Justice Roy, Adam Harris and so many things that are wrong about Guyana
The Freddie Kissoon column
January 14, 2007
Adam Harris, a media colleague that I work closely with at Kaieteur News has been charged with contempt of court before Justice B.S. Roy that arose out of a column he wrote in which the judge's decision was criticized in a particular case.
I would surely follow behind Adam if I assess the merits and demerits of the case against him in this article. I did a column a week ago in which I referred to the American media practice of giving their opinions on matters before the court as stupid. I think it is dangerous and frightening for the media to openly write on the evidence that is before a jury.
This essay then is not about that particular court case. It is about the state of the judiciary and the media in this country. They are the only two institutions that can save this country from a disastrous, dictatorial path. But both are deformed, flawed entities that hardly inspire you and certainly do not command your respect. The media and the judiciary, taken together, are an embarrassment to this country.
If anyone knows about the disgraceful nature of these two dimensions of Guyana then it is this writer. I have been a victim of a dysfunctional judiciary and an unprofessional media in this land. I have little respect for both of them even though I have several good friends that work in the media and know two judges very well. Justice Roy is not without his faults. Adam Harris certainly has many.
I did two articles on Justice Roy in the past. I will repeat what I wrote then. Mr. Sankar, the brother of business tycoon, Mrs. Lyla Kissoon, was jailed for contempt of court by Justice Roy because a lawyer that represented the other side in a case that Mr. Sankar was involved in, went up to Justice Roy and told him that Mr. Sankar made an insulting remark about him.
In the study of psychology, there is something called malice. Justice Roy should not have listened to the lawyer, simply because human beings are creators of malice. Justice Roy should have assessed the motives the lawyer had in trying to disgrace Mr. Sankar. I hope Justice Roy is not the type of judicial personnel that believes lawyers do not lie. Lawyers are some of the worst liars the world has produced.
The other column had to do with my rejection of Justice Roy's decision to send Reeaz Khan's underage lover to juvenile detention so as to safeguard her well-being. My column followed immediately after he gave that judgment. How his colleagues on the bench could have accepted that was incredible. I believe that decision will stand out for centuries to come as a horrible mistake.
How can you preserve the psychological integrity of a minor by sending her to a jail whose inhabitants are all misfits, vagrants, delinquents and criminals? I thought his utmost concern would have been the environment he was sending her to. From what the young lady told me, she was psychologically destroyed by her detention.
As for Adam Harris, the entire reading public knows that Adam and I have had several acidic, acerbic and tempestuous disagreements on media conduct involving his television newscast, Prime News. The type of journalism that Prime News practiced during the crime spree was simply unforgivable.
So terrible, horrible and horrific was the reporting of Prime News during the criminal rampage of the Mash Day escapees that I approached Prime News' advertisers, namely the Lotto Company, New Era Bookstore, Guyflag and others and asked them to cease sponsoring the news on Prime News and other television newscasts like the Evening News.
To this day, former Police Commissioner, Laurie Lewis believes that in that tragic period, the slanted television reporting, including Prime News, caused criminals to murder policemen. Violent gunmen from Buxton invaded the homes of many business people and cold-bloodedly killed them and these gunmen were made to look innocent by the way the news portrayed their action. Even during the turbulent sixties the private media never stooped so low as to what the Evening News, primarily Prime News and to a lesser extent, Capitol News did from the Mash Day jail break in 2002 until the end of the criminal rampage in June 2003.
Earlier in this essay, I did say that the judiciary and the media are two priceless institutions in this country. Our freedom depends on the functional integrity of the media and the judiciary. In comparing the two, I believe the media is the better one by a long way. Although there are sordid media houses in this country, the Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News are doing an excellent job in providing an avenue for the poor and powerless. There has been improvement in the professional performance of all three television newscasts, the Evening News, Prime News and Capitol News but these three houses should never be compared to the independent approach of the Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News.
We have seen a visible positive change in the conduct of the media, not so with the judiciary. I mean no insult to any magistrate or judge, but the judiciary in Guyana is in such a tattered state that the Guyanese people see it as an enemy of freedom. How ironic! The judiciary in political philosophy is the saviour of society. Caricatures of the worst types take place in the Guyanese judiciary. We do have our faults in the media but the disgrace of the judiciary has no parallel in this land. I have seen the masquerade, charade, and farce that characterize the working of the Guyanese judiciary. This is a story of tragedy.
I will end by an enumeration of incredible moments in the working of the judiciary of this land. I won a case against the University for not following proper procedures in the admission of law students. I lost against the Head of the Law Department so the judge ordered cost against me. I won against the Registrar of UG and the University was ordered to halt the admission of law applicants. In awarding cost against me for one case I lost, the judge also put cost against me for the case I won.
I wrote a column a few days after telling him that I won the case and will never pay that cost. Judges refused to write judgments so the appeals can never be heard. I had to literally run after Justice Yvette Cummings to get her to make a written decision in a case she had completed sometime back even though in the presence of engineer Khusi Narine of the Guyana Energy Agency, she assured me she had put her judgment in writing. She absolutely refused to talk to me on approaching her again. She rudely walked away from me in the presence of Mr. Narine whom the case concerned. Justice Claudette La Bennett is still to write a judgment for a disputed property at Thomas and Alexander Streets, Kitty, owned by Mr. Sheik Issacs, a Regent Street businessman.
I wrote a column on that matter four years ago in this newspaper. Nothing has changed since then. The Court of Appeal upheld a decision to hang two convicts. They appealed to the Full Court to stay the decision and got it. The Full Court is a lower court. The UG Students' Society (UGSS) got three NISI ORDERS against UG that UG contemptuously refused to obey. The matter was widely aired in the media yet Justice Patterson did not comment on the UG's contempt of court when our lawyers appeared in front of him. As the matter heated up in the press, Justice Patterson told the lawyers his workload was heavy and the case was transferred to another judge. The three NISI ORDERS were never adhered to.
Justice Bissessar retired before he gave his decision of wrongful dismissal by UG of one of its employees. The case was never heard again.
Most judges defer to certain Senior Counsels whose performances in court reduce the court to a rundown ghetto shack. If there is any institution that has contempt for the Guyanese people it is the judiciary. Well you know the saying – if you don't respect yourself, who is going to respect you. The judiciary of Guyana is in contempt of itself.