The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) says it is willing to have conversations with a group of people who have held candle-light vigils outside its office for the last three nights to protest against its stance in the case over a babysitter who was given the maximum sentence for assaulting a one-year-old baby two weeks ago.
The independent group held its last vigil last night, with children holding candles in the shape of flowers. Nearly 20 persons gathered in front of the NGO building with cardboards saying no to child abuse.
Sarah Balgobin, one of the persons at the vigil, said the group would not stop speaking out about the injustice that was committed against the infant. “We are trying to let the public know that that isn’t the issue.
The issue is that a defenceless baby was assaulted. So we are hoping to form a formal organisation because we don’t plan on stopping; we are not planning on going dead,” she said, adding that parents allowed their children to come out to the vigil because they believed that a child was wronged and so children should also be the voice for the a voiceless infant. Most of the people gathered at the vigil were mothers and children.
Meanwhile, the GHRA, in a press release, said it was “mystified” by what it called “a second picket” outside its office in the dark over the case of the Amerindian child-minder sentenced to prison for 60 months for slapping/assaulting a baby in her care.
Fatima Martin was given the maximum sentence for inflicting grievous bodily harm on the baby, who is the child of Magistrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond and Attorney Joel Edmond.
Martin was released on bail five days later, after her lawyer, Sase Gunraj filed an appeal on the grounds that the decision of the magistrate, who handed down the sentence was wrong, erroneous and misconceived in law. Her application for bail was heard and accepted in the High Court by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang.
The GHRA said its concern was grounded in the facts that the charge of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm was excessive; that Martin was denied legal advice; the speed with which the proceedings-arrest, trial and imprisonment—were completed (within 3 days); the severity of the sentence; the clearing of the courtroom of the public except for the persons associated with the prosecution while Martin’s sister was excluded and Martin’s allegations that she was assaulted by the child’s mother.
In an official statement, the teen alleged that she was assaulted by her former employers after admitting she had hit the child.
The GHRA in a previous statement had called the sentence “cruel and indefensible in light of the facts, age, background and being a first offence”, saying that the parents’ role in the judicial systems had influenced the ruling against the 19-year-old babysitter.
The GHRA yesterday said while emotional reactions were understandable in those close to abuse cases, it is the role of the legal process to deter people from taking things into their own hands. “Kaieteur News quotes the leader of the group [of the vigil] as asking who wouldn’t have acted harshly towards the perpetrator of abuse to a baby. It is precisely because there is a fine line between ‘harsh’ and ‘cruel,’ that justice must be blind to distracting influences,” the statement said.
The statement also protested against the state-owned Guyana Chronicle’s report that ‘mostly children below the age of twelve who came out in solidarity with the one year old,’ stating that it projected that children demonstrating on darks streets is something to be proud of.
“The GHRA was pleased to note that the only evidence of the group’s presence was two posters taped to the gate and fence. During their vigil they may have taken note of the number of broken windows on the building, a harsher legacy of earlier visits of people in ‘complete disagreement’ with the GHRA,” the statement said.