Facing the Challenges of a Modern Justice System
…the Judiciary examines itself
Guyana Chronicle
May 12, 2003

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Within 14 days this Nation will celebrate the 38th anniversary of attaining political independence from Britain. However, the anxiety and self-doubt generated by the traditional modes of institutionalizing democracy continues. At its annual conference last Saturday, the Judiciary reminded us all that that process is not only arduous, but it can also be prolonged by underdevelopment.

That the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Madam Desiree Bernard, would, after undertaking some self-examination, admit to the necessity of a code of conduct to guide members of the legal profession, restates the burden of our history as much as it demonstrates a willingness to search for solutions.

In 1976, Dr. Roy Neehall, then Secretary of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, lamented the tragedy of the Caribbean peoples not believing in themselves, after generations of being ‘bamboozed’ by colonial policies. Twenty-five years later, Chancellor Bernard expresses concern at the decline in standards among the legal profession and difficulty in attracting talented Guyanese to the judiciary and magistracy. There is a common thread connecting their positions, namely that while times have changed, the conditions under which Caribbean peoples live have become more difficult.

Both Dr. Neehall and Chancellor Bernard failed to emphasize a salient fact: colonial relations were predicated upon a mode of social formation that today is viewed by many as backward, demeaning and exploitative. Further, building democracy in accord with the Rule of Law requires our institutions to demonstrate a new social consciousness that was not provided for by the education of subservience to colonial policies.

On the other hand, the legal profession is now open to all, irrespective of race, creed or class. That, in short, is the fundamental of democracy. Precisely how democracy is to be sustained while enhancing the stature of its institutions is another matter.

A close reading of the Chancellor’s words exposes a theme that points our Nation to the high price that must be paid in order to reverse centuries of economic and political underdevelopment. The realities are stark. .

Failure of our judiciary and magistracy to recruit adequate numbers of judges and magistrates is not singular. Guyana, like its CARICOM counterparts, is experiencing a new and unique mode of socio-economic formation: advent of an open economy destined to mirror the North Atlantic model of commodity consumption.

The harsh words of Chancellor Bernard must therefore not fall upon deaf ears. At a time when this Nation is experiencing a shortage of public and private investment in tertiary education, postgraduate training and further education are being neglected.

If we are to address the Chancellor’s warnings then we shall be forced to accept that the economic costs for such neglect are too high.

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