Sunday, February 12, 2012

The President's Speech - Stabroek News 10th February, 2012

Published in Stabroek News - Friday, 10th February, 2012

The President’s Speech

I am confident that the existing parliamentary mechanisms that allow for the finding of common ground and the meeting of minds will, where necessary, be fully utilized. I implore both sides of the National Assembly to work together in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. This is my charge to you.

If there was ever a most relevant and astute approbation to be given to a new parliamentary construct it would be the words above delivered in 2006 by President Jagdeo on the occasion of the ceremonial opening of the 9th Parliament.

Today, the three arms of the State viz. the Executive, the Legislature and specially invited members of the Judiciary will converge in one meeting place - the hallowed and venerable parliamentary chamber of Guyana to eagerly listen to a new President address a new legislature.

I look forward to this distinguished event of State that happens once every five years. The disciplined forces will be out in their resplendent and stiffly starched attire to preside over the pomp and fanfare with characteristic aplomb. The regalia will be missing a marching Commissioner who is marching instead in the opposite direction towards the Judiciary for redress for perceived violations of his rights.

Article 67(1) of the Constitution provides that “the President may at any time attend and address the National Assembly.”

President Ramotar according to a brief biography on the website of the Office of the President has served as a Parliamentarian since the PPP returned to power in 1992. He is familiar with the trappings of the Chamber, the parliamentary hustings and the experience of intelligent though sometimes less than civil debates. Over the past 19 years he would have also enjoyed the untrammeled experience of being part of a parliamentary majority. He ought to be relieved to be out of Parliament in its current construct.

I expect that today will be a dignified State event as it ought to be. It is an historic occasion in many ways. We have a newly elected President returning to his old and familiar territory in an executive capacity to address his erstwhile colleagues in a new parliamentary construct. The President will be addressing the nation’s first hung parliament and by extension will also be addressing the people. That it is an historic occasion is even reflected in the new website of the Office of the President being changed from to which could be loosely translated to “office of the president new, office of the president, government of Guyana which I quite like.

The Parliament is described in the Constitution as being one of the three supreme organs of democratic power in Guyana, the other two being the President and the Cabinet. The Constitution also provides that Parliament consists of the President and the National Assembly. It further provides that the President may send messages to the National Assembly to be read from time to time.

The dignified event of State of a new President addressing the legislature and the people immediately draws the parallel in my mind of the powerful US State of the Union address which is watched by millions around the world.

I look forward to the State of the Union’s address as I look forward to His Excellency’s address today. I am anxiously looking forward because I want to hear the President’s vision for Guyana and his five year plan. I want to hear indicators of our collective future. The President’s address is expected to set the tone for the government’s policy over the next five years and outline his national and legislative agenda. But the President’s address should also address the hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations of the Guyanese people. On the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Prime Minister Tony Blair said “now is not the time for sound-bites. I can feel the hand of history on my shoulder.”

Today is the perfect opportunity for His Excellency to take political stock of where we are as a post independent nation and tell us what his plans for our destiny are. Young people like me want to hear fresh ideas and new thinking. We want to be inspired and excited about our future.

A few of the primary issues that I am looking forward to hearing about include: plans for security and public safety; reform of the police force starting with the identification of a new Police Commissioner; implementation of the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission Report done almost a decade ago on which I had served as Secretary; introduction of DNA testing by the new police forensic laboratory and the appropriate laws to complement this. Two days ago the Trinidad parliament passed their DNA Bill after a marathon session in parliament from 11:00am to 1:00am. One only needs to be reminded of the forensic bungling with the highly improper preservation of evidence in the Sheema Mangar tragedy and the Lindo Creek Massacre to justify a call for the speedy implementation of these modern tools to solve crimes.

