Despite the concerns raised by the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) more than a week ago, two senior judicial officers and two state prosecutors took part in a recently held two-day regional anti-money laundering workshop which was organized with input from the Guyana Government.
Stabroek News was reliably informed that Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan and High Court judge Sandil Kissoon along with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack and Assistant DPP, Teshana Lake represented Guyana on both days. The workshop which was held at the Pegasus Hotel ended last evening with a reception at State House. The two judicial officers replaced High Court judges Jo-Ann Barlow and Navindra Singh whose names were on the original list of participants. While it was not publicly stated why the duo was replaced, Stabroek News was reliably informed that their heavy workload was the deciding factor.
In correspondence dated April 25th and addressed to Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards, the GBA objected to joint training, arguing that it could have the appearance that the judiciary is taking directions from the executive.
This newspaper was told that the GBA is yet to be furnished with a response. Justice Cummings-Edwards could not be reached for a comment yesterday. When contact was first made with her office, this newspaper was told that she was out and while she was scheduled to return, there was no information available as to when. When this newspaper called back about two hours later, she was said to be in a meeting.
According to copy of the letter which was seen by Stabroek News, the GBA said that it had come to the notice of the Association that a workshop for judges and prosecutors hosted by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force had been arranged.
“The perception which will be created by the joint training of Judges and Prosecutors by the Government of Guyana and others …is that the Bench is being directed as to what has to be done to support the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime. While this may not be so, the perception which will nonetheless be created can have damaging effects on the public confidence in the independence of the Judiciary and give rise to grounds for challenges under Article 144 of the Constitution”.
Article 144 pertains to provisions to secure protection of the law.
“While we appreciate that the bench may be sensitized to legislation, it is our respectful view that great care must be taken as to who the Bench is seen to be in association with and/or taking directions or guidance from. Intermingling, or once again, the perception of intermingling with the Executive is an inherently dangerous violation of the separation of powers and one which must be jealously guarded against.
“Further, we strongly believe that at no time should Prosecutors and Judges be jointly trained and/or seen to be jointly trained, their roles being different in the legal process”, the GBA said.
The letter added that it had no doubt that Chancellor (ag) would take the necessary steps to address the situation.
The conference which was the first of its kind held in Guyana saw the attendances of dozens of judges and prosecutors from a number of Caribbean and Latin America countries including Barbados, Antigua, Dominica, El Salvador, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Participants were exposed to information on several topics including investigative orders, Mutual Evaluation Reports and the prosecution and management of money laundering cases.