Chief Magistrate takes offence
Meeting to be sought with Chancellor
Stabroek News
February 6, 2002

The acting chief magistrate, lawyers and a group of women calling themselves concerned Guyanese yesterday protested a statement made by Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon about corrupt magistrates in Guyana's court system.

The statement was made on Monday following his announcement of pay hikes for state counsel and members of the magistracy. Luncheon had said inter alia that Cabinet was "not unmindful of the view that the poor work ethic and the corrupt practices uncovered in the magistracy are probably related to the issue of poor remuneration".

Asked whether it was his view that magistrates were involved in corrupt practices he said "I have absolutely no doubt that they are involved".

Attorney-at-law Vic Puran, voicing his observations in acting Chief Magistrate, Juliet Holder-Allen's, court yesterday, said that he intended to approach the Guyana Bar Association on the matter. Attorney-at-law Raphael Trotman, appearing before Holder-Allen in a matter, said that he had already done so.

Puran observed that he had known the magistrate for 12 years and that she had no blemish against her name. He said the statement was an attack on the pillar that keeps the society standing.

Reading excerpts of the article in yesterday's Stabroek News, Puran said that he couldn't imagine why Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard had not yet called a meeting with all the magistrates. "She is too decent and she has given all her life for a better perception of the legal system and her decency has been taken for a ride. The Chancellor does not deserve this, but they know who to pick on."

Holder-Allen said that she had many problems with the statement but "first and foremost, the statement is a contempt of court." She went on to say that she was a lawyer by profession and had not bought her certificates but had earned them through a lot of hard work. She went on to say that she took offence to people saying things about her that were not true. Luncheon's statement did not identify any particular magistrate.

The magistrate stated that she would take Puran's advice and have a meeting with the Chancellor to see how they might deal with the matter.

Meanwhile a group of vociferous women stood outside the High Court shouting, "Luncheon was wrong. Take back the statement."

The group numbering about ten loudly demanded that Luncheon issue an open apology in a televised statement in like manner to how it was made.

Asked for a comment one of the women said that they wanted to draw the attention of whomever was responsible for giving Luncheon such information. The woman stated they would not accept it and that Luncheon should withdraw his statement because it was not true. She also said that they were giving him 24 hours to do so, or they would continue their protest until they are heard.

"It is an insult to the magistrates and he should have proof," said Hazel Austin. She also said she hoped she was not victimised for speaking the truth.

After a police officer approached them indicating they could not disturb the High Court's proceedings, the protesters left to continue their demonstration in front of Luncheon's office.

During yesterday's protest, which a member of the group said was apolitical, calls were made for Luncheon to identify the errant magistrates whenever they are caught in such practices. "If they catch them in corrupt practices they must nail them to the cross," one protestor exclaimed.

Magistrates, another member of the group stated, were working for a pittance and were not being accused of anything, but were now being targeted as they were about to receive a pay hike.

Referring to the entire membership of the magistracy as respectful, educated citizens who serve their country with dignity, they demanded an end to what they claimed was the frequent belittling of persons by members of the administration.

A lone police car observed the action from a reasonable distance and security from the Office of the President watched on quietly.