I am interested in hearing about the development Bank the President spoke about on the campaign trail; a review of the rate of VAT, income tax and corporate tax. Is the government really going to reduce the onerous VAT rate of 16%? I was heartened that on the campaign trail the President had spoken about doing a review of the tax system which I believe is quite onerous. A tripartite panel excluding representatives of the parliamentary opposition has been appointed to conduct a review. Have they been working? How are they working? What is their methodology? Have their terms of reference been published, are they inviting submissions from the general public, do they have a staff and a budget to do their work, do they have researchers, how often have they met since they were appointed, are they being paid? These are just a few questions that spring to mind.

I am also looking out to hear what will be the tangible efforts to reduce poverty; rebuild the manufacturing sector; improve the state of the education system and propelling the University of Guyana, my alma mater, to take a quantum leap into the future. Appointing a successful Minister like Priya Manickchand to the Education Ministry is a forward step. What are the government’s plans to help and increase the ever diminishing middle class? All Guyanese want a fair and a just society. All my clients who are businessmen continue to cry out for a level playing field. Citizens expect their constitutional rights of equality and protection of the law to be realized. I am particularly interested in the development of social justice and human rights. I am also interested in hearing the plans to deal with social issues such as the increase of domestic violence, suicide and child abuse. This week the Child Care and Protection Agency reported a staggering number of 3000 reported cases of child abuse of which a significant number were sexual abuse cases.

I am not interested in hearing elegant political rhetoric of the kind that adorns the preamble of the constitution such as “proud heirs of the indomitable will of our forebears, in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation” etc etc etc. These are vague and unenforceable. We want to hear concrete plans focusing on deliverables and tangible results. Too often we confuse political activity with accomplishments. I am tired of hives of activity with very little results.

We are all witnessing history in the making with the recent election results and we are all uncertain about what really this means for the people. How is this opposition parliamentary majority really going to play out? Will there be a tangible benefit that will trickle down to the people? The PPP has not been in the minority in parliament since they were in opposition when “fairy tale elections” gave the PNC all kinds of fictive parliamentary majorities such as the massively rigged 1985 elections which saw the PNC gaining 42 seats with 77.6% of the total votes cast while the PPP supposedly won 8 seats with 15.6% of the votes cast. Quite hilarious if it wasn’t such serious electoral fraud.

I am sure President Ramotar in preparing his address would have reviewed various addresses of his predecessors. I reviewed President Jagdeo’s address to Parliament in 2006 which was given to me at that time by Khurshid Sattaur when I was his Senior Legal Adviser and Prosecutor. It was a good speech and might be useful for political analysts to examine how much of what was promised was actually delivered. Certainly the following commitment sprang to my attention:

Over the next five years, my Government will spend in excess of $1.5 billion to train 25,000 young persons in various skills as part of our plan to rebuild the entrepreneurial class in Guyana.

I would like to know if this was achieved.

In 2006 President Jagdeo also told Parliament that his government is

committed to entrenching the integrity of our public institutions. This will involve continuing the relentless fight against corruption and an unequivocal subscription to transparency and accountability in the affairs of government.

I look forward to His Excellency reiterating and delivering that commitment.

By Gino Peter Persaud LL.M


Friday, February 3, 2012

Magistrate In Car Accident Refuses Breathalyser Test, Walks Out Of Station

The East Coast Demerara police are contemplating how to deal with a Magistrate who refused to take a breathalyser test following a smash-up on the East Coast Public Road on Sunday night.
Police sources said that Magistrate Haymant Ramdhani was detained for several hours at the Cove and John Police Station after he appeared to be heavily under the influence of alcohol.
But prosecuting the Magistrate could be a challenge since there are reports that the other party involved in the accident has indicated that he will settle the matter out of court.
According to reports, a Victoria motorist, Victor Adams, had parked his car on the parapet and was about to open his gate when the Magistrate’s car which was proceeding west at a fast rate slammed into it.
The car struck Adams who was flung into a trench where he remained dazed until he was rescued by some public spirited persons and taken to the hospital.
Magistrate Ramdhani was subsequently taken to the station where he was requested to do a breathalyser test.
According to a source, the magistrate refused, claiming that the instrument was not sterilized.
He was later told that he was required to remain in custody while the condition of the victim was being ascertained.
However, the source said that the magistrate, after using a series of expletives, walked out of the station and went to retrieve his car from the scene and disappeared.
“The same people who are supposed to dispense justice are behaving in such a manner,” a source at the Cove and John police station told this newspaper.

