Email sparks furore in child custody case
-court to summon Amerindian Affairs Minister
By Oluatoyin Alleyne
March 7, 2007
An email alleging mistreatment by a Judge of an Amerindian woman in her court fight for her son will see Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues being summoned to state whether or not she was the author of the electronic missive.
Should she say she is the author of the email she could be held in contempt of court.
A summons would shortly be served on Rodrigues instructing her to appear before Justice William Ramlal in the High Court to confirm or deny whether she wrote the email which among other things accused the judge of calling the woman names.
A clearly angry Justice Ramlal yesterday dissected the email in open court, detailing alleged happenings in an in chamber matter before him. He said he had to do so not only to defend the court but also to defend his character as he is the judge in the matter mentioned in the email.
"If she (the minister) is the author of this email actions would be taken, make no mistake," the judge declared yesterday.
The email stemmed from a case before the judge involving two women and a three-year-old boy. One of the women is the child's 21-year-old mother and the other woman is contending that she was left with the child for almost three years and he was later taken away by the mother. The applicant moved to the court on the grounds that the mother is not taking proper care of the child and on February 27 the judge granted that applicant temporary legal guardianship of the child pending a probation report on the mother. An order was also made for the mother to have access to the child on weekends.
Yesterday, the order was extended for another two weeks as the probation officer in court was not ready with the report and requested another two weeks. On that same date, March 22, Minister Rodrigues is expected to appear before the judge in chambers to answer whether she wrote the email.
The applicant is represented by attorneys Jailall Kissoon and Rishi Kissoon. The mother of the child was previously unrepresented but yesterday attorney-at-law Debra Backer appeared on her behalf and filed an affidavit in response to the one filed by the applicant.
And even as Justice Ramlal dealt with the issue in court a number of persons, mostly women were outside the High Court holding placards and calling for justice for the child's mother. The protesters said that they wanted to ensure that the mother got justice and that her child stays with her and not a total stranger.
'Mother and Child must reunite' and 'Mother is best to protect her child' were some of the messages on the placards.
After spending about half an hour in chambers with the lawyers in the matter, Justice Ramlal stated in open court that he had to deal with an email that was being circulated which was written by someone named Carolyn Rodrigues. He said the lawyers indicated that he could not be sure that the author was indeed the minister. However, the judge said when one looks at the contents of the email one would readily see that the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was involved.
"Whether Carolyn Rod-rigues (the minister) is the author or not would be dealt with later…" the judge said, while stating that over the weekend he received calls from the media about the contents of the email and he told them that the matter was sub judice.
"I will not allow anyone to bring this court into disrepute," Justice Ramlal added. He said on March 2, someone, who he named in court, received the email which was forwarded to him by another named person who not only forwarded it to that person but to several others. He read out the list of names on the email that it was sent to. He pointed out that the contents of the mail suggest that it is more than likely that the minister is the author and in actual fact he believes it was she who wrote it. He disclosed that in forwarding the mail the author wrote a short message which among other things called for a "banding together" to send a strong message.
"So that thing (referring to the protest outside the court) you witness out there is at the instigation of that person calling herself Carolyn Rodrigues."
He said that the email did not give the right name of the applicant which was easily verifiable.
The email, copies of which was sent to Stabroek News, spoke of the Parika mother leaving her child with someone to go and work in the interior and giving the person $16,000 and foodstuff.
The email said that the mother returned to the Parika area three weeks after leaving and went to uplift the child but found that the child was with someone else, the applicant in the case. When she approached the applicant for the child she was told she could not have the child unless she produced $50,000 and because she did not have the money she had to leave and ask her employer for the money. When she got the money and returned, the woman then said she wanted $200,000 which the mother did not have. According to the email the mother continued to live in the area and worked at a Chinese restaurant while she continued to visit her son at the applicant's residence but was not allowed to take him home. It was while she was working at the restaurant she met a policewoman whom she told her plight and who advised her to contact the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs (MOAA)
In August of 2005 the woman went to the ministry and requested assistance in acquiring the child's birth certificate but she was told to return after September as the ministry was in the processing of planning activities for Amerindian Heritage month which was observed in September. She later got the birth certificate.
