For almost two years I have told you
that as it exists on behalf of the people of this country there is no rule of
law. Daevon on the West Bank can build an illegal structure encumbering the
rights and privileges of the people around him with impunity, minibuses can
drive at any speed with impunity, they can kill as many of our citizens and no
one can stop them, they do not dim their lights and no one can stop them, the
criminals can attack us at any time and the police are incapable of protecting
us they are even incapable of taking simple finger prints or processing a crime
scene in any significant manner.
Anyone, including the President of this
nation, who does not understand that unless we establish the rule of law to
dispense justice to all of our citizens equally, we will only be wasting
time shooting criminals who will, in short order, be replaced by other criminals
and this will continue until the rule of law stands supreme.
I almost threw up when I saw our Chief Justice
in the news papers telling the British public that crime in Guyana has altered fundamentally in the
last twelve months and that the crime situation coupled with the shortage of
piscine judges occasioned by the absence of the Judicial Service Commission is
what is contributing to our situation. He does not tell them one word about the
deprivation of funds this government perpetrates on the judicial system, to
render it impotent. We can give Carl Singh 20 Judges and nothing will change,
we will still have a judicial system which is completely under political
Why must some thief in this country be
locked up for stealing 25,000 dollars when a Minister or a Permanent Secretary
can steal millions with impunity.
How important is this rule of
law to our lives? Well let me quote tonight from a statement made by Paddy
Ashdown, the British politician Tapped to head Bosnia's peacekeeping operation
in the 1990's in an interview with Reuters and I quote him "we made a big
mistake here [in Bosnia] and we made a big mistake in Kosovo....and that was not
to realise that the rule of law comes first, we thought that democracy came
first, we gave this country [Bosnia] as many elections as they could hold,.. and
thought that we were making progress, but you can't have an operating democracy
if there is no rule of law, you can't have a decent economy, decent politics
etc. without it"
If the rule of law jumped up and bit our
Chief Justice on his nose he would not recognise it. This Chief Justice has
over 50 constitutional matters before the courts unheard, for upwards of four
years, simply because constitutional matters mainly concern transgressions by
the state on some poor individual.
Why doesn't he tell the President to
appoint Bovell Drakes? Instead of bitching about the Judicial Service Commission
not being in place? why does he not demand all political control of the
judicial system cease forthwith? Why does he not demand that the local lawyers
to do their jobs on behalf of our citizens?
We keep cussing up the Judges and the judicial
system with justification, but we still keep paying some very fancy fees to
lawyers who request numerous delays from Judges for time to prepare their cases,
those of you who have had litigation, and have seen our courts in operation first
hand, will know exactly what I mean.
You have a lawyer and the other party
against whom you are aggrieved have lawyers, your case can't be heard because
of some evidence which is lacking in your matter or, more often, because
someone did not turn up, so the hearing for that day actually takes up about 5
minutes, but the conference between the Judge, your lawyer and the opposing
lawyer takes 25 minutes, looking up their several diaries to decide which day
will be free for them to come back to court and go through this obnoxious
ritual of seeing when it is feasible for them all to meet again, this can go on
for upwards of 7 years.
British Judges Baker and Lewis who came here at our invitation courtesy
of the British High Commission to tell us what is wrong, told us over 3 years
ago that they were astonished at the facility with which our Judges allow our
lawyers to take our money and turn up in court for the sole purpose of asking
for delays, this is especially true for the side which does not have a strong
case and which wants to delay and frustrate the process of justice until
everyone gets fed up of paying these huge legal fees and go home with cutlasses
and guns to settle the matter. Over 80% of our jails are occupied by the small
law breaker with jail terms under 6 months and the rest are there awaiting
We take a
person guilty of thieving a foul and lock him up for 6 months, of course
he was in jail for one year waiting for a trial, when this person re-enters the
common population, he has been to criminal school for one and a half years
learning how to thief a cow without getting caught.
No ladies and gentlemen we are getting
what we deserve, because, in the final analysis, it was we the Guyanese people
who stood up here over the past 40 years and looked on whilst the executive
destroyed the judicial system, we opted to leave rather than to stand and fight
for our rights. So in the end it is we the citizens of Guyana, those here now and those who have fled, that are responsible.
I dislike letters from Guyanese abroad
sitting in the safety of countries where they are protected by the rule of law,
telling us what we have to do, I have little doubt that they love this country,
as all people throughout history have loved their motherland, but when they
were here, they had the right and the duty to stand and demand good governance
and they did not. We, you and I, are left here and it is up to us to demand it.
The Judicial Service Commission must
fill the 4 piscine judge vacancies but Bovell Drakes must be appointed,
and all new judges must be totally apolitical and dispense justice without fear
or favour. The Chief Justice must demand that all political interference
in the judicial system stop, now, immediately, he must put in put in place
a disciplinary body, as recommended by Baker and Lewis, where supreme court Judges
can have the expressed power to report misconduct or gross incompetence by a
lawyer such as I have described for you here, in fact numerous recommendations to
speed up and to establish the rule of law put forward by our Bar Association
and supported by Baker and Lewis have not been implemented. The Supreme Court
must be just that, it must be supreme.
Ladies and gentlemen my father's
brother Justice Frank Vieira understood it and refused to be consumed by
political forces, the only time the PPP won a case during the entire Burnham
era they did so before Frank Vieira, Burnham was fit to be tied but Frank
Vieira refused to be controlled and dispensed justice fearlessly. I did not
understand it at the time being in my twenties but I do now.
So I am asking our present judges to be
true to your mandate to dispense justice fearlessly. We, the people, will
protect you, we will see to that through the media and so will the Judicial Service
Commission which is now empowered to do so, this mechanism was not there before
the constitutional reform process but it is there now, to protect you.
Integrity and the application of the
rule of law are the hallmarks of any democratic system, without it there is no
democracy, so do not prostitute your integrity and the mandate you have been
given by being puppets of the executive.