Monday, January 23, 2012

T & T Magistrate On Four Misconduct Charges

T&T magistrate on four misconduct charges - Stabroek News - Guyana

(Trinidad Express) Questions have been raised about how Magistrate Avason Quinlan could continue to sit on the Bench and dispense justice when she is before a disciplinary tribunal on four charges of judicial misconduct in a bail-fixing incident involving two men accused of drug trafficking. Quinlan, who is married to Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, was charged with four counts of misconduct of a serious nature by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC)—the body responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct against judicial officers—early last year, following a formal complaint that she allegedly violated a judicial canon that prohibited her from hearing a matter without the requisite case information before her and tampered with another magistrate’s remand in custody order. She is accused of fixing bail with a surety in the sum of $10,000 for each of the two men, four hours after they were denied bail and remanded in custody by her colleague sitting in the Port of Spain drug court, Magistrate Brian Dabideen. A two-page statement of charges accused Quinlan of improper judicial conduct in a June 29, 2009, bail-fixing incident in the Port of Spain arms and ammunition court. Quinlan has denied all charges of wrongdoing but has been unable to explain how the men, Robert Spencer and Anthony Wilson, who were earlier that day remanded in custody and were being held in the downstairs holding cell in the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court, came to be in her courtroom. Dabideen, in a formal complaint filed in July 2009 with Senior Magistrate Lucina Cardenas Ragoonanan, said the men were not represented by counsel when they appeared before him, refused to be fingerprinted and admitted to having criminal records. He ordered that they be remanded into custody until the next day, pending a background check. When the men appeared before him the following day, they had lawyered up and were out on bail. On checking the paperwork, Dabideen said he discovered that his previous order had been “crossed off” and bail granted with a surety in the sum of $10,000 for each of the two accused. The tracing report showed that both men had previous drug convictions. One of them, Spencer, had two previous cocaine trafficking charges within the last 15 years and was not entitled to bail under Section Five of the amended 2008 Bail Act. Dabideen revoked Quinlan’s bail order for both men, which he said were improperly granted. In his affidavit to the JLSC-appointed investigator, Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, the magistrate claimed he was told that Quinlan called the two drug trafficking cases later that same day in courtroom 4B, the arms and ammunition court, “tampered with my endorsements and fixed bail in circumstances where there was no tracing report and prior prosecution’s objection to bail”. He claimed staffers in the Office of the Clerk of the Peace told him that the prisoners’ case information was taken to courtroom 4B at the request of Magistrate Quinlan and that the transcript of the proceedings clearly showed she knew that the two drug cases were earlier that day adjudicated upon. According to the official court record, both men told Quinlan they had appeared before a magistrate earlier that day. The transcript (see below) showed this exchange: Her Worship: “All of you didn’t get bail?” Robert Spencer: “No, Ma’am.” Anthony Wilson: “No, well-.” Her Worship: “All of you get charged for selling nuts or something?” Robert Spencer: “I was selling beef.” Her Worship: “And what were you charged for?” Anthony Wilson: “They charge me for smoke, herbs.” Her Worship: “You came to court already for the day?” Anthony Wilson: “Yes.” Her Worship: “You saw a magistrate already for the day?” Anthony Wilson: “Ah Indian magistrate.” Her Worship: “And what he told you?” Anthony Wilson: “He tell me tomorrow.” Her Worship: “Mr Godson Phillips, either of these two people belong to you by way of clients?” Attorney Patrick Godson Phillips, counsel for the two accused: “Yes, Ma’am.” Her Worship: “They appeared in court already?” Godson Phillips: “Spencer.” Her Worship: “Both of them said they appeared in a court already.” Godson Phillips: “Spencer has a matter before the court.” Her Worship: “No, I mean today, on these charges.” Godson Phillips: “You all appear in court, sirs?” Defendants: “Yes.” The audio recording was stopped at this point at 3.07 p.m., June 29, 2009. Last week, the one-man disciplinary tribunal appointed by the JLSC to enquire into the allegations of judicial misconduct heard evidence from the clerk in Court 4B, Ria Ramroop, that she was instructed by Quinlan to stop the audio recording. Ramroop was suspended following a record-tampering complaint made by Quinlan after the judicial misconduct charges related to the bail-fixing incident were levelled against her. And in what is