(Editor's Note: We wish that the US State Department would rovoke the visas of all magistrates, judges and the Attorney General for corruption in cases of known drug lords wanted by the US. We also hope that the US would ban the Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee from entering the US. In fact, we believe that drastic action ought to be taken against the Jagdeo led administration for encouraging the drug trade, murders, and other crimes against humanity.)
Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee says government will soon inform the US officially that the administration cannot honour its request for the extradition of Barry Dataram because a year-old Full Court decision still stands. Information has already been made public that Datram has skipped the country, and recently the state withdrew an appeal against the Full Court’s decision to set him free. Rohee did not address either issue when approached by Stabroek News, but he confirmed that there would be no move against Dataram. “The decision of the court has to be respected, it has to be respected by the US and here too,” Rohee said last week in a brief interview.
Prior to that, the Minister said he could take no questions on why the state withdrew the appeal involving Dataram. The United States is seeking Dataram for cocaine smuggling offences.
The Full Court ruling to which Rohee referred had exposed a lacuna in the local law and also stalled attempts to extradite Dataram. The extradition treaty between Guyana and the US contained a proviso which allowed the US to extradite Guyanese nationals to third countries, clashing with the provisions of the Fugitive Offenders Act, which says “no one shall be extradited or kept in custody for the purpose of extradition from Guyana to another country unless provision has been made by that Commonwealth or treaty-country for ensuring that they would not be extradited to a third country for trial of any offence without the consent of the minister.” As a result, extraditions to the US have been on hold awaiting a new agreement or an amendment of the law.
In the wake of the Dataram case, government announced that it would modify the law and last month it passed an amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Act 1988 to address the conflict that arose within the law regarding individuals here being extradited. The amendment also controversially included a provision which empowers the Home Affairs Minister to decide whether to extradite or not.
Recently Attorney General Charles Ramson signed a notice of discontinuance in the appeal hearing, bringing an end to the matter. Ramson, who moved the recent bill in Parliament, said during the debate that the amendments represent a suitable formula which was worked out following extensive internal consultations as the administration considered it critical to have some residual discretion lie within the power of the subject minister. “Here we are nearly one year after when Dataram has already flown the coop, as I am advised. And who would blame him? Had we been in the same position we might have flown the coop too,” Ramson said in the assembly.
Dataram came up on the radar after the kidnapping of his wife, Sheleza, and their three-year-old daughter in December 2007 by two Venezuelans, one of whom was later shot dead in a confrontation with the police. Dataram was then arrested and had been detained by police beyond the 72 hours that the law allows a person to be held in custody before being charged. His lawyers subsequently approached the court with a habeas corpus writ but police asked for an extension to conclude their investigation into the kidnapping, which they said was drug-related.
What followed was a series of court appearances during which Dataram was twice set free and then rearrested. He was finally set free in December last year when he had appeared before the current Attorney General, who was a judge at the time.