Justice sector being strengthened
-- PPP/C MP
By Chamanlall Naipaul
February 17, 2007
PEOPLE’S Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) parliamentarian, Anil Nandlall has asserted that the present government has moved the judicial system away from political subjugation which existed in the past to one of an independent judiciary and is assiduously working towards improving the administration of justice at all levels.
Speaking during debate on the national budget in the National Assembly, Mr. Nandlall drew attention to the justice reform strategy for which budgetary allocations have already been made with its principal objective being to assist the Government of Guyana in taking initial steps towards: strengthening the accountability and administrative efficiency of service delivery in the justice sector; enhancing justice sector institution; and improving access to justice.
“At the end of this programme, the justice system in Guyana will be completely transformed into a modern and efficient system that delivers justice to our people with impartiality, with competence and with dispatch at an affordable cost. The justice reform strategy manifests itself in various components and sub-components.”
According to him, under the heading of enhancing institutional capacity, the following areas are slated for reform - the Judicial Service Commission will be completely transformed with changes to the recruitment and accountability of judges, magistrates and court staff; a new code of conduct and ethics will be crafted for judges and magistrates and enforceable time lines would be set for the delivery of judgments and orders; constant training programmes will be organized for judges, magistrates and their support staff.
In addition, Nandlall informed the House that a new system will be designed and implemented to deal with reducing the current backlog of cases, both in the High Court and in the Magistrates Court by way of case flow management and court connected mediation which will be extended to the magistrates court; the administration of the Supreme Court and its staff is slated for wide ranging reforms which will include the provision of modern equipment, improved training and a greater system of accountability; a programme will be designed to enhance the skills and productivity of judges and magistrates, including the provision of training in specialised areas of law, online facilities, a modern and well-stocked library.
Nandlall said also that there will be a continuation of the ongoing rehabilitation to the physical infrastructure of courtrooms and courthouses throughout Guyana and there will be furnished court recording and Information Technology (IT) equipment staffed with trained court reporters.
Improvements are also slated specifically for the criminal justice system where the Director of Public Prosecution’s office will be modernised and reorganized and police prosecution in drugs and drugs related matters and serious indictable matters will be gradually phased out, Nandlall indicated.
Satellite offices of the DPP will be opened outside of Georgetown and there will be institutional strengthening of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, both in its functional and operational capacity to increase its efficiency in discharging its mandate, while there will be an initiative to modernise antiquated civil and criminal procedures and rules and new ones will be drafted to replace, them, the PPP/C parliamentarian disclosed.
He said too that several pieces of both civil and criminal legislation are listed for amendments and revision. New guidelines for bail, sentencing, cost, appeals, hearings and trials are expected to be promulgated, and there will be massive expansion in the provision of legal aid service not only to the citizens of Georgetown but also to the citizens of New Amsterdam and the Essequibo Coast.
There will be a special effort to update the laws of Guyana and the Guyana Law Report and there shall be established a Law Revision Commission, and when this project is completed Guyana will have a completely transformed and modern system to which its people can access justice.
“This is what this budget is about - modernising Guyana,” Nandlall reiterated.
In this context, he declared that the vision of the government is: “A society and country where all of our people can have an equal place irrespective of class, creed or race, where our dreams and the dreams of our children can become a reality.”
Recalling the state of the judicial system under the former government, Nandlall told the House that it would be in remiss “if I do not remind this Honourable Assembly that not so long ago in our country, it was widely believed if not accepted that the judiciary was subject to the control and political manipulation of the then PNC Government. It commenced in 1970 when the (People’s National Congress) Government abolished Her Majesty’s Privy Council as Guyana’s final Court of Appeal. All doubts about the true and ulterior intention behind that move were soon dissipated when in 1974, the PNC declared itself to be paramount, that is to be above every institution in the State including the Judiciary. All subtlety was thrown to the wind when the PNC hoisted and flew its party’s flag in the compound of the Guyana Court of Appeal - the then apex of the Guyana Judiciary, unequivocally declaring to all that the judiciary was subject and subservient to the PNC.”
Nandlall asserted that since the PPP/C assumed the reins of government in 1992, almost every court building has been repaired, and presently the Guyana Court of Appeal building is undergoing massive reconstruction, while the physical structure of the High Court building has undergone a complete metamorphosis and some courts within that building have been air conditioned - a luxury that many lawyers and litigants thought they would never live to enjoy.
In addition, Nandlall acknowledged that there is now an impressive law library in the High Court Compound to which judges, lawyers and even law students have access.
He noted too that a High Court building has been constructed at Suddie and now for the first time in the history of this country, Essequibians do not have to travel to Georgetown to have their civil cases litigated in the High Court.
“For the first time in the history of Guyana we have an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, whereby persons can have their cases amicably resolved by mediation outside of the adversarial court system. For the first time in the history of Guyana we have a specialised court to deal only with commercial cases. This government played a significant role in the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice and when it became functional, Guyana was one of the first countries which submitted to its jurisdiction. Today, for the first time since 1970, Guyanese have a court outside of Guyana where they can seek justice. We have made resources available to ensure that the judiciary devises mechanisms and strategies to aggressively tackle the backlog of cases awaiting trial so as to improve the speed with which justice is be delivered to our people,” Nandlall declared.