Justice Roy should release this girl immediately Wednesday Perspective
Kaieteur News
June 16, 2004

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THE Reeaz Khan movie-like drama has revealed many dimensions of this society. Many political observers are afraid to touch its implications out of fear that they may be seen to be siding with Khanís position.

This is unacceptable logic. If a rapist is arrested, his rights have to be read to him by the police. The police cannot brutalise him and then disfigure him. One shies away from discussing the police brutality in this case because it may appear that one might be siding with the rapist.

It is this approach we need to use when writing about the Reeaz Khan scandal. The action of Khan has to be separated from other issues that have come to the surface, one of which is the nature of the protestors and their motives. I have dealt with this in two previous Kaieteur News columns and boredom has now stepped in. So letís look for another dimension.

Letís look at the decision of Justice B. S. Roy to send the 13-year-old girl to the New Opportunity Corps {NOC}, a juvenile correctional facility in Essequibo. But first, a few words about Justice Roy.

He comes across as a judge who is not reluctant to impose sentencing that he feels is justified in his mind. Such a judicial official can be said to be a self-assured person. But that does not necessarily mean such persons are not liable to mistakes.

My feeling is that the large weight he put on the libel damage against Kaieteur News is one in which we can debate. A private citizen from Essequibo said she did not send in a pen pal submission to the Kaieteur News but her name and address with her preferences appeared in the Kaieteur News pen pal page. She sued and Justice Roy awarded her $2million.

My understanding is that a public figure is more entitled to substantial compensation because if the personís character is vilified then the entire nation will know, and that may affect the personís potential future. Literally thousands of persons pass through the hands of a head-teacher.

The Ministry of Education has to interact with its head-teachers. It would be a seriously untenable situation if someone should print that the head-teacher of a certain school is a financial fraudster.

Substantial damages, I believe, goes with the type of office the person holds. But Justice Roy awarded $2 million against Kaieteur News, even though the plaintiff was not a public figure. I guess in the end, the judge would have turned it over in his mind.

Justice Roy came into the news again, when an entrepreneur from a traditionally prominent Guyanese business family sued him for wrongful imprisonment. It is the first time in the history of the colony and independent Guyana that a judge has been sued. There was a citizen, Ajit Chintamani, who used to go around suing a lot of people including judges but the courts thought he was eccentric and dismissed his innumerable litigation as frivolous.

In this case, however, formidable attorney Bernard De Santos is the lawyer for Mr. Yusuf Sankar, brother of Leila Kissoon of A.H.&L. Kissoon (absolutely no relation to me). Mr. Sankar claimed that Mr. Nigel Hughes complained to Justice Roy that he (Sankar) referred to the judge as ďa Taliban judgeĒ and therefore, he was summoned before the judge, found guilty for contempt and jailed for seven days. He was released before his time was up through the intervention of the Chief Justice.

This story formed the core of a previous Kaieteur News column of mine, so I need not repeat it. Letís move on to the Reeaz Khan saga.

Some lawyers have argued that Justice Roy should not have committed the 13-year-old to the NOC because she was not charged. My research of the law tells me that the judge was acting properly when he ordered that the girl be offered protection. The law empowers the Supreme Court as the guardian of under-aged children. The judge was in his legal right to determine her protection. But I do not think his choice of the NOC was a right one.

First, let me say it was wrong on somebodyís part to have that little girl at the remand holding centre of the La Penitence Police Station. That was a terrible mistake. She was there while waiting for her final destination. Kaieteur News has verified that she was there. Now Justice Roy has clearly said she is not a prisoner. But she was sent to a prison. Wasnít she?

She is housed in a place where some juveniles convicted for serious offences are sent. Who says this girl is living among nice people at the moment? If they were nice, how come they ended up there?

Why did the judge send her there? There is a stigma attached to that place. And it is a stigma that may haunt her for the rest of her life unless the judge can do some unique computer erasing with the approval of the government quickly.

This 13-year-old girl may not get a visa. On the visa application form, the question is asked if you were ever detained. The form does not allow for explanation. It has to be answered monosyllabically Ė yes or no. If she says no, then she is lying. She has been to a juvenile facility. If you lie on a visa form, you will be denied a visa.

In a court of law, you have to answer monosyllabically sometimes. Letís say when she grows up, she is involved in a custody battle, and she is asked on the stand by the lawyer for the other side Ė have you ever been detained at the pleasure of the state? She has to say yes. That can cause her to lose her case.

The decision to send this little child to a juvenile correctional centre was an erroneous decision.

The judge was unambiguous in saying that she is not a prisoner. Indeed she is not. Why then is she in a place designed specially for young offenders and wanderers? Why then is she wearing a uniform? Why then is she having as company, people convicted for serious crimes? And why are we in Guyana silent about where she has been sent?

This girl is a victim of a troubled home, and now she is a victim of a society that lacks philosophical foundation. I am contending that once the Supreme Court wanted to protect her from Khan, her family and her erring ways, then she should have been placed in a home that is conducive to changing her. How can she learn to mend her ways at a place like the NOC?

Letís get one thing clear here Ė the NOC is a correctional facility, period! If the state is so interested in protecting this little girl, then it has to do so with concern for her psychological / psychic integrity. The best decision was to house her in a city hotel with a full time guard.

We must release her immediately and pursue that path. Is money the problem?