No ducking from this shocking case

Guyana Chronicle
May 27, 2001

THE Guyana Bar Association, according to its re-elected President, Anande Trotman, is aiming at "enhancing its credibility" both locally and internationally.

Well, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) may very well have provided it with an immediate opportunity to help it in the process of such an 'enhancement'.

The GBA, which has been deafeningly silent on the issue of television talk show hosts preaching race hate and of the ensuing damaging consequences, would be aware of the appeal from the GHRA for prompt and decisive action in the matter involving the physical assault of a Guyanese mother in - of all places - the court of Chief Magistrate, Paul Fung-A-Fat.

That incident, first reported in the Chronicle, occurred, significantly enough, during the court appearance on May 15 of the TV talk show host and PNC election candidate, Ronald Waddell.

The woman victim of physical assault was in court on the day of the incident for a case against a person charged with sexual assault of her daughter.

To add to her agony, not only was she the victim of attack in the court by Waddell's supporters and family members of the man accused of sexually assaulting her daughter, but a lawyer was also "actively involved in the incident", as noted in the GHRA's press statement on Friday.

The GHRA has also brought to the attention of all the leading authorities, including the Chancellor, Chief Justice and the Chief Magistrate, that on the day of that cowardly attack on a defenceless woman in Mr Fung-A-Fat's court, neither the Chief Magistrate himself nor the political leader who is also a lawyer and present in court, responded to the victim's appeal for help.

Call For Action

The woman lawyer, who was reportedly "actively involved" in the incident, is no stranger to either the magistrate, political leader or the executive of the GBA. It is to be assumed that she would also be known to various women's rights and other civil society groups.

What is clear is that the incident cries out, as a matter of justice and human decency, for the strongest possible criticism and urgent relevant action. The implications are grave indeed.

As the GHRA said, failure to act on this matter would reinforce the "sense of impunity of those who indulge in such lawlessness...Allowing this incident to pass without action from the various legal authorities is tantamount to acknowledging that the courtroom is no longer the final refuge of the citizen".

The Chief Justice has been called upon by the GHRA to have the behaviour in court of Chief Magistrate Fung-A-Fat investigated. It has also invited the Chancellor of the Judiciary to remind judges and magistrates of measures available to them to deal with such difficult circumstances when they arise.

Further, the GHRA has called on the Bar Association to remind lawyers of their professional responsibilities. This, of course, would include that of the female lawyer referred to in the case of the former legal clerk who was shockingly beaten in open court.

We await the responses of those challenged to take action and also what charges could result. In all of this, the Police Inspector who finally went to the rescue of the assaulted woman, at personal risk, deserves highest praise. He ought to be properly rewarded for his courage and sense of social responsibility.