Prison riot: Did the minister lie?
Members of the public are asking questions about what really happened at Montagne Posee prison as an autopsy is carried out on the body of Robert Banane who died in the early hours of Saturday from injuries sustained during a riot.
The cause of Robert Banane’s death is in fact the subject of much controversy. When TODAY made contact with a source inside the maximum security wing of the prison on Friday evening as the drama was unfolding, this paper was told that Mr. Banane was standing in a corner, observing what was going on in a non menacing manner as Special Supports Unit (SSU) officers backed up by National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) agents, brutally charged and shot him in the belly. However, the official version of events is totally different and supported by the head of prison services, Maxime Tirant.
Superintendent Tirant told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Banane, together with at least six other inmates had climbed onto a wall and some of them were hurling pieces of bricks and other objects at the charging SSU officers. According to Mr. Tirant, who was absent on medical leave at the time, it appeared that Robert Banane fell onto the hard concrete full of debris from the rioting. Mr. Banane was then seen crawling weakly, leaving a trail of blood behind him.
The situation at the prison appeared to have been more serious than the authorities cared to admit on Friday evening. In a short statement, the ministry of Home Affairs said ‘the police intervened to stop a group of prisoners who were causing disturbances, damaging property with the intention of breaking out.” It added that “a group of police officers intervened to put the situation under control and that a police officer and an inmate had received minor injuries”.
The statement from Home Affairs seemed to indicate that the incident was brief and ended without any major injuries. However, at the same time, TODAY was receiving reports of ambulances and sirens blaring coming down from Montagne Posee prison. Furthermore, Superintendent Maxime Tirant confirmed to reporters that trouble had been brewing since Thursday evening. In some ways, this totally contradicts what the ministry of Home Affairs had indicated in its communiqué on Friday evening.
The near total silence at Home Affairs ended late on Friday night with a statement by the Minister himself on his Facebook account. Minister Charles Bastienne suggested that there had been only “two minor injuries contrary to what some members of the public were insinuating.” A couple of minutes later, Minister Bastienne went on to announce that he had heard that the condition of one of the two people admitted to Seychelles Hospital had deteriorated and that he would be back with further developments. The statement prompted an outrage with some people questioning how someone with minor injuries could end up in the intensive care unit (ICU). Comments on Mr. Bastienne’s Facebook page suggested that the minister was not being truthful in the first place or was trivialising the situation as a damage control measure. This prompted the minister to go on Facebook once again on Saturday to deny suggestions that he intended to mislead the public. He said he had been reassured earlier on Friday evening that Robert Banane’s condition was not life threatening. However, this statement has not pacified critics who believe that a lot of tales are being told about the incident to cover up for the terrible misjudgement and a lack of sound and rational decisions. ccSome comments suggested the minister should have been on top of the matter as events unfolded at Montagne Posee prison and he should have been in a position to provide accurate information on what was happening. One comment suggested that what happened on Friday night was pure and simple ‘extrajudicial killing.” Some political leaders also joined in the debate with the leader of Linyon Sanzman, Wavel Ramkalawan going as far as to suggest that Minister Bastienne was lying and called on him to do the honourable thing and resign. Mr. Ramkalawan said that what the minister for Home Affairs was doing was simply “covering up the brutality of his armed men who wreaked havoc at the prison”. ccThe victim of Friday’s incident at Montagne Posee prison is said to have been arrested last Monday at his workplace of Gondwana Granite. He was supposedly charged on a Family Tribunal offence and detained for the duration of two months. ccAccording to a family member, they were informed that Robert had been injured by a neighbour at around 6.30pm on Friday and that he had been transported to hospital. The family member in question said they were allowed to see him at the mortuary on Saturday but they could not tell the extent of his injury as they were shown only his face.
Meanwhile, State House has announced that the President had ordered an inquiry in what happened at Montagne Posee prison.
Source: Today 3-21-16