A brilliant man has died
Vic Puran was not just brilliant; he was a legal genius. He was not just a bright person; he was amongst the best legal brains that this country has ever produced. He may not have featured in too many landmark civil cases, but his arguments both in and out of chambers, but especially out of chambers, were reflective of a brilliant mind.
Vic was a profound thinker. More importantly he was clear-thinking. He was of unmatched cogency. The clarity and lucidity of his mind was not the product of deep philosophical insights. They were instead attributable to his method of reasoning.
Vic was methodical in his arguments. When he was making a point, he made his arguments, step by step, employing simple process of logic. This was his strength and was one of the reasons why despite him wearing a political cap, he could get along well with almost everyone.
Many years ago, he had hosted a television call-in programme. These programmes are usually characterized by callers taking rigid positions. If someone did not agree with the moderator’s position, it could lead to strong abuse and arguments.
But that hardly happened on Vic Puran’s programme. He respected those who expressed their opinions, and through his logical arguments, was able to allow them to come to their own conclusions about the frailties of their arguments. And he did this without criticism. He simply reasoned with them.
He was self-assured and confident about his own ability to take on any argument. But he was always respectful. This was why he was so popular. His popularity had to do with the respect that he showed others and had he entered competitive politics, he would have done well.
The reason why he never entered an election even though he had strong political views and was not afraid to let them be known was because he held a view that some may have felt unorthodox. He did not believe that the divisions in our society were insurmountable.
The unorthodoxy of his views was that he was convinced by his own mental reasoning that once a viable alternative existed to both the PPP and the PNC, the people of Guyana would bring about change.
For years he had hoped to be the catalyst for such change. But unlike many politicians he was realistic and understood that the stage had not yet been reached for this sort of popular unity. But to his dying day he never lost hope that once a party emerges that has a real chance of defeating both the PNC and the PPP, the Guyanese people would support that party and bring about change.
Of course, politics was not what he was better known for. He was a member of the legal profession and at great personal sacrifices had educated himself and emerged as one of the best legal brains that this country has ever produced.
That he is not recognized for his legal brilliance is a shame. He was cut down when still very much in his prime and had fate not robbed us of him, he would have made a greater impact in the legal profession.
Much of the tributes that have been paid to Vic Puran have mentioned his record as a criminal lawyer. He was the consummate cross-examiner. He systematically broke the best of witnesses down, and when he summed up his case it was simply brilliant.
There was one local case that he lost recently in the Magistrates’ Courts but if he had lived, he would have had that decision overturned in higher courts since his loss was based on a legal point that he disagreed with but which he respected.
Vic was also an excellent civil lawyer. He tore to shreds the extradition laws of Guyana. He found gaping loopholes in the extradition laws of Guyana, which as we know, had received input from foreign experts.
Vic was concerned about these laws. He was concerned that they were porous and would not stand up to challenges. Yet very few of those in authority were willing to listen to him, assuming that he was more interested in his clients’ interests than in ensuring an unchallengeable law.
He was also never bothered by those who criticized why he defended certain persons. He knew that what was being defended was not a crime or a criminal, but the very foundation of justice: that every accused should have the right to lead a defence. This principle is blind. It sees not the person that is committing the offence or that person’s race or ethnicity.
The foundations of the legal system are based on the acceptance that no matter how despised, bad, cruel or obscene someone is, that person is entitled to raise a defence to the charges which he or she is facing. Vic understood that it is duty of the criminal lawyer to defend that principle by ensuring that even the vilest amongst us have a right to lead a defence. He did so with class and brilliance.
Rest in Peace, Vic Puran!