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Trinidad : Jail can’t cope with serious illness...Panday granted bail

By Exilus Deceyon

Port of Spain, 30 avr. 06 [AlterPresse] --- UNC chairman Basdeo Panday was Friday (April 28) granted bail in the sum of $300,000. UNC CEO Dr Tim Gopeesingh and his wife Kamini stood as joint surety for the bail.

The ruling was handed down by Justice Anthony Carmona, presiding before a packed Port-of-Spain Sixth Criminal Court.

Reserving his written ruling for next week, he cited Panday’s health as the reason for his decision to release the incarcerated former prime minister.

Carmona said the applicants’ third ground for appeal, the severity of the sentence, was the basis for his decision.

“He has shown that he has a probability of success (on appeal) with regard to his sentence,” Carmona said.

He gave the opinion that the applicant was likely to succeed in his appeal of the sentence passed on him.

However, Carmona conceded that Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls, who passed sentence on Panday, did not have the benefit of seeing the medical report provided by Panday’s cardiologist Dr Rasheed Rahaman before passing sentence.

He blamed the defence for not bringing Panday’s ill health to the attention of the magistrate and agreed with Panday’s lead attorney Desmond Allum, SC, that a three-month prison term would have been sufficient incarceration for the former prime minister.

Carmona deemed that the infirmary at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca, where Panday was imprisoned, did not have the necessary facilities and to treat the former Opposition Leader.

“It is clear, by Dr (Vinod) Mahabir (Prisons’ doctor), that the prison does not have the necessary facilities,” Carmona said.

Carmona made his ruling after both Rahaman and Mahabir were put on the witness stand.

In giving his ruling, Carmona made reference to the sentencing of convicted triple manslaughter accused, 71-year-old Mathura Lakhan, who died shortly after sentencing.

In June 2004, because of his ill health, Justice Paula Mae Weekes placed Lakhan on three $30,000 bonds for three years each to keep the peace.

He was convicted on three counts as charged, after his truck crashed into a group of people waiting for taxis along St James Street, San Fernando.

During the trial, Lakhan collapsed on the witness stand in the San Fernando First Criminal Court and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.

Carmona agreed with Weekes that keeping the prisoner in jail would be like handing him “an unintended death sentence.”

Meanwhile, Mahabir admitted that prison was a “stressful place” and if something happened to Panday, they (the infirmary) would not be able to handle the medical emergency.

He said that it would take an ambulance at least half-an-hour to rush Panday to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, because the infirmary was situated on the second floor of one of the buildings and the lift was not operational.

The infirmary, he added, did not carry most of the medication necessary to treat the ailments of the politician.

He said although he lived a mere five minutes away from the prison facility in Arouca, he was responsible for more than 2,300 prisoners within the five prison facilities in Arouca.

Rahaman had earlier said that Panday would die if he were deprived of his medicine, or would be likely to go into a coma much like that of former prime minister Dr Eric Williams.

“He is at risk of dying suddenly because of his multiple conditions,” Rahaman said.
He told Carmona that if Panday were subjected to hard labour, it would increase the risk of heart failure.

Rahaman said if Panday’s condition remained stable, he would need to see him once per month, but if it became unstable, then the visits would be almost daily.

“He needs to be in an environment where if an emergency develops he can be attended to immediately,” he said.

Afterwards, Panday’s brother Subhas claimed there was a political agenda in Mc Nicolls’ ruling and sentencing on Monday (April 24).

Deputy UNC political leader Wade Mark also said it was unfortunate that Mc Nicolls had not asked for reports on Panday’s health.

He added the party’s intention is to have Panday absolved.

“If necessary, we will be taking the issue straight to the Privy Council to have the conviction quashed.” [ed apr 30/04/2006 23:00]