The Bar Council of the Guyana Bar Association has called out the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer over disparaging comments he reportedly made in a local daily about the Judiciary.
Referring to the inability of Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU), in some cases, to secure from the courts an order compelling a local bank to provide information, Heath-Retemyer was quoted as saying, among other things, that “I feel that sometimes, the legal system here, it doesn’t seem to want to be in step with the honest desire of the law enforcement people (like SOCU) to ensure they get the job done. I feel that if there was a greater sense of urgency and understanding on the part of the legal people and the system, they may be more willing to facilitate what SOCU or SARA would be doing.”
Moreover, he reportedly made calls for the Judiciary to receive training to that effect.
However, the Bar Association coming to the defence of the Judiciary, said that “As the Deputy Director of an important agency of the Executive, Mr. Heath-Retemyer is obliged to avoid any action, including the making of public comments, which can be taken as an attempt to direct the working and functioning of the Judiciary.”
The article also indicates that SARA is paying close attention to the manner in which the SOCU is being treated by the Judiciary.
According to the Association “this statement can be construed as a threat to the individual members of the Judiciary who refuse orders sought by SARA, which is most alarming and of grave concern.”
Heath-Retemyer is also quoted as expressing the desire that Guyana be more like Brazil or Argentina where he reportedly says, “the legal people are more inclined to see justice prevail rather than apply the law”.
The Bar Association posited that this can also be taken as an attempt to direct the working and functioning of the Judiciary, while outlining that the comments were “obviously made in ignorance of the contents of Article 122.A(1) of the Constitution.”
Article 122.A states that: “All courts and persons presiding over the courts shall exercise their functions independently of the control and direction of any other person or authority; and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control.”
Addressing the CEO’s reported remarks that the the Judiciary needs training (presumably by the Executive) to ensure that the work of SARA and SOCU gets done, the Association said that the Judiciary applies principles of law to evidence proved in Court.
“Since the Judiciary does not exist to do the bidding of the Executive, the rights of Guyanese citizens and the application of the rule of law take precedence over the granting of remedies in a speedy manner to the liking of the Executive.”
Moreover, the Association posited that “Guyana is a democracy where the law is applied by an independent and impartial Judiciary whose function includes restraining unlawful excesses by the Executive, including Mr. Heath-Retemyer and SARA/SOCU. If that agency is not satisfied with the legal requirements in discharge of its functions, then the Bar Association assures the public that the fault does not lie with the Judiciary and/or its training.”
Calling for the Heath-Retemyer to apologise and retract his statement, the Assocaition said that comments made in the article should “equally be condemned by the Government for not being its view of the Judiciary and by the citizens of Guyana as being an unjustified attack by an agent of the Executive on the independence of the Judiciary and in violation of the principle of separation of powers.”