"After obtaining the birth certificate which is proof (that she is the mother of the child), the MOAA tried all angles to get the child and eventually with the help of the Vreed-en-Hoop police managed to have the child handed over to (the mother) on October 5, 2006."
At this point, Justice Ramlal stopped and commented that "Carolyn Rodrigues" was using the police in civil cases and questioned whether the police had the authority to do such. "It is an abuse of the police," he angrily said. He stated that had the author read the affidavit the author would have learnt that it was in fact the child's mother who was demanding $400,000 from the applicant and not the other way around.
The email then went on to state how the applicant followed the child's mother to Berbice where she was living with a man and among other things attempted to kidnap the child after an offer of $200,000 was not accepted by the child's mother. It also spoke of a summons being delivered by the applicant and the police informing the couple that the applicant could not serve a summons without the presence of the police. It also spoke about the couple being arrested in January last after the applicant reported that they had robbed her and that the man was taken from Berbice to the Leonora Police Station as the incident occurred in Georgetown. They were both placed on $5,000 bail subsequently and the mother again contacted the MOAA. And this time the author of the matter got involved and called an officer on the West Coast of Demerara. The email stated that on February 19 the mother's partner received a summons for her to appear in the High Court on February 13 from a woman who owns a shop in the street. He said that woman told him someone gave it to her but from the description it fitted the applicant in the case. The woman was not at home as she and her child had gone to visit her sick mother and it was on February 27 two officers, a male and a female, and the applicant went to her home. They took the woman and her child to the High Court.
However, Justice Ramlal said that it was not a summons that was served but rather it was subpoena issued by the court which he said was served by a marshal on the child's mother who confirmed to that marshal that she was indeed the person.
Justice Ramlal noted that the author never contacted him to verify anything and if he/she had they would have known that the mother was picked up after an arrest warrant was issued for her by the court for failing to comply with the subpoena.
The email stated that at the High Court the woman was placed to wait in a room for over an hour during which time the applicant was with Justice Ramlal and then she was called and placed before the judge.
Justice Ramlal yesterday said at no time was he alone with the applicant as he called a police Lance Corporal into his chambers because he "…smelt trouble".
According to the email the child's mother kept attempting to tell the judge her story but he would not listen. "He called her a liar, bitch, sex worker and even mentioned in the presence of (the applicant) something to the effect that she was only knows about 'paddle and canoe.' He further told her she was living with different men and is not a good mother. In tears, (the child's mother) pleaded with him while asking that she be allowed to contact the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. The judge would not listen to her. He then gave temporary custody of the child to (the applicant)."
"If there is nothing more contemptuous that this then I don't know what is," the judge said after reading the above part of the email.
"If it is the minister who is the author of the email she would face the full force of the law, I make no bones about it," declared Justice Ramlal, who was hoarse by now.
He told the court that Backer informed him that she spoke to the child's mother who indicated that she never told Carolyn Rodrigues about him calling her names.
The judge said he never said the words mentioned in the email adding that the oath that he took when he became a judge does not allow him to.
He said he would challenge anyone to tell him that the child's mother requested to contact the MOAA. He then called the policeman who he said was present during the proceedings who indicated that the judge never said such things.
"It is a wicked lie, I never gave temporary custody of the child to the applicant, I granted temporary legal guardianship." He said he was at pains to explain to the child's mother the meaning of the order and added that she told him she was married and he asked her to produce the marriage certificate. He then asked for the probation report but it was not read and said if the mother produces the marriage certificate "today" she may have the child. Backer then told him that the word marriage is used loosely in today's society but he pointed out that the woman said she had signed a paper when she got married.
He said he made that judgement call on what was presented before him and he made it in the best interest of the child.
The judge said that the author of the email "called on their cohorts of supporters to support a bundle of lies… but no one would put pressure on this court."
Yesterday the applicant told Stabroek News that she does not want custody of the child but she wants to have access to him as she "mind him foh three years and I have the love for him. I would go and collect he on Saturday and tek he back on Sunday. I don't want she child but I love he. I know she only get one and I get two children who done big," she said.
Meanwhile, the protesters walked with their placards silently outside the court and their numbers grew as persons passing joined their cause in an effort to seek what they described as justice for the woman.
The young mother who was dressed in black sat quietly in court while the judge read the email.