Guyana’s Judiciary: A World of its own
-Concerning Howie’s New House
I shall return to this my lead subject from time to time. As I have promised to do with the issue of “The Personal Integrity (?) of Our Politicians and Decision Makers”.
So here is my opener on a complex subject, motivated by my concern about the now obvious challenges – and failure – of our justice system. That includes the inherited and “indigenous” body of Roman Dutch/English Law to be interpreted and applied; the legal and judicial infrastructure and facilities currently available; the source(s) of funding for our Court’s functions and management and, of course, the practitioners and protagonists of our High Courts – the Judges.
It’s easy – and understandable – for us, layperson–citizens to get confused with the jargon: judiciary – the Judges of a state or “jurisdiction, collectively; judicature; Full Court, High Court, Supreme Court, Court–of–Appeal et al. I’ve now been exposed to the difference, definitions and nuances of the immediate fore-going but won’t use up your attention with those details in this piece. Rather, let me share with you a few introductory observations and my personal opinions about our judiciary.
Judges – and Laws affecting life
Do you realise how much raw and sophisticated power and authority our judges wield to affect our daily living and quality of life? Should we not then put these servants of justice under much more scrutiny? Are they worthy enough to exercise such legal authority over us through both the constitution of Guyana and the body of law they seek daily to interpret and apply? In fact, how much law, how much personal bias, and how much politics are their decisions influenced by?
These arbiters pass judgments that bear down upon our very Guyanese existence. The criminal aspect is more obvious to the ordinary citizen – trying crimes of robbery, murder, drug – trafficking, white and blue–collar theft – we know that list.
But these learned lawyers also influence our lives with their decisions in the more civil matters – land disputes, property rights, inheritances, tax–related status and issues, vending, constitutional rights and issues, political governance – that’s another list.
And these judges – especially those of our Supreme Court of Judicature – our High Court and Court of Appeal – are functioning in a world of their own –fashioned and approved by the very constitution (see articles 122,197,198 etc – etc) and by a version of “Custom and Practice” since 1966.
This world is supposed to be supervised and “scrutinized” by a Judicial Service Commission which appoints – and dis–appoints; by a Chancellor and a Chief Justice, the two most senior luminary–judges in Guyana.
One is tempted to emphasise too the role of the Attorney-General and his Ministry of Legal Affairs. He is the governmental/parliamentary “overseer” who should ensure that the independent judiciary is well served to implement our system of justice at the highest local levels. “Independent”?
Yes independence of the judiciary from external influences is crucial to genuine justice being dispensed. The constitution mentions such directives as “all courts and all persons presiding over courts shall exercise their functions independently of the control and direction of any other person or authority; and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control…” (etc, etc.).
The real world of a society such as ours suggests that telephone calls or discussions at lodge fraternity gatherings could intrude upon judicial decisions. Local Court of Appeal decisions are subject to further appeal(s) to the Caribbean Court of Justice but that’s another story.
I conclude by mentioning that even as this is being written, a new local Civil Society grouping is challenging Acting Chief Justice Chang’s eligibility and status to actually exercise any jurisdiction over certain constitutional matters now before him!
The group in its affidavit has outlined its objections to Justice Chang’s status in these matters. I cannot here detail anything at this time, of course.
It’s an intriguing world, you bet. Where senior judges, to be seen and perceived as free, must receive great salaries and conditions of service. Where few can holler on them for not writing their decisions in a timely manner; where they know that the very judiciary is short–staffed. We must return to exploring this world, soon.
Where even numerous “Justice Improvement” programmes seem to have accomplished little. Soon…
Poor Howie’s new house
Howard is finally building his new three–bedroom house, soon to be made into a home on the Demerara’s East Bank.
Oh the challenges, blues and frustrating stress! Why? Well, after putting his hand in the bag and getting his lot, his long–needed piece of Guyana’s space, he did not realise that he would have to acquire huge extras for drainage and land–filling. Where would the water on his land go?
Security for materials was another problem. The fight for the bank loan won, Howie had to start repayment for a house now only started. High, low or middle income, a perimeter fence was needed. More cash! No water, no lights, no real roads in his new scheme. What did he really pay for!? Then the scams amongst the Contractors with over–buying the BM’s of boards, the slings of cement, the corrugated zincs and the correct tiles. Lord!
Howard’s Family House will really be appreciated when finally done. Let’s keep in touch as he builds, Poor Proud Fellow.
. 1) For my lead piece on the Judiciary today, I realised that our Attorney–General, who sought Trinidadian/Guyanese assistance recently, had a point in challenging on Constitutional bases. They do it in the great USA.
. 2) Name four high–profile court cases seemingly dormant. (Omit the young Muslim Teacher on trial for multiple sexual molestations.)
. 3) Eh–eh! The Guyana Chronicle of this past Tuesday (17th July) gave three–quarter page to David Granger. How generous.
. 4) What could we do with the massive building, which used up taxpayers millions, at Princes and High in the dirty capital?
. 5) Do we send singers and bands on tour? Like the dozens coming here? Which promoters here evade taxes, Adam?
Til next week!