A fair judiciary is an important part of good governance

Stabroek News
August 10, 2001

Dear Editor,

Significantly contributing to the problems the Guyanese people face as a nation, namely racial indifference, a declining economy and falling social standards, increased crime rate and widespread corruption, are systems of bad governance. Fundamental to correcting this chaotic situation is the general application of good governance.

Essentially, for this to take place, there must be a firm, just and fair judiciary and a professional and credible press which people have confidence in.

From my sampling with the members of the legal profession, the GPSU's contentions on two recent cases in which it was involved are sound. To compound the situation, Mr. Yarde's letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] to the press was compromised by their failure to publish the full text of his letter. No way can one say that this letter was libelous or lengthy. Unfortunately, the Stabroek News has displayed and is displaying on several occasions a biased discretion, both in their reporting and in their publication of letters to the Editor.

Unless these points are made and publicised to facilitate those who bring pressure and demand proper accounting and stewardship in these very important institutions, we will have a state of anarchy resulting from people being compelled to take matters into their own hands.

The perception, Mr. Editor, is that the enabling environment for justice, fairness and freedom of expression is seriously compromised.

Yours faithfully,
Roger Moore
At Home with Roger

Editor's note
There is a prevailing misconception that letters containing outlandish and unproven allegations should be published as of right. This is no doubt buttressed by the fact that on certain television programmes the most inflammatory and defamatory statements are routinely aired, without any attempt to check their accuracy, as was found in the reports of both the media monitoring units set up to monitor media coverage of the last elections.

The letter from Mr Yarde did not fall into that category. We saw it as a structured attempt to argue that the balance of convenience was an important factor to be taken into account by the court in the granting of an injunction or the making of a conservatory order, and a suggestion that this had not been done adequately in the two cases outlined. Whether the argument is sound can, of course, only be properly assessed by a lawyer after a careful consideration of all the facts involved in the two cases and the relevant case law. Mr Yarde did not purport to be conducting a legal analysis.

It is quite proper to criticise a judge's decision but it is not permissible to attack a judge's integrity without compelling factual evidence. We retained the essential arguments in Mr Yarde's letter but struck out two short paragraphs which contained comments which we considered excessive and unnecessary to the main argument.

Newspapers all over the world edit letters for style, taste, content, libel and a number of other things. Our policy is much more liberal than that of many other mainstream newspapers. In the interest of free speech, we try to give as many people a hearing as possible, subject to the considerations outlined above.