The GBA never passed a resolution condemning PPP excesses

Dear Editor,

On February 23, 2018, Stabroek News published a letter from Mr Charles S Ramson, captioned ‘Burke’s statements included falsehoods.’ The letter refuted contentions in my February 21 letter denouncing the Guyana Bar Association’s (GBA) February 20, attack on President David Granger. Mr Ramson’s letter contained nothing but impetuous trash.

Mr Ramson said he is “unfamiliar” with my “vast work of distinction” or CGID’s “large mass of members” which gives me liberty to make public statements. Mr Ramson should hold in check the effrontery and liberty with which he attempts to dictate who the participants in our national dialogue should be. His political party does not have a monopoly on free speech. Moreover, my work is uniquely focused on ensuring that Guyana never slides back into ethnic dictatorship and fights for justice for the victims of extrajudicial and death squad murders during the period of the PPP regime. CGID does not claim mass membership.  We claim effectiveness. When the GBA was silent on constitutional abuses, torture and extrajudicial and death squad killings, CGID was campaigning for justice in the US Congress, the United Nations and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Mr Ramson’s letter is a hodgepodge of fabrications and PPP talking points strung together as a refutation by a GBA member, but constitutes an aberration of truth and fact.

(I)  He alleged that I falsely stated that “President Granger affirmed a desire to appoint substantive office-holders as the country cannot be without a Chancellor and Chief Justice, and that he will be guided by his legal advisers on his constitutional options.” He selectively cited an irrelevant quote Demerara Waves attributed to Minister Joseph Harmon to justify his claim. Response: Here are the facts. On February, 17, Stabroek News published an article titled ‘Granger still awaiting legal advice on Chancellor, CJ,’ which quoted President David Granger as saying  “I have to be advised by my Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General. We cannot be without a Chancellor and Chief Justice and right now two persons are acting and I had hoped that we could have moved forward by having a substantive or a full time appointment agreed but this has not happened and the constitution requires me to await the approval of the Leader of the Opposition. That hasn’t come, so I would have to depend on legal advice and make sure that the courts continue to function.”

(II)  I’m amazed that Mr Ramson, like the GBA, has ignored the factual statements by President Granger himself, but selectively based his pronouncements on hearsay, third-party reportage to support his indefensible allegations. The PPP made the exact, incredible GBA allegations the following day. But even Mr Ramson’s convenient cocked-eyes cannot escape the irrefutable facts ‒ the President’s own words.  The indispensable fact is that the GBA cannot preemptively attack the President over a decision he has not yet made. That is tantamount to impermissible, preemptive self-defence.

(III)  Mr Ramson also said my statement that “Since 2005, the nation has been without a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice,” is also false.

Response: in 2005, Justice Carl Singh, while occupying the office of Chief Justice, was appointed acting Chancellor, when Chancellor Desiree Bernard was elected to the CCJ. Justice Singh functioned in both capacities until Justice William Ramlal declared the conflation of the two positions unconstitutional on November 16, 2007. The corpus of Justice Ramlal’s ruling is that a permanently acting Chancellor cannot also perform the duties of Chief Justice. Hence, since 2005, there has been no substantive Chief Justice or Chancellor. As an attorney, Mr Ramson should avail himself of the facts before making public statements.

(IV) In response to my assertion that “If the GBA has a genuine concern about the President’s fidelity to the Constitution, it should have met or written the President on the matter,” Mr Ramson claimed that the GBA did just this. He cited utterances by Justice Denis Byron, President of the CCJ and Mr Teni Housty, Vice President of the GBA, as evidence.

Response: How could anyone surmise that the referenced comments constitute a reasonable substitute for the GBA’s failure to meet, or formally correspond, with the President. Mr Ramson cannot obfuscate this issue. I insist that instead of engaging in partisan politics, the GBA should have written directly to, or met with the President on the instant matter. Had it done so, it would have been more effective and credible.

(V) Mr Ramson said it is false to contend that the GBA can raise hell and sue the President to overturn any substantive appointments without the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition, as required by the constitution.

Response: Mr Ramson’s refutation of this option is laughable. I sympathize with his inability to grasp this concept of the GBA being an amicus civil society arbiter with an obligation to promote fidelity to the Constitution and to seek judicial intervention to enforce the Constitution and preserve the integrity of the judiciary. His real problem, however, is that he is beleaguered by the GBA’s complicit silence on constitutional abuses by the PPP government.

1. VI) Mr Ramson disputed that the GBA was silent on constitutional and human rights violations by successive PPP administrations, but has now suddenly found its voice to criticize the Granger administration. He again cited personal letters from Messrs Brynmor T I Pollard, Teni Housty and Nigel Hughes.

Response: I respect and admire these men immensely, but their individual opinions do not constitute that of the GBA. Mr Ramson struggled to cite one example where the GBA, as the regulatory law body, denounced or passed a resolution condemning PPP excesses, because it never did. Furthermore, Mr Ramson is the wrong messenger to refute claims of a pattern of association with the views of the PPP.  Apart from being a member of the opposition, his very letter was a regurgitation of PPP talking points, and therefore confirms the said worrying pattern.

Yours faithfully,

Rickford Burke

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