One of the main points in the PPP/C’s manifesto is the improvement of the justice system in Guyana, a key component of which will see a revamping of its overall administration, efficiency and fairness for all citizens of this country. This is indeed good news. In recent times this area has left much to be desired, especially where matters such as the penalties for serious crimes and the perennial burden of the huge backlog of cases are concerned. Certainly, if our country is to successfully move forward the judicial arm must be strengthened so that citizens feel safe that those who run foul of the law are dealt with, and grievances are dealt with in a fair and timely manner. What obtains at the present juncture is a sad and pitiful picture which the public would like the government to urgently address.
One thing I would like the incoming administration to address is the establishment of a Small Claims Court where cases can be heard without the debilitating presence of a lawyer. These courts should be held in existing edifices, with cases heard on a special day of each week. Court staff should come from among the ranks of justices of the peace, retired principals, teachers and persons who are quite knowledgeable in matters of the law, and if necessary those personnel should be given a crash course in the basic tenets of the law before venturing out to practise. I am advocating three judges sitting at court hearings, a move away from the customary lone judge that we see operating in some first world countries. One of the three would be the lead judge who would have the casting vote at decision-making time; in this way the adjudication of matters would be fair and balanced. There should be a ceiling for the monetary claims one could sue for in this court; my suggestion is somewhere around $100,000.
I think my proposal is a sound one which warrants serious consideration and implementation. It would certainly see the conclusion of many a court matter in record time at a low affordable cost to the small man. This would bring to an end to the usual pandering to high-priced lawyers, long postponements and the mind-boggling backlog of cases we are currently experiencing. Our magistrates and judges will now have more time to deal with the serious cases confronting them, since the minor matters will be left to the small court. I think it would certainly be a first for the Caribbean.