is not the Chairman) and (c) not less than three and not more than five other members, who shall be appointed by the President, and of whom at least one shall be a person who is a qualified medical practitioner.”

Article 190 states, “Where under the law of Guyana any person has been sentenced to death by any court other than a court martial for any offence against that law, the Minister designated under Article 188 (2) shall cause a written report of the case from the trial judge, together with such other information derived from the record of the case or elsewhere as the Minister may require, to be taken into consideration at a meeting of the Advisory Council, and after obtaining the advice of the Council, the Minister shall express his or her own deliberate opinion to the President as to whether he or she should exercise any of his or her powers under that article in relation to that person.”

The President may also grant to any person a respite, either indefinite, or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence. He may also substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on any person for such an offence, or remit the whole or part of any punishment imposed on any person for such an offence or of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the State on account of such an offence under Article 188.

The women released from the New Amsterdam prison with effect from December 25, 2017 are Shabana Asgar, 37, Shellon David, 24, Ronella Junor, 27, Maxine Baird Sampson, 27 and Reino Varges, 54.

The release of the eight students of the NOC comes on the heels of a visit by President Granger on June 16, 2017, where he had indicated that he has commenced a process to look at the early release of girls and boys housed at the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) at Onderneeming in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region (Region Two). The Head of State had visited the facility to speak with the 85 young people, the majority of whom have been committed to the institution for Wandering. He said that as part as an overall plan to ensure improvements to the physical conditions and the programmes offered, Government will be in the short term be setting up criteria and a system to ensure that regular early release is an option for those who qualify.

President Granger remains focused on education and youth empowerment and strongly believes that children are better off in educational institutions rather than in incarceration or detention. “Going to school is important for me and staying in school is important for me and it is important for you too, because in whatever you do, you must be able to read, write, spell and count… You must be literate. We cannot build a country with illiterate persons and that is why I want all of you to take your education seriously. It is my vision that you must get the best possible preparation for when you are ready to take over this country,” the President told the children.

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