fast turning out to be a messy judicial affair, a staffer from the court reporting services of the judiciary last week testified on oath before Justice Anthony Carmona to evidence of two transcripts, one with headings identifying the players in the exchange of courtroom conversations recorded on the afternoon of June 29, 2009 and the other, with headings that refer to the speakers as “Unknown 1, Unknown 2, Unknown 3, etc”. The Sunday Express was told that in earlier conversations with other judicial officers, the staffer had stated she was instructed by Quinlan to make a transcript of the recorded court hearing without the identifying headings. The disciplinary tribunal now has before it two versions of the transcript. Quinlan, in her initial statement of defence to then chief magistrate Sherman McNicholls, dated July 16, 2009, said on the resumption of court hearing at 1 p.m.: “I observed two men sitting in court for most of the afternoon. When I got to the end or near the end of the late court list, those two men were still sitting in court.” She identified the men as Spencer and Wilson. According to Magistrate Quinlan: “The note-taker enquired from the persons in the process section if those informations has been laid, and the clerk said yes. We waited for the the informations for some time. Eventually, the note-taker left court and went downstairs to get them herself since by that time, there were no more matters on the list.” Quinlan said that on her note-taker’s return to court 4B, she was told that the paperwork relating to the two men could not be found and that it would be sent to her court as soon as it was located. The presiding magistrate in the arms and ammunition court said: “Eventually, I heard bail applications from the attorney. After hearing attorney’s submission, representation was made from the wife of one of the men. This representation was that he suffers from epilepsy and has severe fits. The other person was charged for a similar offence. I also heard that application. After the submissions, representations and no objection to bail from the prosecutor, Inspector Morgan, the court made the decision to fix bail in the same amount for both persons. I indicated in open court that I would fix bail with a surety for the two men in the sum of $10,000.” The Quinlan statement said: “Up to that time, I had no indication that these persons had appeared in the morning and, therefore, I could not have known that any order of remand in custody for tracing and bail was made. When the case sheet came, instead of a clean case sheet, a case sheet from the 4A court came. It was only then that I realised that the men appeared in the morning. I read the magistrate’s endorsement. Since I had already indicated in open court my position with respect to bail, I felt it would have been unfair to revoke bail. I decided, instead, to write my order, bail with a surety in the sum of $10,000. And leave the matters for the following day as the magistrate in the morning had endorsed.” The explanation Magistrate Quinlan gave for her decision to allow bail was that she sought to “balance the interests of the accused” with that of the State. She said her colleague, Dabideen, was “mistaken” when he suggested that he brought the matter to her attention since on the following day, June 30, 2009, she approached him for a private chat in the kitchen. “My reason for speaking to the magistrate was out of courtesy. In my conversation with the magistrate, I explained what transpired on June 29, 2009. I am aware that the magistrate revoked the bail. I saw the exercise of his jurisdiction as part of the normal duties of magistrates since on a daily basis and by virtue of our concurrent jurisdiction, magistrates are called upon to adjudicate on bail orders made by other magistrates. Having fulfilled my intention explaining what had transpired the previous day, we parted ways,” said Quinlan. She contended that: “Magistrates are aware that the official record of court proceedings are the case sheets—on which magistrates write, and not the information —on which the note-taker replicates the magistrates’ orders.” In her statement, Quinlan said: “At no time did I tamper with the information by scratching off any endorsement nor did I recall the matters to be heard before me.” Reached for comment yesterday, Quinlan’s stock response to questions was: “I have absolutely no idea what you are speaking about.” Dabideen did not respond to calls for a comment, and the JLSC-appointed prosecutor and newly appointed president of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas declined comment when contacted. No one was prepared to comment either on the criteria used for judicial suspension or why former deputy magistrate Herbert Charles was suspended from duty at the start of the investigation into a complaint of judicial misconduct made against him. He was subsequently demoted to senior magistrate.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Former President Of The CCJ On The Appointment Of Senior Counsel

