…says blatant intimidation signals to judiciary “toe the line”
The State-owned Guyana Chronicle has over the past few months been waging an obscene and libellous, if not dishonest, campaign against the acting Chancellor of the judiciary, Carl Singh, as a matter of official Government policy –a situation if left unchecked will only get worse and is no doubt also intended to intimidate the future Chancellor and Chief Justice, soon to be appointed by Head of State David Granger, “to toe the line”.
Senior Counsel (SC) and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran drew that ominous conclusion over the weekend in his conversationtree.org blog and called out the judiciary, Bar Association and general public over their silence on the recent attacks, saying “if not arrested now, they will only get worse”.
The alarming developments cannot be ignored and are in fact unprecedented in their savagery, according to Ramkarran.
“Even in the 1980s, when the judiciary was under severe pressure, Chancellor Victor Crane could announce that socialist principles would guide him in his decision-making, in the sure knowledge that even if criticised, he would not be subjected to the demeaning insults, as made against Chancellor Carl Singh.”
According to Ramkarran, “This open, blatant and shameless intimidation is not meant only for this Chancellor (Carl Singh)… It is a message to the next Chancellor and Chief Justice who will be appointed shortly, and for the entire Judiciary, to toe the line.”
In his weekly writings, the former Speaker of the National Assembly under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration posits, “The Chronicle’s obscene calumny against Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh, over several months and getting worse, its contempt of court and the Government’s intimidation of the judiciary have become deeply troubling.”
He recalled that the Chancellor was publicly warned to go on pre-retirement leave and not to hear any ‘political’ cases and that suspicion was expressed that he would start a case and postpone it beyond his retirement date so as to seek to extend his term of office.
Ramkarran has since chided his long-time colleague saying, “What is worse is that a lawyer, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who has responsibility for information and the power to stop the Guyana Chronicle since it started its disgraceful campaign several weeks ago, has allowed it to continue… The only conclusion is that the Guyana Chronicle’s rampage against the Chancellor, and subversion of the Judiciary, is official Government policy.”
Ramkarran observed too that his successor as Speaker of the National Assembly in 2011 in the person of now Natural Resources and Environment Minister Raphael Trotman — an Attorney-at-Law “who also should know better, abandoned principle, joined the bandwagon and threatened that Cabinet will ‘note’ the Chancellor’s decisions”.
According to Ramkarran, “Minister Trotman twisted the intimidatory knife in an already suppurating wound and to what end, send the message home? Make sure that the Chancellor is officially humiliated by a Government official? Let him know that the Cabinet will be noting his behaviour? Well, the entire British Government is aggrieved by the court’s decision that a parliamentary decision is required to trigger Brexit. It appealed, as the Guyana Government should, when it loses. It is more dignified than whining and insulting.”
Pointing to recent articles appearing in the Guyana Chronicle, Ramkarran recalled that the State-owned newspaper’s headline last Thursday screamed, “SINGH STRIKES,” appearing with sub-headlines, which according to the Senior Counsel, “summarise the Chronicle’s complaints against the Chancellor’s decisions”.
The sub-headlines appearing together with the ‘SINGH STRIKES’ were quoted as “…throws out Jagdeo’s race baiting case… nixes out-of-time appeal in DIPCON judgment… AG signals move to CCJ, questions motive.”
The local legal luminary has since observed too that from the report in the Guyana Chronicle, “it appears that the first matter, which was a private criminal charge against Mr Bharrat Jagdeo, relating to alleged racial incitement, was thrown out by a High Court Judge.”
The Attorney General (AG), who had appeared as Counsel, “erroneously made himself the Appellant in the appeal. At an earlier hearing, the Deputy Solicitor General, Ms Prithima Kissoon, when questioned by the Court of Appeal, conceded that it was wrong for the Attorney General to be a party,” according to Ramkarran.
The Guyana Chronicle related that the AG believed that the ‘move’ by the Deputy Solicitor General and the Chancellor was “a vain attempt to free Jagdeo of those cases.”
Ramkarran has since pointed out that “if this is not a contempt of court, I don’t know what is”.
He said the Chancellor, apparently acting with restraint and dignity, has not summoned the Guyana Chronicle and the Attorney General before the Court of Appeal to answer charges of contempt, as he ought to have done.
The other case referred to by the Guyana Chronicle – in its public castigation of the soon-to-be-retired Chancellor – is the Court of Appeal’s refusal to allow an out-of-time appeal against a $446 million judgment that was granted in favour of DIPCON Engineering Services Limited against the Government of Guyana.
“I know nothing about the case. But this I do know. An appeal to the Court of Appeal has to be filed within six weeks of the decision of the High Court. Leave can be granted by the Court of Appeal within four weeks thereafter to file a notice of appeal out of time if ‘bona fide’ grounds are shown. Thereafter, ‘exceptional circumstances’ must be proved.”
The Senior Counsel posits that more often than not, an application within the four weeks is granted, and “more often than not, an application thereafter is refused”.
According to Ramkarran, neither the Government nor anyone else has an automatic right to appeal a decision outside the legally prescribed time.
He has since suggested that the reporting by the Guyana Chronicle suggested that the Government did have such a right and the Court of Appeal was duty-bound to facilitate the Government, regardless of the circumstances.
“The Chronicle is upset that the Court is hearing the ‘third term’ case. (Hint! Hint! It believes the Chancellor will rule in favour of Jagdeo, and ignore the merits of the case). What’s the problem? If the Government feels that it has a good case and loses, the CCJ will reverse the decision.”
According to Ramkarran, while the Chancellor and Judiciary are subject to public scrutiny and criticism, “these attacks are unprecedented in their savagery”. (Guyana Times)