Reactions to the judge's ruling

Guyana Chronicle
January 27, 2001

** Attorney-at-law Mr Khemraj Ramjattan who represented the Elections Commission and related respondents, feels the order "is in keeping with the avoidance of chaos and in keeping with having order maintained.

"It is the only natural effective order out of a `ruling in declaration' that we (the lawyers) made, and this is anticipated, this is expected. I don't think she could have made any other order."

** Mr Ralph Ramkarran Senior Counsel (S.C.) who also appeared for the Elections Commission Chairman and related respondents, said, "...we are very happy with the order that the judge made. It allows for the continuation of stability and for the prevention of instability.

"We think that it is a wise and just order and it applies to `the doctrine of necessity', as we had asked the judge to do.

"The right of all citizens since 1997 have been preserved and the rights of citizens up to the elections will continue to be preserved.

"We think it is a balanced, wise and just decision by the trial judge and we are very happy with it."

** Mr Rex McKay S.C. appeared for respondent, PNC leader Mr Desmond Hoyte, and was not in favour of the ruling.

"...there simply was no necessity for her to say she didn't have the power to let the President and the Executive demit office, when it fact she did say in the order that they will function under and by virtue of that very order...which in fact means that they are not functioning as the continuous government.

"It (the ruling) is inconsistent with her pattern of judgement just like how the election petition judgement is inconsistent.

"Having found massive irregularities she didn't go on to say that it is constitutionally void."

Asked if the ruling was close to what the lawyers had agreed, he said, "Yes, except we did not discuss her power to make an order for the government to demit office. That wasn't discussed at all."

** Dr Rupert Roopnaraine of the Opposition Alliance For Guyana:

"I am really relieved that the decision has been made. I have been saying all the time that the absence of a decision was more harmful than any decision that could have been that the ruling has been made, it gives the political parties a better chance of sitting down, assessing the situation and coming to an agreement on how we are going to maintain a peaceful environment between now and March 19.

"It is also the duty of citizens and political parties to respect the ruling of the court and to ensure that we sit in Parliament, act according to the orders of the judge and do what is absolutely necessary for the holding of the next elections.

"We will have to consult with the Elections Commission to see what legislative action they believe is necessary. Justice Singh had indicated that there may be some possibility of continuing to enable the Herdmanston Accord. Now whether that means that we will continue with Constitution reform or not, is something we will have to determine.

" that the ruling has happened it may not please everyone, but the important thing is it has been made and the duty now is to ensure that we do what is necessary to ensure a peaceful election on March 19."

On the ruling on the coverage by the state media, Roopnaraine said that needs interpretation.

"I am of the understanding that what the judge said is that the media can only be used for electioneering purposes through paid advertisements...whether we have to interpret that to mean that no other use of the media for electioneering purposes will be prohibited, and how that is actually going to work I don't know -- it leaves a lot to speculation and interpretation."

** Mr Peter Britton, S.C.:

"I am reasonably satisfied, the regime has been declared illegal...and they are only now functioning by the grace of the court. Their powers are limited in the order, they cannot do certain things, and they can only pass legislation to bring about the new election...It is a circumscribed function for two months, and that is why I take umbrage to the judge going out of her way to say that they are not entitled to demit office...

"You don't say one with one hand and then take it back. The consequential order says you can stay, but stay on my terms."

Packed court

SINCE January 15 when Justice Singh handed down her initial ruling, Court Five with its limited seats was packed to capacity with lawyers, media personnel and the curious, the latter overspilling onto the corridors.

Yesterday was no different.

At about 08:15 hrs there were no more seats for spectators.

And even the two benches allocated for media operatives were insufficient for all who wanted to report on the history-making case.

Like the spectators, reporters who could not be accommodated on the benches had to stand some distance away as court marshals yesterday ensured there were no standees in the northern and southern corridors, immediately flanking the courtroom.

Outside, police in an effort to monitor the movement of the public in and out, allowed only employees and persons on legitimate business at the court.

However, after Justice Singh handed down her ruling, a curious crowd of about 300 which had gathered beyond the police barriers on Croal Street, vented their disapproval by calling for PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte and some waving his portraits.

Some dispersed after Attorney-at-law, Mr Raphael Trotman who was associated in representing petitioner, PNC supporter Esther Perreira and Perreira herself spoke with them, urging that they remain calm and concentrate on the elections. (WENDELLA DAVIDSON)

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