Award of silk to T&T Chief Justice an aberration – De la Bastide - Stabroek News - Guyana

(Trinidad Guardian) Former chief justice and president of the Caribbean Court of Justice Michael de la Bastide says the award of Senior Counsel (silk) to an incumbent Chief Justice or to a sitting judge of the Court of Appeal of T&T is an “aberration.” De la Bastide said so in a letter to the editor yesterday, five days after Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Court of Appeal judge Wendell Kangaloo were given silk by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. Archie, Kangaloo, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisessar and Ramlogan were among 16 lawyers who climbed the legal ladder to Senior Counsel last Thursday. In his strongly worded letter, de la Bastide said the award of Senior Counsel is for practising attorneys not for judges.

Ivor Archie

Following is his letter: The award of silk to an incumbent Chief Justice or to a sitting judge of the Court of Appeal of T&T is an aberration which if previously committed, should not have been repeated. The simple fact of the matter is that elevation to the rank of “Senior Counsel” or the award of silk, as it is called, is an honour which can appropriately be conferred only on “counsel.” This term originally meant practising barristers but with the fusion of the legal profession in T&T has come to mean any practising attorney. It has also been extended to attorneys who, though not practising, have distinguished themselves in the academic field. There is no definition or interpretation of the term “counsel” that can include a judge of a superior court of record. Before we became a republic those awarded silk were designated “Queen’s Counsel” and their appointment was made by Letters Patent from the Queen. Since we became a republic, the designation is now “Senior Counsel” and the instrument of appointment is issued by the President of the Republic, on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Further, the expression “taking silk” is a reference to the silk gown which a person who has “taken silk” is entitled, and indeed required, to wear in court. Another practical consequence of taking silk is that an attorney who does so is thereafter required to have a junior when appearing in court. The fact that a judge has been a practising attorney (however distinguished) before assuming judicial office, or may after a prescribed period return to practice after he retires, cannot serve to qualify him for the award of silk while he is still on the Bench. It is fundamental to our concept of justice that the roles of judge and counsel be kept strictly separate and distinct.

Michael de la Bastide

Those who accept judicial office are required to forego many of the advantages and opportunities that were available to them while in practice—one of these is the possibility of taking silk, at least while still on the Bench. The argument that sitting judges must be allowed to prepare for their return to private practice after they demit office is plainly unsustainable. The law at present prescribes that a judge of the Supreme Court may not appear before the courts of this country for a period of ten years after demitting office. Even if this period were halved by an amendment of the law, this would still leave ample time for the retired judge to apply for silk if he so wishes.

Alternatively, before going on the Bench the prospective judge can apply for silk and if he is worthy of it, presumably it will be granted him in short order. In practice, it is very rarely that a retired judge in this country returns to court practice. I am strongly in support of the contribution made by judges being recognised in a tangible way. The method which has been used previously is the grant of national honours. In the case of the Chief Justice, the practice has been to award him the highest national honour, previously the Trinity Cross and now the Order of Trinidad and Tobago. If this practice is adhered to, it will save us the embarrassment of providing our Commonwealth partners with a possible source of concealed amusement over what is an obvious gaffe. Finally, I would suggest that it is time that we follow the example of the United Kingdom and remove the grant of silk from the hands of the politicians and make it the responsibility of an independent panel which would include representatives of the legal profession as well as representatives of civil society. Suitable criteria should also be formulated to guide this panel and these criteria should not include the holding of any particular office, political or other.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Trinidad Working To Implement Death Penalty

