Prisons officers ‘gagged’ on Sunil Ali’s cell death

Ali, who was arrested and charged with the murder of eight-year-old Hope Arismandez, was found hanging in his prison cell at Golden Grove Prison in Arouca, on May 30.

Ali’s wrists were also slashed with a razor blade.

He took his life moments before Hope was buried. At a news conference yesterday Williams said “the organisation received a letter warning officers, not to talk about the death of Ali.”

“We have a warrant as it were, hanging over or heads. Anytime now we could be arrested for talking about Ali’s death and other issues in the Prison Service,” said the association’s president.

Williams and his Executive said they called the press conference to highlight the many problems plaguing the officers, especially the “Carrera boat issue, and the suppression of new promotions for Second Division Officers.”

General Secretary of the Association, Burton Hill, said officers were fed up with the situation and they would not remain silent any longer. Newsday accessed the letter sent to the Association on June 2.

It reads, “It has been reported in the media that you and others of your executive members have been making certain pronouncements on Sunil Ali. It is in this regard that I wish to draw your attention to The Prison Service, (Code of Conduct) Regulations 1990 sections 8 (1) and (2). This Regulation provides:

8(1) An officer shall not make public, or communicate to the press, or to individuals, or make private copies of documents, papers or information of which he may have become possessed in his official capacity, unless his duties require him to do so.

(2) Any officer which contravenes any of the provisions in any written law relating to official secrets is guilty of an offence notwithstanding that he may be charged with an offence under any such written law. I wish to inform you that in the future, should you fail to desist from making such pronouncements, especially as this particular matter is still under investigation, I will have no choice but to take the necessary action against you.”

The Association said it viewed the letter as a threat to stop them from talking about “the burning issues” in the Prison Service.

On the Carrera boat issue Burton Hill said “on Monday officers refused to board the vessel which is normally used to transport prisoners to Carrera island. There was a stand-off as the officers claimed the boat had numerous holes, and infested with vermin. Three million dollars was allocated to buy a boat, but up to now, no boat. I don’t know where that money went. Those men are at risk when they board that vessel. It has holes, roaches and is un-seaworthy. If those prison officers and inmates drown while on that boat, who are responsible. The Coast Guard had to lend us a boat. Why is it that we can’t have one of our own. People will blame the officers, but government is the employer and it is not providing any tools for us to do our work,” he added.

Hill, the most vocal in the Executive also slammed the Minister of National Security for his announcement of suppressing the promotions of Second Division Officers.

“We are confused, they are not giving us tools to do our jobs, and now they are not letting people move up the ranks to provide the manpower.

“The government is focusing on the wrong things. If we don’t have manpower and persons to run the prisons incidents like the one with Sunil Ali will continue to happen,” he emphasised.

Hill said the officers at Carrera island and Tobago put their lives at risk everyday when they go to work. “ Carrera is infested with rats, I mean big rats. Tobago needs a new prison altogether, and now they are now talking about refurbishment. There is no place to refurbish” Hill added.

The Prison Officers Association said it intends to hold a meeting on Friday to decide what will be its next move.


"Prisons officers ‘gagged’ on Sunil Ali’s cell death"

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