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. The Chancellor was publicly warned to go on pre-retirement leave and not to hear any ‘political’ cases. 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.
What is worse is that a lawyer, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who has responsibility for information and the power to stop the Chronicle since it started its disgraceful campaign several weeks ago, has allowed it to continue. The only conclusion is that the Chronicle’s rampage against the Chancellor, and subversion of the Judiciary, is official Government policy.
Then another lawyer, Minister Raphael Trotman, who also should know better, abandoned principle, joined the bandwagon and threatened that Cabinet will ‘note’ the Chancellor’s decisions. 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 behavior? 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.
“SINGH STRIKES,” screamed the Chronicle’s headline last Thursday. Sub-headlines summarize the Chronicle’s complaints against the Chancellor’s decisions:
“…. throws out Jagdeo’s race baiting case;
…. nixes out-of-time appeal in Dipcon judgment:
…. AG signals move to CCJ, questions motive.”
From the report in the 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, 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. The Chronicle relates that the Attorney General believes that the ‘move’ by the Deputy Solicitor General and the Chancellor is “a vain attempt to free Jagdeo of those cases.” If this is not a contempt of court, I don’t know what is. The Chancellor, apparently acting with restraint and dignity, has not summoned the Chronicle and the Attorney General before the Court of Appeal to answer charges of contempt, as he ought to have done.
Ms. Kissoon comes from a family whose extended members have been historically hostile to the PPP. Her father, Jai Kissoon, was a PNC Government Minister under the Hoyte administration and has not withdrawn his support from the PNCR. I do not know Ms. Kissoon’s political views, if any. But I would be shocked if she would jeopardize her career to help Mr. Jagdeo or the PPP. We must ask ourselves, therefore, what is the reason for the attack on Ms. Kissoon?
The other case referred to is the Court of Appeal’s ‘refusal to allow an out of time appeal against a $446M 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.
More often than not, an application within the four weeks is granted. More often than not, an application thereafter is refused. Neither the Government nor anyone else has an automatic right to appeal a decision outside the legally prescribed time. The reporting by the Chronicle suggests that the Government does have such a right and that the Court of Appeal is 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.
The Chancellor and Judiciary are subject to public scrutiny and criticism. But these attacks are unprecedented in their savagery. 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 criticized, he would not be subjected to the demeaning insults, as made against Chancellor Carl Singh.
This open, blatant and shameless intimidation, is not meant only for this Chancellor. 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. Neither the Judiciary, the Bar nor the public can afford to be silent at these alarming developments. If not arrested now, they will only get worse.