T&T Govt working to implement death penalty – PM 

(Trinidad Express) Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says Government will work to implement the death penalty as part of a serious crime reduction tool. Persad-Bissessar was delivering an address yesterday at the Ministry of National Security Planning Workshop organised by the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS) yesterday at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) hotel, Port of Spain. With 30 murders in the first 21 days of the year, she said Government is aware of the upsurge in the homicide rate although it has been reduced significantly from 2009 to 2011. “Despite the fact the statistics for 2011 reveal a decrease in homicide and serious crime, Government is appalled at the brutal nature of the crime. The cautious optimism with which we viewed last year’s statistics…should not be misinterpreted as complacency,” she said. She said because of this the People’s Partnership government is prepared to use all the resources including the death penalty to vigorously pursue and contain criminal activity. “To this end my government is committed to implementation of the death penalty which remains part of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago…We shall continue in our effort to facilitate the re-implementation of the death penalty so it might both punish the guilty and deter the would-be offenders,” she stated. She said regrettably the Constitution Capital Offences Bill 2011 which required a special majority in Parliament did not receive the support of some members She said her Government that had introduced 11 other pieces of legislation to aid in combating, including the Abolishing of the Preliminary Enquiry Act, the DNA Bill among others. Persad-Bissessar said since her Government took office back in May 2010, it had been attempting to address “the tsunami of crime that has hit Trinidad and Tobago”. “We have pledged to the people of this country that we are going to rid the country the scourge of criminal elements which have been allowed for too long to thrive and prosper on the decent, innocent and hard-working people,” she said. She added that the Government was compelled to admit that criminal violence occurred too regularly. Earlier in her address, Persad-Bissessar crime and violence threatened the welfare of citizens and economic growth. Minister of National Security John Sandy said the workshop was aimed at developing a policy where the Caribbean Basin becomes a safer and more secure place to work, live and do business. Attending the workshop were United States Ambassador Beatrice Welters, Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs and various Government MPs. At a People’s National Movement (PNM) general council meeting yesterday in Port of Spain, PNM Public Relations Officer, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, said it is untrue that the Opposition failed to give its support to the bill. Al-Rawi said Government is the one that has failed by its refusal to move from the Privy Council system to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which would deny criminals the right to have their final appeal subject to European and United Kingdom law. “The move to the CCJ is a very important one,” Al-Rawi said.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Go Out And Vote

VOTE intelligently on issues and right reason NOT RACE. For your own self development and for the development of our country and the maturity of our democracy, guard against voting for a party out of blind loyalty and/or out of racial preference because you believe that particular party represents your ethnicity. We need to break this mould. Be a critical, analytical and thinking voter. Your country deserves a thinking vote. Once you have peace of mind and a satisfied conscience after discharging your constitutional duty then hold your head high. To my apathetic friends I say “your silence will not protect you.” And to my friends who want change I say “be the change you want to see” Your dream could start with your casted ballot. As for me, when I am casting my ballot tomorrow I will be thinking of Martin Luther King Jnr when he said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Trinidad Extends State of Emergency For Three Months

Emergency rule extended for three months in Trinidad - Stabroek News - Guyana
Emergency rule extended for three months in Trinidad
By Stabroek editor | 0 Comments | Local | Sunday, September 4, 2011

PORT OF SPAIN, (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Trinidad and Tobago approved a three-month extension of a state of emergency today after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it had averted “a criminal uprising” in the energy-rich country.
The measure, suspending some constitutional guarantees and giving the police and military sweeping powers to make arrests, was first declared on Aug. 21 and had been due to expire on Monday.

