Legal reps call corrupt magistracy statement unfortunate By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
February 7, 2002

PRESIDENT of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), Ms. Anande Trotman yesterday called the statement this week by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon about corrupt magistrates in Guyana's court system "very unfortunate".

"I would say it was a very unfortunate statement, in that it was a `sweeping one'," she told the Chronicle.

She noted that "there are good people in the system, honest people who work very hard and sometimes under very difficult circumstances".

"So in that sense, the statement by Dr. Luncheon was very unfortunate indeed," she said.

Luncheon made the statement at a news conference Monday when he said, inter alia, that a large number of ordinary Guyanese had been drawing to the Government's attention, and to the attention of the Chancellor, the Chief Magistrate and the Judicial Service Commission "the irregular, unlawful and corrupt practices of magistrates all over the length and breadth of this country (and) this has been going on for quite some time."

"In the magistracy, corrupt practices have been uncovered and over and over, these have been brought to public attention," Luncheon told reporters at the Office of the President.

He also said he has absolutely no doubt that magistrates were involved in such corrupt practices.

The statement has sparked some objections from a few members of the legal fraternity.

Trotman, however, told this newspaper that the GBA would not condone corruption in any aspects of the legal and judicial system.

She noted that there is a Judicial Service Commission (JSC) where such allegations are dealt with and the GBA has not received any specific report from the JSC on corruption in the magistracy and which involves magistrates.

She also feels there is need for tighter security within the management system of the legal sector.

She pointed out that currently in the legal profession, it is hard to find new and young aspirants to fill judicial offices.

Former Chief Magistrate, Mr. K. Juman-Yassin told the Chronicle that Luncheon's remarks were "most unfortunate".

"I believe the remarks are unfortunate because these cast aspersions, from the newspaper reports, on all magistrates (and) for me, if a magistrate is found wanting then that magistrate should be suspended, his terms of employment taken away and he (she) should not be allowed to sit on the bench," he said yesterday.

"But what we have here now, according to Dr. Luncheon, is that you have corrupt magistrates still adjudicating and even deciding the fate of citizens which is unfortunate and should never be," he added.

"And as I said before, I believe the remarks are most unfortunate," Juman-Yassin added.

Luncheon had said too that the "poor work ethic and the corrupt practices" which were uncovered at the magistracy had been a subject of public notice or information for some time.

He referred to what has been seen and what is being further investigated and pointed out that there has been an "alarming loss of state revenue arising from unsavoury financial practices in the collection of fines, bails and such like".

He said the most celebrated instance of corrupt practices involves the Georgetown Magisterial District where "unbelievably millions, literally millions of dollars of revenue, mysteriously disappeared and cannot be accounted for and very occasionally, revealed to have been swindled, to have been stolen, by the lesser minions in the magistracy."

At the news conference, he announced that a joint investigative team, like those already probing alleged widespread corruption and financial impropriety at the Deeds and the Supreme Court registries, has been appointed to probe similar allegations in the magistracy and which involve some magistrates.

He said the team comprising representatives of the Auditor General's Department, the Accountant General's Department and the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the Police Force will be working in collaboration to investigate the allegations.