Judge rejects Juan Edghill application to send me to prison
Yesterday Parliament convened at 14:00 hours but PPP Parliamentarian, Juan Edghill (I do not recognize him as a Christian Bishop and that is my right that no one will be allowed to take away) could not have attended at that time.
Justice Dianne Insanally, two months ago, ordered Edghill to be present in court whenever there is a formal session of his contempt of court hearing in which he is asking the court to commit me to jail.
Yesterday was the thirteenth hearing of the case and Edghill appeared only twice. His presence was ordered by the Judge on an application by my lawyer, Nigel Hughes. It has to be contempt of court by Juan Edghill that he asked the court last August to send me to prison for a particular analysis of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) but he chose to attend court only twice out of thirteen hearing.
During one of those sessions, I had to give evidence before a Jamaica consultant looking into the governance structure at UG. Mr. Hughes had to make an application to the judge to excuse me. So Edghill asked the court to jail me but missed almost all the sessions while I had to be present. This was unfair and the judge rightly ordered him to be present. But it should not have reached the stage of hearing because on the third time Edghill was a no-show, his affidavit to jail me should have been thrown out.
Justice Insanally yesterday rejected Mr. Ashton Chase’s motion to imprison me. The judge refused Mr. Chase’s request for a stay of the judgement. Cost of $50,000 was awarded to Mr. Hughes and his assistant, Mrs. Nurse-Hobbs. The same amount was assigned to Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and his assistant, Neil Parsram.
I thought the cost should have been more because Edghill missed most of the hearings. He missed all of the sessions in front of Justices Ramlal and Rishi Persaud
Now it is important that journalists, editors and lawyers understand what Edghill, through his attorney Ashton Chase, sought to do to me and the Kaieteur News. I am a layman so I am offering here a layman’s position. One type of contempt of court is when you make opinions and judgements on a case that is before the courts.
Here is what Edghill did. I penned an analysis of the political underpinnings of the ERC. I argued in that column that through Edghill, the ERC was President Jagdeo’s mechanism for preventing debates and polemics on the practice of racism against African Guyanese.
Through Mr. Chase, Juan Edghill requested a jail term for me and Adam Harris or alternatively, Mr. Glenn Lall because I wrote an article that was critical of the ERC while he, Edghill, as Chairman of the ERC had a case with then Opposition Leader, Robert Corbin before Justice James Bovell-Drakes.
My understanding is that contempt comes in when the journalist or editor comments adversely on the specific court case.
I did not do that. I wrote an analysis of the ERC and did not touch on one single word that was in the Robert Corbin affidavit and didn’t make a single comment on anything Justice Bovell-Drakes said.
If a famous Guyanese cricketer, John Jones, is in court over a property dispute with another famous sports personality, Harry Smith, how can a columnist or a journalist be held in contempt because we made some conclusions on the recalcitrant behaviour of Jones to accept umpires’ decision for which the ICC has sanctioned him over a period of time.
This cannot be contempt because the journalist did not touch on the property dispute. In opening arguments, Nigel Hughes and Khemraj Ramjattan did stress to the judge that there is the right to comment that was at stake in the case.
In her opening remarks the judge did allude to the question of the right of citizens to write.
Edghill sought to prevent me from writing on the ERC simply because as chairman of the ERC he had a case at the time of my published column involving Mr. Corbin in front of a judge.
I may be wrong and I am subject to correction but an ongoing court case should not prevent fair comment on a matter that is not connected to the case even though what was written mentioned the name and action in different circumstances of one of the litigants. For a layman’s understanding of contempt – see a learned letter of August 2, 2002 in the Stabroek News letter pages by B. Bradshaw captioned, “What Constitutes Contempt of Court?”