Parliament approved the three-month extension with a simple majority vote after Persad-Bissessar said the “criminal underworld” was bent on sowing “bloodshed and mayhem” in the south Caribbean country.
Trinidad, a leading exporter of liquefied natural gas to the United States, has faced a growing crime problem stemming from heavily armed street gangs.
Members of the opposition People’s National Movement voted against the extension of the emergency rule, saying it was unfairly targeting black communities in the twin-island nation, which is divided almost equally between descendants of black Africans and East Indians.
But Persad-Bissessar told a parliamentary debate the emergency, which has led to more than 1,400 arrests so far, was strictly aimed at halting runaway crime.
It was clamped on the country after police blamed a recent spate of murders on the drug trade and turf wars over smuggling routes through Trinidad and Tobago, which is a trans-shipment point for South American cocaine headed to Europe and the United States.
In her comments to parliament, Persad-Bissessar said the emergency was also required to prevent violent reprisals against the police and other authorities for recent drug seizures in Trinidad.
“The nation had been saved from a criminal uprising of untold proportions. That did not occur. It was stopped in its tracks with the state of emergency,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“The threat to public safety, law and order was real and imminent. The planned retaliation by the gangs involved in the drug trade represented a clear and present danger to national security and innocent law-abiding citizens of this country,” she said.

SN: Guyanese Is New Belize Chief Justice

Guyanese is new Belize Chief Justice - Stabroek News - Guyana
A Guyanese has been appointed the new Chief Justice of Belize. has named Kenneth Benjamin as the island’s new head of the High Court and said he is expected to take up his appointment on September 15.

Benjamin, who also holds citizenship in Antigua, has worked as a Chief Magistrate in Antigua and Barbuda and he is a former High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. More recently, he was employed as a judge in St Lucia, a post he would leave to take up his new position in Belize.

Benjamin graduated from Hugh Wooding Law School in 1977 and practiced law in Guyana before moving to Antigua in 1991.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Letter To The Editor

Are our Judges and Magistrates powerless when it comes to upholding courtroom standards? : Kaieteur News
Are our Judges and Magistrates powerless when it comes to upholding courtroom standards?
August 29, 2011 | By KNews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
I am now a retiree from the Military Force. I have been spending some time in the various court rooms throughout Guyana. Some of my time is being spent in the High Court and the Magistrates Court.
During my time in these court rooms, I have observed total indiscipline by lawyers and John Public. Lawyers wear coloured clothing and are permitted to talk to the court. Lawyers are allowed to carry on conversations at the bar table.
Lawyers tout in the court room, while court is in session and they are allowed to speak on their cell phones while court is in session. Lawyers are allowed to wear sun shades while they are in a court of law.
John Public eats and drinks in court, he speaks on his cell phone while court is in session. He is permitted to wear whatever he wants to wear to court. I have seen John Public reading the news papers in court, while court is in session.
Not so long ago, our previous judges and magistrates upheld court room etiquette. It seems to me that court room etiquette has left with them.
I would like to know, which Judge or Magistrate, today, is prepared to prevent me from wearing my complete beach wear to a court? Which law tells them that they can stop me from wearing what I want to wear in court?
I would like to know which Judge or Magistrate is prepared today to tell me not to talk on my cell phone while court is in session.
Which law gives the Judge or Magistrate the power to stop me from talking on my phone while court is in session?
It is obvious to me that John Public can talk on his phone in the court room, or send a text message to a highly skilled marksman to wipe out the Judge / Magistrate and the Prosecutor, or just cause chaos.
When I am on a plane, I have to take my phone off because the signals interfere with the navigation. I comply. When I visit courts overseas, I have to lodge my cell phone outside of the court and I have to be scanned before I enter the court. I also have to be neatly dressed. I cannot wear a hot colour to an overseas court of law.
This is my question to the judiciary – Are our Judges and Magistrates powerless when it comes to upholding court room standards? Where are we heading with this downfall?
I would really like whoever is in charge of the judiciary to reply to my letter and prove the man wrong who said those who have eyes cannot talk and those who can talk have no eyes. I am certain that the person in charge of the judiciary is a disciplined individual. I am looking forward to a reply.
George O.S. Franklyn

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Candle Light Vigil for Sr. Bee

If you had the good fortune, the pleasure and the privilege of encountering or knowing Sr. Beatrice Fernandes and if she touched your life or warmed your heart then please join the many others this evening (27th July) at the Ursuline Convent in Camp Street, Georgetown in tribute and collective honour.

