Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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(Aired 19 April 2005)

      For over a month now I have wanted to do another commentary on our EPA, in a previous commentary which was first aired last year November and replayed last week Tuesday, I explained why the EPA was formed, what it's function was supposed to be but that it had become a political football and a weapon to be used against anyone not supportive of the PPP.

    The rule of law has broken down to such an extent through tampering with the judges by the executive in this country that justice is virtually impossible to find in our courts.    

   Clearly not all judges are guilty of bowing to the executive, there are a few very notable exceptions, but by and large it is clear that judges who are independent and have long service are overlooked for promotion if they do not play the obscene political game going on in this country between the executive arm of the government and the judicial system, since the separation of powers between these two arms of government is not complete and that means, that as visualised by James Madison who became the 4th President of the US and was the main crafter of the US Democratic Constitution, we do not have a Democracy in this country.

     The Rule of Law must be supreme that is why we have the Supreme Court, that name was not chosen randomly, it means supreme and more and more each day the PPP have shown an insatiable propensity for breaking the law, so for there to be any kind of decent politics in this country or for any business man or citizen to function they must have access to justice.

    There are still a few people here who allege that I only tell you about bad things going on in Guyana and that, essentially, I do not offer solutions.

    Well I do have a lot of grouses, but I do offer solutions, I always have, and most of you know it! But for those who want to have it spelt out more clearly I will try to accommodate you.

    First on the list is the fact that I do not like the way we select our Judges. It is not conducive to the establishment of the "Rule of Law". The National Development Strategy tells us that our Judges should be selected through a process that is supported by two thirds of the members of the Parliament, that's what the Carter Centre and the US State Department think that we need to establish the Rule of Law in Guyana and I subscribe to it. In our context and with the new Constitution this can mean that the members of the Judicial Service Commission should comprise members who are supported by 2/3 of the Parliament and be subject to periodical review by them; that's the way this government, whether they like it or not, will select the members of the Broadcast Authority or there will never be one, it is what we have been fighting since 1996 and we have essentially won all that battle; just a few broadcasters got together and we stopped this Government from doing what they wanted since 1996, once you stand fearlessly together and once you are right, then you can make anything happen.   

    Additionally we are still retiring our judges at age 60, this is patent nonsense in a country losing skills as quickly as we are, one only has to read Keith Massiah's minority report on the Gajraj matter and follow his forays into the law courts after being retired as Chancellor to discover that this man who is now over 70 is still one of the best legal minds in the country, Rex Mc Kay arguably still the best legal mind in the country is over 70. The British have now changed the retirement age of judges to 70 and in the US there are judges in the Supreme Court who almost have to be taken to work in an ambulance. That's how you establish the rule of law, you let the selection of the judges be fair and you ensure that they are completely isolated from interference by the executive.

   For example there is no legitimate reason why Justice Claudette Singh should not be appointed as Chief Justice in this country, she was passed over for promotion once before because her ruling on the 1997 elections Petition Case was not acceptable to Freedom House, but in bypassing her, since she had seniority to Carl Singh at that time, the government of this country sent a message to all our Judges, i.e. if you rule against us, your career as a judge is dead. And incredibly none of us, the opposition, the public, the media or any of the women's organisations in this Country raised our voices in protest at this outrage. It could very well happen again since our Chancellor is going to the Caribbean Court and we will need a Chief Justice soon and if Justice Claudette Singh is passed over again, we will probably not raise our voices in outrage; why is that ladies and gentlemen? Why is it ok to let the government penalise a good Judge for the simple reason that she was independent and fearless in rendering her verdict against the PPP in the Elections Petition in 1997? I thought that those were the quality we needed on our judges fair and independent.

    Now we come to an example of how the Rule of Law does not act the interest of our people and that the executive is in charge of the Rule of Law, last year, as promised in the commentary aired on Tuesday night, I filed a motion in the supreme court, asking the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] to explain to the public why they waived the necessity for Trinidad Cement Limited [TCL] to do an Environmental Impact Assessment study [EIA] on the cement bagging plant they intended to build in Lombard Street, as they were required to do by law. My intention was to stop this construction before they started destroying the health of the people in Charlestown and Lombard Street with Silica pollution.

    During the period when my matter was before the Judge, Dr. Luncheon made a completely unnecessary public statement that his government wanted these Cement Packaging Plant Investments, something which in itself can be construed as contempt of court since it sent a clear message to this Judge by the executive alerting him to the fact that they were watching his ruling in this matter.

   Now notwithstanding that the EPA had waived the necessity for TCL to do an impact study the other cement packaging plant to be located at Supply a more remote area higher up the East Bank, Demerara with far less possibility of causing damage to people's health was denied the right to build until they produced an EIA! Isn't this strange ladies and gentlemen? TCL is granted a waiver of producing an impact study in the middle of Georgetown whilst another company building exactly the same type of operation and which came after TCL was being forced to produce an EIA study! Thereby delaying their construction?

    What did Trinidad Cement Limited do that this other company did not do to get this waiver? You can answer this riddle ladies and gentlemen, it is a simple one.

   So probably afraid of the repercussions due to this scrutiny by Luncheon, the Judge in my matter without justification allowed several judicial manoeuvres which caused the EPA to get away without answering to the irregularities I was accusing them of, furthermore it is illegal to build any entity requiring EPA approval on lands which is not owned by the company applying, now a substantial part of the land TCP is building the packaging plant on, is land which is owned by Charlestown Sawmills limited and is currently in the courts before Justice Moore, during the trial, for want of a proper word to describe what was going on here, my lawyer accused TCL and GNIC of bribing or attempting to bribe my co-plaintiffs, all of which was overlooked by this judge.

     In the end the judge threw this matter out of court too precipitously, before getting at the truth, which I think was his duty under the law, and in so doing he has denied me access to due process.

     How long will we tolerate this, ladies and gentlemen? How long will a thief who steals 1500 dollars be put in jail, when the executive is allowed to mutilate the Rule of Law in this country with impunity on a daily basis?