President David Granger says that the opening of Guyana’s 10th Magisterial District is not an instruction of the Executive but an initiative of the Judiciary which is a manifestation of the independence that this critical branch of Government enjoys under the current administration.
A statement from the Ministry of the Presidency said that he was speaking at a ceremony yesterday to mark the inauguration of the Upper Demerara Magisterial District.
The President said that the initiative falls in line with Government’s push to improve access to justice for all Guyanese. The event was held at the Linden Magistrate’s Court.
The Magisterial District will remove the need for residents of Linden, Ituni and Kwakwani to travel to Vreed-en-Hoop and New Amsterdam to access legal services, the statement said.
“Access to justice, including ease of access, is every citizen’s legitimate expectation. Residents of their home regions should not have to travel long distances to access public services, including legal services in other Regions… Access to justice is difficult to achieve for the majority of this region’s 50,000 residents… The State has taken one small step, today, to abandon the archaic colonial system of counties, which existed from time immemorial and to adopt a rational system of regional administration,” the President declared.
Speaking on how access to justice has expanded over the years, Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards said that in the first two decades of the 20th century, there were only four local magistrates in Guyana. Today, she said there are a total of 24, all of whom are Guyanese. With regard to this new Magisterial District, she said that in addition to regular court sittings, Municipal Courts will be introduced, which will aid the efforts of the Mayor and Town Council to protect the town’s environment. Moreover, Youth/Children’s Court will also be introduced, which will focus more on rehabilitating young offenders.
Meanwhile, Granger said that the Government is keen on ensuring that law and order is maintained in all communities and in this regard, will work to complement the work of the Judiciary by setting up police divisions in every Regional Democratic Council (RDC).
“Many residents in rural regions and the hinterland face everyday challenges to which they seek remedies. Residents, including victims of domestic abuse are trapped in loveless relationships with their abusers; mothers are denied access to their children because they cannot take their husbands and/or children-fathers to court… The law should be a great leveler. It should not be a weapon for the strong and powerful against the poor, weak and vulnerable. It emphasises citizens’ basic human right to have legal recourse and redress for wrongs committed against them and their property and for the preservation of public order,” the Head of State said, according to the statement.
The Chancellor told residents that Magistrate Clive Nurse will be resident in the community and that hearings will now be held five days per week with the exception of the first and third Fridays of each month when sittings will be held in Kwakwani. Prior to this, the Court only sat one day per week in Kwakwani, the statement added.
Apart from the residents, the statement said that police have also been inconvenienced because to file a case in Linden, they have to travel to Vreed-en-Hoop, while residents in Kwakwani had to travel to Berbice. The Chancellor said that this created an untenable situation, particularly for single mothers, who were forced to suffer high transportation costs just to uplift spousal and/or child support payments. “This hardship obtained because of the issue of jurisdiction. Kwakwani fell in the Berbice District and Linden fell in the Demerara District, but at the opening of this new court three years ago, Justice Carl Singh [former Chancellor] recognised the need for the new District and started the process for its creation,” she explained.