Former Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary Desiree Bernard, was not disturbed or annoyed when the late Janet Jagan tossed the court order preventing her from being sworn in as president over her shoulder ‒ a move which was widely criticized by the opposition and the media. In an exclusive interview with me from her Port of Spain home, Justice Bernard said that she was certain that Mrs Jagan’s action had not been done with malice and she was of the view “the press put too much into it.” She added that Mrs Jagan was not disrespectful to her or the court and said that they enjoyed a cordial relationship after the incident.
Then Chief Justice Bernard had in December 1997 made an Order Nisi of Prohibition prohibiting the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Cecil Kennard from swearing in Mrs Jagan as president at a State House function with invited guests. When served with the order she tossed the papers over her shoulder in disgust. The swearing in was a ceremonial public formality as she had already been privately sworn in. However, some legal experts say that Justice Bernard’s ruling was nevertheless still legally binding, even though made after the fact.
Justice Bernard has several firsts in the country and the Caribbean, including the first female judge in Guyana, first female Court of Appeal Judge, first female Chief Justice and head of the judiciary not only in Guyana but the Caribbean. She is the first and only female judge in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the highest court of the land. She is now winding up her tenure at the CCJ, where she has been serving since the inception of the regional court in April 2005.
She indicated to me that she would still be involved in the legal field where she served for more than 50 years, including 33 years as a judge.