Something is wrong with our lawmakers
June 16, 2004
AT first, Justice B.S. Roy ordered that the 13-year-old at the centre of the Reeaz Khan saga be sent to a home at Belfield. The child had earlier been committed to the joint custody of her mother and her aunt. She fled the home, forcing her mother to seek the further help of the court.
Justice B.S. Roy heard the matter and set about seeking alternative accommodation in the immediate environment. Apparently there was none because he then ordered her be committed to the New Opportunity Corps. This was a big mistake.
The Act governing the New Opportunity Corps stipulates that the institution be deemed a correctional facility. This means that young offenders or children found wandering, at the behest of the parents, could petition the courts to have the child sent there for remedial treatment.
This girl was not wandering nor was she a juvenile offender. Therefore, she should never have been committed to the New Opportunity Corps. The judge’s admonition that the child should not be treated as a criminal was meaningless. In the first instance, the NOC could not have fashioned separate rules for the child. It was not so designed. And it showed.
Someone saw the child lining up for food with the other residents of the NOC and complained. The NOC responded by saying that it was not a day care centre and that if she did not line up for food then how else would she get it.
The major argument is that Justice Roy should not have committed the child to the NOC. His committal order was unconstitutional. What we find surprising is that the Chief Lawmaker in the person of the Attorney General was in court when Justice Singh made his order. We cannot say with surety that the Attorney General did not challenge the order at that forum.
What we do know at this time is that the Attorney General has gone before another judge with a conservatory order seeking to have Justice Roy’s order rescinded. In that writ seeking the conservatory order, the Attorney General is contending that Justice Roy’s order should not have been granted in the first place. He is correct but his opposition seems to come too late. One week has already gone by since that order and the child is ensconced in the NOC.
Something must be wrong with our legal system. We always seem to be challenging one order or the other. It is as though our rulings are not based on the law and indeed this is frightening. We have often seen cases where people were jailed only to have the Guyana Court of Appeal express disgust at the original sentence. Certainly that is proof that some of our decisions are not based on the law.
The courts must now hear the order and decide whether Justice Roy be given a chance to overturn himself or whether that decision would fall to another judge.
Given the nature of things, one must now ask whether Justice Roy should continue to preside over the Reeaz Khan contempt motion. By making a questionable decision to send the girl to the NOC, he seemed to have acted on the emotions of those who staged a protest outside his court when the matter was heard. Judges must not be ruled by emotions. Perhaps, having been emotionally involved, Justice Roy should recuse himself. This is not the only issue of concern as far as the legal system is concerned. We have since learnt that Attorney at Law Bernard DeSantos has filed a motion seeking to remand prisoner, Mahendra Bajnauth, released. Bajnauth was remanded to prison to stand trial in the High Court for the murder of Yohance Douglas.
The Magistrate found that a case was made out for Bajnauth to be committed and she filed her order. Mr DeSantos was himself an Attorney General in this country. He was the Chief Lawmaker. He should have known that he should have challenged the murder charge from the outset. At this point, Mr. DeSantos must know that only the Director of Public Prosecutions could modify the order and she has not done that. How then could Mr. De Santos seek to have the court do the unthinkable?
Something must be terribly wrong with our legal practitioners.