This remarkable nun who drove her white mini bus all over this country touched my life and many others. She was an integral part of the growing up experience in the Catholic Church and a beacon for many catholic teenagers. She was that beacon, that rock of stability. One could tell her anything under the sun and she would give you sensible guidance with the religious twist. You couldn't come of age as a catholic youth if you didn't encounter this ebullient nun who had a passion for life and working with youths. You could not be a well grounded teenager if you didn't encounter Sr. Bee. She made you want to love and serve God. She made you enjoy your own youthfullness with the many activities and retreats she led. Camp Kayuka was not Camp Kayuka without the Bee singing, with her guitar and those memorable campfires.

I'll miss her hugs. It's the first selfish thing I thought of when I heard the sad news. I'll miss those darn hugs. She gave the best hugs. They were warm, long lasting and bear-like. They made you feel really special. She made you feel really special. But when you thought you were special you could bet there was another few hundred "special persons" after you who felt exactly the same way.

She will be terribly missed. When persons like Sr. Bee are involuntarily removed from our lives their absence leaves behind a tremendous emptiness - a lingering pain.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Attorney General Finds Arbitrary 72 hour Detention Disturbing

AG finds arbitrary 72-hour detention ‘a little disturbing’ : Kaieteur News
AG finds arbitrary 72-hour detention ‘a little disturbing’
July 10, 2011 | By KNews | Filed Under News

‘When I was a practitioner it could not happen

Attorney General, Senior Counsel, Charles Ramson, has described the 72 hours detention period by the police more than a little disturbing. He added that he is not happy with the misuse of the approach.
Ramson, in an interview with this newspaper on Friday, said that he publicly raised the issue with the then ‘C’ Division Commander of Police, Gavin Primo.
According to the Attorney General the issue seems to have slipped through the scrutiny of practising lawyers.
Ramson further stated that if what is reported in the press is accurate it would not be inappropriate to justify the view that it is perhaps pervasive that the police can pick somebody up without evidence and lock him up for 72 hours.
“That is not what the constitution says. However, that view has permeated the Guyanese judicial system. Something has got to be wrong with the lawyers.
“When I was a practitioner it could not happen.”
Since his public disapproval of the detention Ramson said he has noticed some lull in the activity.
Attorney at law Nigel Hughes during the detention of Nation of Islam Advisor, Akbar Muhammad, last month had highlighted the problem.
A retired judge was of the same view. He too saw the arbitrary detention of an individual by the police as an abuse of power.
He said that the law was intended in serious cases where the police have reasonable suspicion about a person’s involvement. The detention would allow the police to conduct their investigation while preventing the suspect from fleeing the jurisdiction.
“It was never intended for a policeman to use his power to lock up an individual with whom he has a personal grudge, or against whom he may wish to prove a point.”
He said that a person’s liberty is enshrined in the constitution and every time a policeman routinely detains a person that policeman is in breach of the constitution.
He said that the sad reality is that it is difficult to pursue legal action in such cases.
An attorney at Law said that he was aware but that he could not do anything against the detention save file a writ of habeas corpus to seek the individual’s release.
But another lawyer, Khemraj Ramjattan said that he had challenged the arbitrary detention of three men and won a judgement in the court. In this case, the state appealed and a judge reduced the extent of damages, he said.
Asked why more lawyers do not pursue legal action for unlawful detention, Ramjattan said that lawyers always want a fee before they enter the courts. They are not prepared to work pro bono with the result that the ordinary man must suffer.
Therefore, as things stand, the police can pick up anyone and lock them up for 72 hours, safe in the knowledge that nothing would happen.
Ramjattan said, “Only in Guyana.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Lord Denning

I found these interesting pieces on Lord Denning, perhaps the greatest Judge of the common law in the last century. They were published just after he died in 1999 aged 100.

Friday, March 11, 2011