The court did not dispense justice

Dear Editor,

I am the father of three children ‒ two females and a male ‒ and the grandfather of a beautiful granddaughter; no one else but I have stood at the helm of my children’s upbringing. Their collective interest and the society they must live in are important to me.

I witnessed a situation where a close male relative was placed before the Magistrates Court, and my concern is whether the laws relating to what happened to him reflect the blindfolded Maat of the unbiased Scales of Justice, or whether human preferences tipped the scale towards some emotion-driven, popular cause of the day.

Two young people who have known each other for over a decade and were a few years prior to 2016, in a short relationship, came together on November 29, 2015. The female arrived in the country reportedly from London where she is based to the place where the young man stays.

He had had some bad experiences from which he was still recovering. She was to return soon, so the young man requested that she stay the two weeks. This was allowed, and the unexpected followed next. The two weeks were extended, despite protests from his parents. Without the engagement of his parents they were married the following January 27.

The new wife claimed that she was pregnant in mid-December. The new husband accepted this. Then by mid-April he discovered that she did not come to Guyana from London as she had said, but that she had left three months before and had gone to Suriname where she had lived with a man, before coming to my relative’s place of abode. Fate would have it that the man is the father of the new husband’s godson. Still rooted in his parents’ home, their presence becomes unbearable, and his parents demand that she leave.  By May they were separated completely as other issues on the new wife’s character began to emerge.

He went to legal aid to proceed with a divorce. His family had cautioned him about the innocent involved, and since infidelity is a rebuttal of marriage, the question of a paternity test must be an option; this was agreed. The wife subsequently took him to court for support of a child, which the law of marriage dictates is his whether he acknowledges it by signature or not ‒ what a law!

The case proceeds in the context of ‘child support’.  The wife has a lawyer, he doesn’t. This is important as it seems to determine how the scales may be tipped. The evidence is given on all of the above and specifics are articulated. The Magistrate states that the contention presented by the estranged husband is not for her court. Her Worship refuses evidence to the contention from the husband, and rules that regardless of his contention he must pay both wife and child a sum weekly

The problem here is that if proven infidelity is a repudiation of marriage, then how come its argument and evidence is not entertained or directed to some existing legal forum of mediation? If the court is limited ‒ as implied by the Magistrate ‒ to deal with such matters, would it not be unjust to pronounce against him, having denied him his right to defence? Is it the law or the magistrate?

If it is the law, then has this law been contrived to push men to the dark side? Should the courts not be subject to a semblance of fairness? During the three engagements that I endured, there is no doubt that this area of the law is tedious, but I saw no evidence of a middle ground where contentious testimony is weighed. I would have thought that equal grounds of contention must be entertained.

To heap contempt on a situation, the court acknowledged that the husband was not working, and declared his evidence and contention as untenable.  Yet still it proceeds, telling him that he worked in the past and threatens him to find money by any means to fulfil the conclusion of a good court day. How is this to be construed? There has to be another word, other than Justice.

 

Yours faithfully,

Barrington Braithwaite

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